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This World War II submarine drama may run shallow, but it's deeply entertaining.

Voyage To See

In "U-571," Jonathan Mostrow's intense and exciting follow-up to his Kurt Russell thriller "Breakdown," there's no time to quibble about the shallowness of its red, white and true-blue plotline. Or its overwrought symphonic score. Mostrow keeps the jingoistic goings-on so fast-paced that all you care about is what happens next.

A genuine edge-of-your-seat thriller, "U-571" may cadge its best moments from other great submarine movies, but it doesn't matter. When that first depth charge rocks the crew of spunky American sailors huddled in silence in their battered old tub of a sub deep in the Atlantic Ocean, you're hooked.

In "U-571," we're taken back to those glorious old days when it was easy to identify the bad guys — Adolf Hitler and his Nazis. As the movie opens, we learn that the F�rher has brought the battleground to the watery edge of the United States. German U-boats are floating up and down the eastern seaboard unscathed and often undetected. But when a distress signal from an ailing Nazi sub gets picked up by an American vessel, the powers that be hatch a daring plan.

Why not refit an American sub to pass for a German U-boat, send a hand-picked crew out on a fake rescue mission and try to steal the German's radio coding machine? Even middling students of American history must remember the Nazi's Enigma code, which confounded the best and brightest minds of the Allies for years.

Leading the crew of American heroes in this do-or-die valiant mission is Lt. Andrew Tyler (Matthew McConaughey). Along with a few German-speaking American sailors, Tyler heads out to snatch the Enigma machine before the German crew has a chance to alert Berlin. Along for the ride are Lt. Pete Emmett (rocker-turned-actor Jon Bon Jovi), Chief Klough (Harvey Keitel) and Ensign Larson (Matthew Settle).

As one has come to expect in movies of this genre, the mission runs into problems — not the least of which is that a Nazi destroyer discovers that the U-boat is brimming with Americans and not the F�rher's faithful. Can the Americans knock out the German's radio antennae before the enemy can alert der Fatherland? Then there's the real nail-biter — can the Americans survive the full-on fury of a depth-charge attack?

The performances in "U-571" are sound and sturdy, with McConaughey's courageous turn as Lt. Tyler helping to redeem himself after more than a few lackluster roles. Keitel also turns in a believably solid performance as Klough. But individual character development is minimal. What emerges is an ensemble piece where the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts.

But the genuine star of "U-571" is the movie's ambience. This is in-your-face, close-quarters combat. As the tension mounts, you are acutely aware of the vessel's structural weaknesses. You begin to feel every nerve-racking groan the sub makes as it edges deeper than it should underwater. Then there's the overwhelming task one sailor is asked to undertake — holding his breath and diving into a flooded torpedo shaft to fix the sub's only remaining weapon.

The downside to all this adrenaline-pumping adventure is that there's nothing even remotely enlightening about this World War II caper. But that was never on the filmmakers' agenda. "U-571" is all about entertainment. So dive, dive, dive into that popcorn and let "U-571" inundate you with its thrills and chills.

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