as reviewed by Skylaire Alfvegren
The box office tallies for testosterone n' explosive laden action adventure pictures that bought beach houses for Bruce, Arnold and Sly in the 80s have been in the toilet for years now. You can't detonate bombs, murder lots of folks or engage in a dangerously high speed chase without making the carnage meaningful. Like in science fiction or historical drama.
So here's something filled with explosions, pistol fire and terror, but it's based on actual WWII events, so it's kosher. During the war, Nazi officers were able to communicate with their submarines using machines whose codes couldn't be cracked by the Allied forces. When a U boat containing one of these devices becomes disabled, an American sub must race to capture it and the device before Nazi back up arrives.
I guarantee your stomach will be flip-flopping through most of this film, and not just because submarine interiors induce claustrophobia, and not because the crew is cute (Gary Paxton, Harvey Keitel, Jon Bon Jovi) and led by a cute skipper (Matthew McConaughey). To avoid creating a plot (and really, how much depth can you create underwater? Have you seen Deep Blue Sea?), there is much of that aforementioned "action." Whenever the crew has a moment to breath in between plotting their strategies and avoiding Nazi depth charges, BOOM! SQUISH! Leaks in the disabled German sub the Americans take over grow proportionately larger, eventually springing from every inch of the vessel. The action would be genuinely harrowing, what with the danger and the crew screaming at the top of their lungs, if it weren't CONSTANT, and hindered by an ultra-bombastic score, all boom crash cymbals and militaristic brass which accompany every missed torpedo and every smidgen of triumph. (I've always wanted to witness this sort of music applied to scenes of, say, commanding officers on the toilet.)
Between the music and the action, there's no time for a story, although the crew does come up with some brilliant strategies while wearing unreasonably hip leather coats and ingesting pearls of wisdom from the ship's black porter, Larson (Matthew Settle). Still, this group of seamen are almost done in by one prisoner of war. How they manage to not only complete their mission but take out a Nazi destroyer in a nearly-dead sub is nothing short of astounding. That may be because the plot is based on the heroic actions of a half-dozen American Naval sub crews that actually risked their lives by capturing secret Nazi decoding devices during the war, their stories all mushed together. For a good WWII submarine movie, do yourself a favor and rent Das Boot instead, unless you object to seeing the other side of the story.