Controversy surrounds this submarine action film because Hollywood has rewritten history again. Stay around for the credits and you will see an acknowledgement to the Royal Navy's 1941 feat in capturing an Enigma decoding machine from a Nazi U-boat, a coup that made the difference to the war in the North Atlantic and Britain's survival.
You can see the reasoning. Turning it into an American exploit makes for better box office. The fact that at the time in question American submarines weren't even on active duty in the Atlantic is glossed over. It's not the first time they have grabbed British glory, but then we are not so innocent either. Take Chuck Yeager. David Lean's 1952 film "The Sound Barrier" suggested that breaking it was not his achievement, but a British aviation triumph.
If "U-571" had been good this would have been forgivable. Alas, it's a noisy, cliche-ridden, incomprehensible mess. Matthew McConaughey, shaven-headed and sunken cheeked, plays a young officer denied command until he proves himself. He is given a mission to capture a U-boat by pretending to be a German supply crew.
It's one of those silly films where massive assaults from enemy torpedoes and depth charges always miss, but only one hasty American shot can produce a mini-nuclear explosion. Good actors like Bill Paxton and Harvey Keitel struggle with cardboard characters, and the action sequences are chaotic, with eardrum-bursting sound effects.
The best U-boat film was the German "Das Boot". This by comparison is a travesty.
Read about the distortion of history in "U-571".