But good movies aren't always accurate, says Rebecca Ascher-Walsh

By Rebecca Ascher-Walsh
Updated March 17, 2000 at 05:00 AM EST
  • Movie

Matthew McConaughey’s next movie may distort WWII details

OK, everyone, on the count of three: Take a deep breath, calm down, and lighten up. I understand that Oscar mania has everyone taking cinema very seriously, and that’s groovy — to a point. But here comes a movie like ”U-571,” a submarine thriller about World War II starring Matthew McConaughey, and instead of anticipating a little fun in the midst of April showers, websters on ”Ain’t It Cool News” are already lambasting it for not being ”truthful” enough to history.

It’s hard to imagine how the altering of certain truths in ”U-571” — moving a compass to make room for the camera, say — would offend anyone. I mean, it’s not like the director, Jonathan Mostow, has the Germans winning the war. Somewhere in our craze for ”real life” movies, we’ve lost a sense of when it’s alright to use life as a basis to tell a good story.

I’m not arguing that filmmakers have no responsibility to the truth — far from it. I think the liberties taken with ”The Hurricane” verged on irresponsibility, but only because it was announced as ”the true story.” ”Boys Don’t Cry” is one of the most powerful films of the year, and maybe director Kimberly Peirce does, in fact, know every word that came out of Brandon Teena’s mouth — but probably not. ”Erin Brockovich” is entertaining and witty and may win Julia Roberts an Oscar, but chances are the real life Brockovich doesn’t look like a movie star.

Unless a film purports to be a documentary — or unless the filmmakers try to pretend it is one — we need to become, on occasion, a less literal audience. Because while we’re sitting there taking notes on all the ”inaccuracies,” we may be missing a good drama. I’ve seen footage from ”U-571,” and I can tell you that what deserves your attention isn’t the battle on your computer screen, but the explosions on the movie screen.


  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 116 minutes
  • Jonathan Mostow