Lionsgate // 2004 // 98 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // January 11th, 2005
A time when ordinary men became extraordinary heroes.
It's Das Boot meets Cabin Fever.
Nathan Travers (William H. Macy, The Cooler) has been called to service aboard the U.S.S. Swordfish, a submarine headed out into the tumultuous Atlantic Ocean to face off with Hitler's deadly U-boats, under the command of Captain Sullivan (Scott Caan).
While on routine maneuvers, the Captain's second-in-command succumbs to a highly contagious and deadly bout of meningitis. Suddenly, the crew must grapple with more than just the threat of getting a Nazi torpedo up the pooper.
But, alas, a U-boat indeed catches up with them and unloads some debilitating firepower. The crew is forced to surface, and is taken prisoner by the Germans. Unfortunately for the Nazis, more than the handful of waterlogged Americans come aboard -- the contagion soon ravages their crew.
The German captain is suddenly faced with a decimated boat, and to save his men he has only one choice: join forces with his Yankee captives and survive.
I'm a fan of submarine movies. I liked U-571. Apparently, so did the filmmakers of In Enemy Hands, as pretty much all of the submarine footage used is lifted straight from Jonathan Mostow's sub flick. Apparently creating original submarine action shots is a ridiculously expensive venture, since this is the second movie I've seen transplanting footage (Dolph Lundgren's straight-to-video masterpiece Agent Red being the other). I suppose it's just one of those movie-making mysteries.
Corner-cutting aside, this movie turned out to be an okay below-deck romp. I dug the twist of having the Germans and Americans being forced to work together, despite the cringe-worthy montage of Everybody Getting Along (awww, look, the nice American boy and the Nazi are sharing a cup of coffee).
Having William H. Macy in your starting lineup doesn't hurt either. Though this isn't his strongest stuff (thanks mainly to less-than-great writing), his presence lends some credibility to the production. Lauren Holly also makes an appearance, but her work is limited primarily to an Obi-Wan-like apparition telling Macy's character how much she misses him, blah blah.
"So, Dave, what about the nautical wackiness that is necessary for a submarine movie not to suck?!"
Yes, yes...it's here, apart from the opening action (which, if you saw U-571 you've seen already). The climax involves a fun little conflict between our heroes' sub, another German U-Boat and an American destroyer.
Overall, I'd say that In Enemy Hands is a solid straight-to-video effort, with some unique elements that lift it out of the realm of mediocrity. You could do worse.
Lions Gate actually delivered a solid technical effort with this disc, putting together a surprisingly sharp 1.78:1 widescreen transfer and a semi-potent 2.0 Dolby stereo soundtrack that elicits some nice volume in the action sequences. Not so surprising is the piss-poor selection of extras: just trailers.
I thought the set design for this movie left a lot to be desired. The submarine interiors look brand new and just too clean; I'm no naval historian, nor have I ever served on a World War II vessel, but I'd expect these boats to be a little more dinged up. The Swordfish looked like the Starship Enterprise. Hey, maybe it was the Enterprise! There was this part where this guy was puking his ball off, but there was nothing in the toilet bowl! Automatic vomit-cleaning toilets! American technology rules!
It sure is tempting to call this movie "sub-par" or "sub-standard," but In Enemy Hands ain't too bad.
The accused is sprung from the brig.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Rated R