Nicolas Cage turns up again as the Captain of the USS Indianapolis, the ill-fated naval ship first given big screen notoriety via a monologue in Jaws. Equal parts wartime weepie, shark attack movie and half-baked court room drama, USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage fails on every level to convey the fascinating nature of the true story. The sets look small and cheap, period detail is nonexistent; and the special effects are on par with a Syfy original production.
In 1945, the USS Indianapolis carried parts of the atomic bomb that was to be dropped on Hiroshima to Tinian Island in the Pacific where the bomb was constructed. The mission was top secret, so they traveled without escort. After the delivery and on the way to their next assignment, a Japanese submarine sank the Indianapolis. While around 880 crew survived the initial tragedy, rescue didn’t come for four days, leaving them to contend with shark infested waters and hundreds of deaths. In the end, 317 men survived, but in what is now seen as a grave injustice, Captain Charles McVay (Cage), was court-martialed and convicted of hazarding his ship. McVay was posthumously exonerated by President Clinton in 2000.
Director Mario Van Peebles (Posse, Panther) has done some interesting work behind the camera over the years, but it’s safe to say he’s out of his depth here. Working from a script by Camp Cannon and Richard Rionda del Castro, he manages to suck the drama out of every scene, even as men are dying in bunches and provide us with little emotional connection to any of the characters. Overlong, USS Indianapolis scatters itself among various topics and crew, never closely examining any one of them.
A fight between black and white sailors in an alleyway; something that should ratchet up the dramatic tension, goes nowhere. Some of the young men are given issue to solve at home once they get home from war. That’s okay, but none of it, even a love triangle, really grabs you.
It takes some work to put Nicolas Cage, in a movie with Tom Sizemore (as the ship’s chief petty officer) and Thomas Jane (as the pilot who first spotted the survivors) and find little to like about it, but USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage has done it in spades. Bogged down with some awful dialogue and cheap CGI effects, this true story of military heroism deserves better than this third-rate film.
Presented in the 2.39:1 aspect ratio, the 1080p presentation is a fairly solid one. The image is crisp and offers up plenty of detail. Though there are a few action and CGI moments that lead to noticeable blur. Depth is good, with nice separation between characters and background, but again, motion blur is a distraction. Colors are decent, but nothing really pops off the screen. Blacks are solid with no evidence of crushing. Flesh tones are a bit dull, but not terrible. There are no digital anomalies to speak of.
The 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack is surprisingly dynamic. Action scenes get a nice amount of involvement and the sounds of war are realistic. Surrounds are enveloping without going overboard and ambient effects are well represented. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout.
English, English SDH and Spanish subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
- The Making Of USS Indianapolis: Men Of Courage (HD, 33:11) A look at the making of the film, featuring interviews with cast and crew. Director Mario Van Peebles sounds particularly passionate about the project, it’s a shame it doesn’t come across on screen.
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