3 1/2 Stars
Taken on its own modest terms USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage is a spectacular achievement. If you can get past the low-level special effects and allow yourself to be taken back to a different era of filmmaking, then you’ll be totally immersed in this true tale. This story has been told several times previously, but none with the gung-ho spirit and style of The Sand Pebbles and other such golden era Naval epics.
The film’s first hour is spent introducing us to the (historically accurate) ethnically diverse crew of the USS Indianapolis and their highly classified mission to deliver the atomic bomb which would eventually be dropped on Hiroshima. Captain McVay (Nicolas Cage) is the man at the helm of the warship when after successfully completing their objective, the ship is hit with torpedoes from a Japanese vessel. The Indianapolis begins to sink killing over 300 men and sending 902 men into the shark infested waters of the atlantic.
It’s during the second half of the movie that the situation turns bleak for the sailors stranded in the ocean. A group of murderous great white sharks begin attacking the wadding men as they await certain death by mother nature’s oldest killing machine. But the real sharks are waiting back home to court martial McVay and publicly blame the ordeal on the captain.
The film’s reported $40 million dollar budget is a bit suspect. This level of production, at first, appears to be similar to those Asylum movies that air continuously during weekend marathons on the Syfy channel. But the story is gripping and well told, utilizing it’s 130 minute running time effectively and without waste. It’s a mature bit of filmmaking that is surprisingly effective by film’s end.
I’ve long had admiration for Director Mario Van Peebles, who comes from a filmmaking legacy family, since his debut film New Jack City. He’s spent most of his career straddling the line between studio fare and indie productions. This has set him up well for this picture which has the glossy sheen of a wannabe summer blockbuster and the spirit of an independently financed film. While this isn’t the passion project that Badass was, USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage is a nice addition to the Cage film cannon and Peebles own filmography.
Director: Mario Van Peebles
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Tom Sizemore, Thomas Jane