In 1945 the Americans dropped the world's first atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Components and uranium for the bomb were delivered to Tinian, the island airfield where the bombers were based by the USS Indianapolis. The Indianapolis - a Portland class heavy cruiser - usually travelled with an escort of destroyers in order to protect against enemy submarines. But due to the secret nature of the mission it was decided that this journey should be completed unescorted. The journey to Tinian was completed in record time, after making their delivery they headed for Leyte. At 00:14 hours on 30th July Indianapolis was struck by two torpedoes from a Japanese submarine, she sank in twelve minutes. Approximately three hundred men went down with the ship, the rest faced dehydration, starvation, exposure and shark attacks as they awaited rescue.
I wish I could say that USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage does justice to the crew and their story, unfortunately it doesn't. Nicolas Cage is very good as Captain McVay, he does a great job portraying a man struggling with the loss of so many of his crew and the guilt that came with it. Tom Sizemore is also very good as Chief Petty Officer McWhorter. All of the other performances range from good to awful. Obviously the focus of the story is on their time in the water and is done very well for the most part. The delivery of the bomb components felt rushed as did the events after the rescue. A sub-plot involving two sailors and their love for the same woman felt tacked on, an unnecessary attempt to humanise the crew.
The production values aren't great either, most of the CGI is of very low quality. The battleship USS Alabama was used as a stand in for the Indianapolis, this is the same ship used in Steven Seagal's Under Siege. During the sinking you see some brilliant shots of the torpedo strikes and the ship buckling, the decks are burning and torn apart. Yet in the next shot you see men running across intact decks. While in the water, the men suffered frequent and unpredictable shark attacks, not only do the computer generated sharks look terrible but they're also the wrong sharks. In the movie they're depicted as Great Whites whereas in reality the crew were mostly attacked by Oceanic White Tip and Tiger sharks.
USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage is definitely a movie that people should see. I would encourage anyone to watch it, simply to appreciate the level of sacrifice an entire generation made for our freedom. It's a return to form for Nicolas Cage, but weak performances from some of the supporting cast and poor production values let it down.
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