HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage
HTS Overall Score:66
It seems that World War II films are making a comeback in the last 5 or 6 years. It used to be that we were completely inundated with tales about the second world war back in the 50s and 60s, but during the 70s and beyond they slowly petered off as other national tragedies and wars became more prevalent. By the time the 90s hit they were few and far between, but recently I’ve been seeing more and more films take up the mantle of telling the stories from one of the most terrifying wars in history, with “USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage” being the latest. When I saw the cast/crew list of “Men of Courage” I wondered if I was living in the correct decade. First, we have a movie starring Nicolas Cage, Tom Sizemore, Thomas Jane and James Remar. Then to top it all off the director is Mario Van Peebles (nope, it’s NOT the 90s, I guess I must be going crazy). I honestly felt like I was looking at a cast of people from my childhood all rolling up in a big car that’s showcasing a WWII movie to boot.
Well, “Men of Courage” may have a cast that was popular in the 90s, but sadly the movie was not nearly as good as the war movies from back then. I honestly am curious about HOW this story ended up being made on a shoestring budget with has been actors. The subject matter is actually quite fascinating and would make for a great big budget movie. It’s a direct tie in to the atomic bomb, there’s a whole hullabaloo about government conspiracy to put Captain McVay out to dry (whom Clinton exonerated when he was in office), a Japanese U-Boat with Kaiten (manned suicide torpedoes), and sharks. Lots and lots of sharks. Instead we get this low budget mess that has its heart in the right place, but sadly can’t seem to find any traction and ends up being WAY too bloated.
The voyage of the USS Indianapolis was a true story that happened right at the end of the war. Back in 1945 the U.S. government was getting sick and tired of the war on Japan and was looking for a way to end it FAST. That expediency came in the form of the famous Atomic bomb drop on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Since the bomb couldn’t be flown over (it was pretty big and the Japanese Air force would nail any bombers across the ocean that even tried it), the USS Indianapolis was commissioned to slip the bomb components across the ocean to the US forces under extreme orders not to be found out. To make matters worse they were given no convoy of protection and were basically a glorified suicide attempt since there had been sightings of a Japanese submarine in the general vicinity as the ship not 4 days before.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=89145[/img]Sadly McVay’s (Nicolas Cage) ship gets sighted by a Japanese Sub on the way back home (thankfully for us) AFTER the delivery of the bomb has been made. Being that they have no sonar or capabilities to fire a depth charge, the USS Indianapolis is summarily sunk without mercy, leaving 900 passengers floundering in the water. Out of that complement of 900, only about 317 made it alive, with the rest getting eaten by sharks (LOTS of sharks in this movie) or dying of thirst or injuries from the crash. The only thing that saved them was a lone plane who happened across the oil spill of the sunken ship.
“USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage” has its heart in the right place, and gives an HONEST effort at trying to make a good movie. Nick Cage is definitely toned down from his normal over acting self, and Tom Sizemore is fairly toned down from his normal ANGRY self. There’s definite intent to make something good and honoring of the men who died that day. Mario Van Peebles didn’t want to make some wild action movie, but instead a great war drama. Sadly that’s not how it turned out. The movie is hugely bloated at 2 hours and 10 minutes with a ton of information being superfluous. Side romances pad the “disaster” portion of the film, with flashbacks and conversations dragging out the time the men were stuck at sea. The only really GOOD portion of the movie is the last 20 minutes when we’re watching McVay get railroaded as a scapegoat after getting home.
R for war-related images and brief language
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=89153[/img]Once again, my sources can’t seem to find out what exact cameras were used to film the movie, but from all guesses at the budget and the general overall look of the movie, I’d guess we’re looking at a digitally shot production. Overall clarity is quite nice, and outside of the CGI battle scenes and the weak CGI used for the sharks (there’s some laughable CGI as a shark leaps out of the water and munches on a sailor) the image is quite nice. There’s a mild green push to the color spectrum, but the photography is mostly neutral in presentation. When the men are in the water with the bright sunlight you can see quite a bit of fine detail, but there is a bit of an issue with digital noise in some of the interior parts of the ship when low light levels are present (there’s also some banding in the underwater shots of the sharks, something that happens quite a bit in underwater scenes I’ve noticed). Black levels are good, but never exemplary and other than the banding and digital noise the image is fairly artifact free. Very solid transfer.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=89161[/img]A fairly bass heavy movie at times, “Men of Courage” sports a nicely done DTS-HD MA 5.1 track that does the job without complaint. Dialog is well placed in the center channel and decently balanced with the rest of the action, and the surround sounds get a solid workout. Most of the surround activity is through the ambient noises in the water, but the explosions and screaming of the men as they race around trying to get off the ship get some rear channel localization too. There’s not a whole lot of nuance to the track, but rather it’s a simple and straight forward experience with some good ambient use of surrounds and some definitely hot use of the LFE channel. Generic, but certainly well done.
• The Making of USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage
• Trailers for other Lionsgate Films
I actually can’t complain too much about the acting. All those involved were doing their best to make a serious movie, but the cheesy dialog and the laborious pacing made for a clunker that just isn’t up to snuff. There were moments (the above-mentioned court room trial of Captain McVay), and a few standout performances, but overall it was just a poor man’s telling of a FANTASTIC piece of history. I can only imagine what would have been if a more competent director and a bigger budget had been able to take over. Sadly, we may never know. The Blu-ray itself has good video and audio scores, but once again is a bit anemic on the extras. Definitely skip unless you’re a huge WWII buff.
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Tom Sizemore, Thomas Jane
Directed by: Mario Van Peebles
Written by: Richard Rionda Del Castro, Cam Cannon
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: Dolby DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 128 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: January 24th 2017
Buy USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Skip It
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