PLOT: Following a top-secret mission to deliver parts of the atomic bomb in the summer of 1945, the USS Indianapolis is sunk by a Japanese sub. The survivors, including Captain Charles McVay (Nicolas Cage) are stuck in shark infested waters with little-to-no hope of rescue.
REVIEW: Ever since Quint’s monologue in JAWS, the fate of the USS Indianapolis has become one of the most infamous and creepy stories to emerge from WW2. For years, Hollywood has angled to turn it into an actual film, with talk at one time of making it as a full-fledged JAWS prequel with a cast member playing the young Quint. It never happened, but the saga of the USS Indianapolis has indeed made it to the big screen, albeit in a bargain-basement production that’s destined to be little more than an unfortunate footnote in Nicolas Cage’s already tarnished career.
Directed by Mario Van Peebles, USS INDIANAPOLIS: MEN OF COURAGE clearly attempts to ape big-budget, patriotic 21st century WW2 actioners like PEARL HARBOR, right down to the bloated 130 minute running time. They haven’t got nearly the resources to make it come off as anything more than a cheap clone. This is made painfully clear by a prologue depicting a battle on the deck of the Indianapolis, with CGI that wouldn’t pass muster in a DTV Asylum title. Everything about this is cheap, from the threadbare sets to the Hans Zimmer-clone score (that, as our own Damion Damaske pointed out in his write-up of the trailer, sounds like it was done on a Casio), that even, dares, to have Lisa Gerrard-style vocals during a scene that’s meant to be harrowing but winds-up comedic.
Still, USS INDIANAPOLIS: MEN OF COURAGE might have been a decent little WW2 adventure, were it not for the abysmal script by Cam Cannon & Richard Rionda Del Castro, that attempts to squeeze in all the clichés it can. The love triangle between the two sailors in love with a debutante is particularly bad, and you have to pity the poor actors forced to utter dialogue like “he’s a gas!” Things don’t improve once the ship is torpedoed, with a friend pointing out on social media that the CGI sharks make the ones in SHARKNADO look Oscar-worthy.
While one might assume it would be fun to watch Cage and co-star Tom Sizemore tangle with CG sharks, both play it very earnestly, and it’s sad watching these vets give it their all. Both played similar parts in legitimate actioners a decade or so ago. As a result, USS INDIANAPOLIS: MEN OF COURAGE isn’t even fun on a so bad it’s good level. You can’t help but be mortified for Cage throughout, who hasn’t had a vehicle this bad since LEFT BEHIND, and is still capable of great work in movies like DOG EAT DOG, if given half-a-chance. Of the leads, Thomas Jane fares the best as a pilot trying to rescue the downed crew, only because he’s barely in it, unlike Cage who is front-and-center throughout.
Even die-hard WW2 buffs would be better-advised to seek out the TV film “Mission of the Shark” (featuring Stacy Keach as McVay) over this. The saga of the USS Indianapolis is pretty interesting; particularly the fate of the scapegoated McVay, but this sorry effort can’t even begin to do it justice. If you see this pop up in your VOD feed, do yourself a favor and skip over it. Hopefully it won’t be seen enough to really embarrass anyone involved.