A Caged Animal? A 60 second review of USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage (2016)

“Truman has chosen you and your crew to lead a highly classified mission.”

Remember Quint’s speech in Jaws about the American ship carrying the Hiroshima bomb that got hit, sank and stranded all the soldiers in open water to be attacked by sharks? Well this is that movie, and many people will be glad to hear it’s the enigmatic Nicholas Cage taking charge of the ill-fated USS Indianapolis.

Unfortunately this isn’t the balls-to-the-walls Cage we love from Face Off and Wickerman. Instead, this is the stoic Cage that struggles to carry a drama by himself, let alone one that hinges on paying fitting tribute the lives of so many men. But it isn’t just Cage’s fault this film is bad.

What I liked…

The story is a good one at its core, true stories often are. The paramount secrecy of the mission leading to an insufficient rescue response is a fascinating one, reflecting the need to put certain risks aside for the greater goal of ending the war.

Quite good lighting and some of the set designs are decent. There was something authentically “wartime” about some of it, albeit all a little “bright” at some points when it simply did not suit the situation.

The last act detailing America’s response to the event is an interesting tale all on its own. But you will be bored by that point.

What I disliked…

Effects are woefully bad. The underwater shots of torpedoes and sharks look so terrible. Unfortunately this completely ruins the film at key moments of action and suspense, which are really rare.

From Titanic to Deepwater Horizon, many movies have proven that just because you already know what’s coming doesn’t mean it can’t blow your mind when it happens. But in Men of Courage the director Van Peebles handles the explosion and sinking of the ship in such a lazy and amateurish way that it completely collapses the viewing experience.

The awful love triangle that the writer obviously felt was necessary came off like an even worse version of Pearl Harbour, if that’s possible. You don’t care about the characters in any way. So much so that when they are crying in each other’s arms it is unbearably hard to watch.

This may sound slightly sadistic, but I would have liked to feel the soldiers’ suffering some more. It just felt devoid of emotions despite the incessant wailing from Sizemore clinging on to what is left of his leg like a child with a blanket. I wanted to care, I really did, I just didn’t. Cage was pretty bad in this as well, really struggling.

Shapstik Verdict

It tries to be a war, romance and thriller movie all at once and succeeds at none of them. Director Mario Van Peebles has a lot to answer for here. I actually watched Quint’s speech from Jaws just after seeing the film, and it told a gripping, emotional and dramatic account of events, without the camera even leaving his face. This could have been a great movie in the right hands, which makes it even harder to bear.  It has one or two watchable moments. But even if you love Nicholas Cage and have a fetish for sharks, don’t watch this movie. 2/10

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