USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage Blu-ray Review
Quint told it better
USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage expands on the real-life story that Robert Shaw's Quint terrorises us with in Jaws, but budgetary restrictions and acting limitations leave this a doomed voyage.Fresh from a battering during a tour in the Pacific, the USS Indianapolis and its dedicated captain are sent on a secret mission of the utmost importance - to carry the nuclear material (at the time the majority of the world's resources) required for the decisive atomic weaponry that would go on to decimate Japan, end the war, and instil nuclear fear into every country on the planet for the next 70 years. With no anti-submarine escort ships - indeed, it was expected to be nothing less than a suicide run - the full ramifications of the fallout were not felt until some time later, where political cover-ups and scape-goating continued to do damage long after the submarines and sharks had had their fill of this valiant crew who, for the most part, were probably blissfully unaware of just what part they were playing in the War.Director Mario Van Peebles, the not-quite-so-visionary son of director Melvin Van Peebles, took this project perhaps because of its political messages (the conspiracy and finger-pointing smacks of the kind of injustice that both him and his father made their name on examining) but more likely because it is arguably his most prominent work in years, and the same could be said for star, DTV-movie stalwart Nicolas Cage and his supporting cast, including Tom Sizemore (who also popped up in the Reacher-lite Netflix TV series Shooter) and once-Punisher Thomas Jane. Peebles' even-handed direction and Cage's mostly restrained acting (reduced ham content) make up somewhat for the dodgy effects and Jaws-lite shark middle act but, whilst it's far better than expected, it's still far worse than the material deserved.
Picture QualityUSS Indianapolis: Men of Courage benefits from a strong 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation, framed in the movie's original aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen, but even so it struggles with myriad effects limitations and some outright flaws in the source visuals.
USS Indianapolis benefits from a strong presentation but struggles with source flaws
Beyond the more obvious budgetary restrictions, like some of the CG plane attack shots; the explosions and the sub work, there are some frustrating day-for-night-style filters, shoddy shark shots (and some surprisingly effective shark shots) as well as problems with even non-effects-driven sequences. Simple shots of Cage talking to his counterpart suffer from odd focus issues depending on which character we are looking at, which feels more likely a problem with the source material - even the actual cinematography - as opposed to the presentation here. Perhaps the worst instance is with the boat-plane. Once it lands, the characters seen on the plane - who are clearly supposed to be bobbing in the ocean courtesy of some post-effects work - instead judder up and down unpleasantly. It is hard to distinguish the film's problems from the actual technical capabilities of the release, as otherwise it may have been a better appreciated video presentation.
Sound QualityThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is a decent effort too, and comes with none of the problems or restrictions plaguing the video. Dialogue gets fine prioritisation across the front and centre channels, rising above the rest of the maelstrom, whilst effects manage to do decent work with the aerial, and above-and-under-water antics, with plenty of LFE weight on the detonations, and some nice observation even when things drift into more restrained courtroom endeavours. Effects are well disseminated, and the score is arguably better than the material deserves, even though it is ultimately not desperately memorable, keeping the surrounds further involved across the duration
The audio is decent, with none of the problems plaguing the video
ExtrasAll we get is a single half-hour featurette, but it's an above-average making-of piece, with plenty of cast and crew interview snippets and a fair amount of behind the scenes footage of the film being shot.
USS Indianapolis is better than expected but still worse than the material deserves
There's a fine story to be told here, as was regaled in Jaws, and it's a wonder whether, had this had the kind of budget Pearl Harbour had benefited from, it would suffer no more (and no less) criticisms on that front, but ultimately, despite the best efforts of Peebles and even Cage, on surprisingly restrained form, this doesn't do justice to the true horror tale of this ill-fated voyage. Technically, the disc appears sound, but the effects problems and filmmaking defects spill out into your enjoyment of the presentation. Nonetheless, it's a cut above its DTV peers.
You can buy USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage on Blu-ray here
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £9.99
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