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USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage

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USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage
Official release poster
Directed byMario Van Peebles
Written by
  • Cam Cannon
  • Richard Rionda Del Castro
Produced by
  • Michael Mendelsohn
  • Richard Rionda Del Castro
CinematographyAndrzej Sekuła
Edited byRobert A. Ferretti
Music byLaurent Eyquem
Hannibal Classics
Patriot Pictures
Distributed bySaban Films
Release dates
  • August 24, 2016 (2016-08-24) (Philippines)
  • October 14, 2016 (2016-10-14) (United States)
Running time
130 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$40 million[2]
Box office$1,663,785[2]

USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage (also titled USS Indianapolis: Disaster in the Philippine Sea) is a 2016 American war disaster film directed by Mario Van Peebles and written by Cam Cannon and Richard Rionda Del Castro, based largely on the true story of the loss of the ship of the same name in the closing stages of the Second World War. The film stars Nicolas Cage, Tom Sizemore, Thomas Jane, Matt Lanter, Brian Presley, and Cody Walker. Principal photography began on June 19, 2015 in Mobile, Alabama. The film premiered in the Philippines on August 24, 2016. It was released as a digital rental on iTunes and Amazon in the United States on October 14, 2016 and in limited theaters during the Veterans Day weekend.[3][4]


In 1945, the Portland-class heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis, commanded by Captain Charles McVay, delivers parts of the atomic bomb that would later be used to bomb Hiroshima at the end of World War II. While patrolling in the Philippine Sea, on July 30 in 1945, the unescorted ship is torpedoed and sunk by the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) submarine I-58, taking 300 crewmen with it to the bottom of the Philippine Sea, while the rest climb out of the ship and were left stranded at sea for five days without food and water in shark-infested waters.

With no hope for five days, most of the remaining crew-members are eaten by sharks or die of salt water poisoning by drinking seawater (which also caused some of those injured to die from seasickness and infectious wounds). Others swim off from their groups after hallucinating a non-existent island, never to be seen again. On the 5th day, the surviving crew are spotted by a PBY Catalina, and rescue later arrives. Only 316 survived the disaster.

Looking for a scapegoat for their own gross negligence, the US Navy court-martials and convicts Captain McVay for "hazarding his ship by failing to zigzag", despite overwhelming evidence supporting McVay (such as even having the former captain of the IJN's I-58 submarine to testify for the trial, which proved McVay to be not at fault). It ends with Captain McVay committing suicide years after the tragedy after being harassed and tormented with phone calls and mail from angry and grief-stricken relatives of the deceased crew-members, as well as the media (mostly in the form of newspapers, which placed the blame on him for the ship's sinking). In the movie's postscript they show President Bill Clinton exonerating Captain McVay of all charges on October 30, 2000.

While the credits roll, two Navy sailors recount the sharks in the waters and real footage of the rescue is shown along with many still shots of lost sailors.




The project USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage, set in July 1945, is about the Navy ship USS Indianapolis and was first announced in 2011 by Hannibal Classics. Near the end of World War II, when the ship was returning from Tinian after delivering important parts for an atomic bomb, it was torpedoed by I-58.[11][12] 1,197 people were aboard the ship, out of which only 317 survived, almost 300 sank along with the ship, and all others were killed by dehydration, exposure, salt water poisoning, or shark attacks.[11][12] Cam Cannon and Richard Rionda Del Castro, the latter also being engaged as a producer, wrote the script for the film. The focus of the film is on the bravery of the crewmen aboard Indianapolis.[12]

On December 17, 2013, Hannibal set Mario Van Peebles to direct the film, while Patriot Pictures would finance and Rionda Del Castro would produce along with Michael Mendelsohn.[11] The studio (Hannibal) had developed the film in five years by consulting the survivors of the disaster, including the US Navy and the US Coast Guard. The US Navy helped with the completion and finalization of the last draft of the script.[5][11]

Walt Conti of Edge Innovations would provide the animated sharks, and the production reportedly secured two fully operational World War II-era planes to portray the planes that were involved in the real rescue operations after the disaster.[8] Silo Inc. and Hydroflex were attached to handle digital effects and underwater filming for the film, respectively.[5] USS Alabama and USS Drum would both be used along with the Battleship Memorial Park to depict Indianapolis and the Japanese submarine.[8]

The film is dedicated to the men of the USS Indianapolis and their families.


On February 5, 2015, Nicolas Cage was set to play the lead role of Captain Charles McVay in the film.[5]

Matt Lanter was set on April 1, 2015 to play a US Navy diver, named Chief Petty Officer Brian "Bama" Smithwick.[7] Lanter revealed to the producers after his audition that his grandfather, Kenley Lanter, was a Signalman on Indianapolis. Furthermore, Lanter's father, Joe Lanter, is a chairman of Second Watch, an organization of survivors and their families. Joe Lanter and his co-chair, Maria Bullard, stayed in contact with the producers during pre-production and were welcomed to the set during photography.

On May 13, 2015, Variety revealed that Tom Sizemore, Thomas Jane and Brian Presley had also joined the cast of the film, in which Sizemore would play McWhorter, one of the crew on the ship, while Jane was to play the pilot Chuck Gwinn.[8]

In May 2015, Saban Films acquired the North American distribution rights to the film.[8] On May 18, 2015, Sizemore's role was confirmed by Variety.[6]

On July 15, 2015, Cody Walker was cast in the film to play one of the crewmen aboard the ship.[10]


Principal photography on the film began on June 19, 2015 in Mobile, Alabama with many scenes shot aboard the battleship USS Alabama.[13] Filming was also to take place in San Francisco and Kyoto, Japan,[8] but the producers later opted to double Mobile for both San Francisco and Japan. On June 27, 2015, filming was underway in Orange Beach.[14]

A World War II-era vintage PBY-6A Catalina amphibious seaplane was being used for the filming on June 29, 2015, when it took on water and beached near the Flora-Bama lounge, Orange Beach.[15] There were no injuries during the incident, and the rescue team secured the pilot and co-pilot.[16] Producers had to put the production on hold temporarily to save the plane, but "the salvage company was unable to save the aircraft," which was broken apart, according to the producers.[16][17] The plane was provided by firefighters from Washington and was being piloted by Fred and Jayson Owen.[18]

After filming on July 14 in downtown Mobile, Cage met a real Navy veteran named Richard Stephens on a bench at Bienville Square. Stephens was one of the survivors of the ship, so Cage and Stephens had an extended discussion about the disaster.[19]


On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes the film holds an approval rating of 17% based on 12 reviews, with an average rating of 3.4/10. On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 30 out of 100, based on eight critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".

Frank Scheck of The Hollywood Reporter referred to the movie as "slapdash", and called the special effects "garish and unconvincing"; the movie's sharks he thought were "Sharknado-style".[20] Glenn Kenny of RogerEbert.com thought, just as Scheck and many other reviewers did, that such a "harrowing" story would have been adapted to the screen far earlier. His consensus was the film was "not exactly unwatchable", but also "completely not worthy of watching", with its "lazy inattention to period detail", summing it up as "two-hours plus of bumbling and pandering".[21]

Neil Genzlinger of The New York Times criticized the film's "lack of subtlety" in dealing with such an "almost unbelievable" story. He called the characters' storylines away from the main plot "flimsy" and the special effects "rickety", and noted that the film's "leaden" treatment of the central story "suck[ed] all the drama out of it".[22]


  1. ^ "USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage". AMCTheatres.com. Archived from the original on June 16, 2018. Retrieved July 30, 2017.
  2. ^ a b "USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage". The Numbers. Archived from the original on October 22, 2016. Retrieved October 11, 2016.
  3. ^ Busch, Anita (14 October 2016). "'USS Indianapolis: Men Of Courage' – Official Trailer". Deadline.com. Archived from the original on 17 October 2016. Retrieved 14 October 2016.
  4. ^ "USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage". AMCTheaters. Archived from the original on 16 June 2018. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  5. ^ a b c d McNary, Dave (February 5, 2015). "Berlin: Nicolas Cage to Star in WWII Drama 'USS Indianapolis' (EXCLUSIVE)". variety.com. Archived from the original on July 3, 2015. Retrieved June 25, 2015.
  6. ^ a b Kroll, Justin (May 18, 2015). "Tom Sizemore Joins Nicolas Cage in WWII Movie 'USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage'". variety.com. Archived from the original on July 9, 2015. Retrieved June 25, 2015.
  7. ^ a b Lincoln, Ross A. (April 1, 2015). "Matt Lanter Boards 'USS Indianapolis' With Nicolas Cage; Two More Jump In 'The Lake'". deadline.com. Archived from the original on May 6, 2015. Retrieved April 27, 2015.
  8. ^ a b c d e f McNary, Dave (May 13, 2015). "Cannes: Nicolas Cage's 'USS Indianapolis' Bought by Saban Films (EXCLUSIVE)". variety.com. Archived from the original on July 10, 2015. Retrieved June 25, 2015.
  9. ^ Yutaka Takeuchi Archived 2017-08-24 at the Wayback Machine on IMDb
  10. ^ a b McNary, Dave (July 15, 2015). "Paul Walker's Brother Cody Walker Starring in Nicolas Cage's 'USS Indianapolis'". variety.com. Archived from the original on July 16, 2015. Retrieved July 16, 2015.
  11. ^ a b c d McNary, Dave (December 17, 2013). "'USS: Indianapolis' Shoot Set for June in Alabama (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved April 27, 2015.
  12. ^ a b c "Second USS Indianapolis Film to go into Production". nukethefridge.com. August 20, 2011. Archived from the original on October 27, 2015. Retrieved June 25, 2015.
  13. ^ "'USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage' Starring Nicolas Cage Open Casting Call". projectcasting.com. June 10, 2015. Archived from the original on July 8, 2015. Retrieved June 25, 2015.
  14. ^ Coffaro, Devan (June 27, 2015). "Exclusive: FOX10 tours USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage". fox10tv.com. Archived from the original on July 2, 2015. Retrieved June 30, 2015.
  15. ^ Mullen, John (2016-05-06). "Vintage plane planned for movie beached at Flora-Bama". gulfcoastnewstoday.com. Archived from the original on 2023-07-15. Retrieved 2016-10-10.
  16. ^ a b Lowe, Kinsey (July 3, 2015). "'USS Indianapolis' Production Delayed After Vintage Plane Waterlogged". deadline.com. Archived from the original on June 22, 2017. Retrieved July 5, 2015.
  17. ^ Ikenberg, Tamara (July 4, 2015). "WWII – era plane flown in for film "USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage" falls apart during salvage attempt". al.com. Archived from the original on July 6, 2015. Retrieved July 6, 2015.
  18. ^ Anderson, Marc D. (July 1, 2015). "Beached WWII-era seaplane disrupts filming of Nicolas Cage movie in Orange Beach". al.com. Archived from the original on July 3, 2015. Retrieved July 6, 2015.
  19. ^ Ikenberg, Tamara (July 14, 2015). "Nicolas Cage meets a man of courage on the set of 'USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage'". al.com. Archived from the original on July 18, 2015. Retrieved July 16, 2015.
  20. ^ Scheck, Frank (November 11, 2016). "'USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage': Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on August 10, 2020. Retrieved January 3, 2020.
  21. ^ Kenny, Glenn (November 11, 2016). "USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage". RogerEbert.com. Archived from the original on June 24, 2021. Retrieved January 3, 2020.
  22. ^ Genzlinger, Neil (November 10, 2016). "Review: 'U.S.S. Indianapolis,' a War (Yawn) Catastrophe". The New York Times. Archived from the original on August 6, 2017. Retrieved January 3, 2020.

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