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Film / USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage

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USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage (known in the Philippines as USS Indianapolis: Disaster in the Philippine Sea) is a 2016 World War II film directed by Mario Van Peebles, starring Nicolas Cage as Captain/Rear Admiral Charles McVay III, Thomas Jane as Lt. Adrian Marks, Tom Sizemore as Petty Officer McWhorter, and James Remar as Admiral William S. Parnell.

Set late in the Pacific War, the eponymous US cruiser is given the top-secret assignment of delivering components for the "Little Boy" atom bomb to the American base on Tinian. While the mission is successful, on their way to Leyte to rendezvous with the rest of the American fleet anchored there, she is sunk by Japanese Submarine I-58 in the wee hours of July 30, 1945. What follows is a 5-day ordeal for the surviving crew members of the Indianapolis, with all but 317 of them dying to shark attacks, exposure to the elements, and dehydration.


This film has the following tropes:

  • Abandon Ship: After the Indianapolis is hit by two torpedoes, McVay, in the midst of the chaos on board, gives this order.
  • Action Prologue: The opening shows the Indianapolis under attack by kamikazes off Okinawa.
  • Actor Allusion: This isn't the first time Nicolas Cage and Tom Sizemore served in the Pacific during World War II.
  • Anti-Air: The Indianapolis is shown bristling with 40mm Bofors and 20mm Oerlikon guns. Unfortunately, despite their effectiveness, a kamikaze aircraft manages to break through and heavily damage the bow of the ship.
  • The Atoner: Hashimoto. Especially evident in the ending, when it's revealed that he participated in efforts to exonerate McVay.
  • Anyone Can Die: It's set during World War II, so this is to be expected.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Only 317 out of the original complement of 1100 crew survive the sinking and subsequent ordeal, including McVay himself. However, the Navy blames him for the loss of the ship, and despite the charges against him dropped, he is constantly on the receiving end of hate mail and calls from the families of the deceased crew members. Eventually, he shoots himself out of guilt. Fortunately, he manages to reconcile with Commander Hashimoto during the former's trial. This meeting, and McVay's suicide, eventually drives the former Japanese submarine captain to join the efforts of the surviving crew members and their families, to have him exonerated, which they eventually succeed in doing in 2000. However, Hashimoto dies of natural causes just before it happens.
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  • Butt-Monkey: Played for Drama on McVay, oh so very much. First, he loses his ship to a submarine attack, endures 5 days of being shipwrecked at sea while being constantly attacked by sharks, and gets rescued, only to be court-martialed for losing his ship due to "failure to zigzag". And to top it all off, he receives tons of hate mail from the families of the deceased crew members, even after the war.
  • The Captain: McVay for the Indianapolis. For the I-58, there's Mochitsura Hashimoto.
  • Classified Information: The Indianapolis' delivery mission to Tinian, and the cargo itself (the components for the "Little Boy" Atomic bomb). In fact, the mission is so secret, that no escorts are allotted to McVay despite his numerous requests.
  • Cool Boat: The USS Indianapolis, the second of two Portland-class heavy cruisers built for the US Navy.
  • Driven to Suicide: McVay eventually takes his own life over the guilt of being responsible for the death of most of the crew members of his ship.
  • Fatal Family Photo: Inverted with the Kaiten pilot. The photo of his wife and daughter convinces Hashimoto to spare him from being a human bomb.
  • A Father to His Men: Both McVay and Hashimoto are shown throughout the film to care heavily for their men; the former when he decides to stay in the sea after all the surviving crew members are brought onto the rescue aircraft, and the latter when he decides to spare one of the Kaiten pilots the burden of being a sacrifice.
  • For Want of a Nail: If McVay's numerous requests for a destroyer screen were just heeded...
  • Foregone Conclusion: Par on being an actual historical event. The ship will deliver its top-secret cargo to Tinian, and will be sunk by a Japanese submarine just a few weeks before the Japanese surrender.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Used when someone is eaten by a shark. All that's depicted is the blood left behind in the water.
  • Just Plane Wrong: The paint scheme of the A6M Zero kamikaze at the start of the film is painted gray instead of the late war green all Japanese aircraft wore at that late point of the war. Not to mention the fact that the plane itself is shown carrying a drop tank instead of a 250-kg bomb.
    • Not to mention the fact that, during the actual kamikaze attack, the aircraft that hit the Indianapolis was actually a Ki-43 "Oscar".
  • Kangaroo Court: McVay's court martial just after the end of the war, as part of a cover-up by the US Navy for the incompetence of their officers that night. While all charges against him are dropped, the press and most of the public still blame him for the loss of his ship.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Hashimoto eventually develops this mindset once he realizes that the US Navy is not immediately coming to the rescue of the Indianapolis survivors in the water. It gets cranked up once he meets McVay following the end of the war.
  • The Neidermeyer: Lt. Standish, who is Killed Offscreen two days after the ship sinks. Also counts as a Military Brat, since he's also the son of an American Admiral.
  • Real Time: The scene depicting the torpedoing and subsequent sinking of the Indianapolis, which is approx. 13 minutes in the movie and in Real Life.
  • Red Alert: Immediately after the torpedo hits, Captain McVay sounds 'General Quarters' in an attempt to assess the damage and call for rescue.
    • During the Action Prologue as well, when the ship is under attack by Kamikazes off Okinawa.
  • Red Herring: The Kaiten suicide torpedoes are mentioned heavily as being a huge threat to Allied shipping, and early on it appears that these will be used to sink the Indianapolis. During the actual attack however, Hashimoto relents in using them due to guilt over the Kaiten pilot's life.
  • The Scapegoat: McVay is pinned as the one responsible for the loss of the ship, despite the increasing amount of evidence and eyewitness accounts (including the captain of the very submarine that sank his ship) stating otherwise.
  • Sinking Ship Scenario: The Indianapolis herself, after being torpedoed by the Japanese submarine.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: The unseen pilot of the Zero Kamikaze. It it weren't for him damaging the ship, the Indianapolis would not have been forced back stateside, meaning it wouldn't have been the ship assigned for the task of delivering the atom bomb components.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: The Indianapolis, twice. First after getting hit by a Kamikaze off Okinawa, then after getting hit by torpedoes from I-58.
  • Suicide Attack: Kamikazes, one of which damages the Indianapolis so badly during the Battle of Okinawa that she's forced to head back to the States for repairs.
    • The I-58 herself is seen carrying Kaiten suicide torpedoes intended against Allied shipping. Subverted though, since the Indianapolis is sunk with conventional torpedoes instead.
  • Threatening Shark: One of the most infamous examples in Real Life.
  • Vehicle Title
  • Weapons Understudies: The battleship USS Alabama was used for scenes depicting the Indianapolis, due to the fact that no WWII-era "Treaty" cruisers are afloat to this day. While efforts are made to use CGI to alter the battleship's silhouette and get it closer to that of the real Indianapolis (which looked very different) there's no getting around the fact that her main battery guns are 16-inch, rather than the 8-inch guns of a heavy cruiser. For scenes on board the I-58, the Gato-class submarine USS Drum was used.
  • Worthy Opponent: McVay and Hashimoto when they meet in person in Washington DC.