Prepare to see Mobile and many of its citizens on a new scale in “USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage” starring — who else? — Nicolas Cage. Directed by Mario Van Peebles and shot, with the exception of a few days, entirely in Alabama, this war drama tells the incredible true story of the World War II ship that delivered components of the nuclear bomb that went on to strike Hiroshima, only to be torpedoed after they completed their mission. The sinking ship was just the beginning of their plight.
We get to experience this incredible story, starring so many of our local folks and landmarks, on the big screen at a free screening Saturday Nov. 12, at 7 p.m. at the Saenger Theatre.
As anyone who has watched “Jaws” knows, the men who survived the torpedoing were plunged into waters where they were picked off by swarms of sharks as they waited days for rescue. Only 317 men out of the 1,196 aboard the ship were rescued. A handful of these men and their families will be in the audience at the Nov. 12 showing, after being honored at a special, invitation-only reception at Space 301 before the screening.
In addition to Cage, the $40 million movie stars Tom Sizemore and Thomas Jane. It was filmed in 2015 aboard the USS Alabama as well as at the Battle House Hotel, Mobile County Courthouse and other locations, including a few private homes.
The film also boasts a number of local actors as extras, and local professionals working behind the scenes. From set photographers to choreographers of a swing-style dance number, the production took advantage of local talent. If you were one of the people in the film, this is your chance to see yourself on the big screen. The film is already available to stream on most cable outlets, iTunes and Amazon.
The true story of the USS Indianapolis is undeniably dramatic and fascinating. Cage plays Capt. McVay, commander of the ship given the mission that ultimately ends the war. Unfortunately for its crew, the secrecy of this vital mission complicates their recue. The 900 men that are plunged into the water as their ship sinks in 12 short minutes are soon at the mercy of Mother Nature’s most terrible trials.
This film takes time to give us the backstory of some of the men who spend the rest of the film fighting for their lives in shark-infested waters, beset by hunger and a thirst that leads them to hallucinate. The bond between men becomes their greatest tool for survival. The film also gives some insight into the perspective of the Japanese officers hunting the ill-fated ship. What many people will also learn from the film is the aftermath of this brutal ordeal.
In an amazing twist, one of the actors in the film, Matt Lanter of television’s “90210,” is the grandson of one of the 317 crewmen who lived through this disaster, considered the worst in United States naval history. The actor even wore his grandfather’s actual dog tags to portray his character in the film, a particularly poignant tribute in the midst of an already moving and dramatic story.