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Other than a mention about the mission of the Indianapolis in Spielberg's "Jaws", many people have never heard of the sacrifice made by the men who delivered the atom bomb, before it's final, inevitable destination in Hiroshima. The horrors of war are of course often portrayed in film, but man vs. nature is a rarer occurrence in war movie history. The scapegoat portrayal of Keech's character should remind us all that being in command is quite often more of a burden, than an honour. War history buffs should check out this flick, as it is well worth your while.
Way too much of a story to be told in a two hour movie. Enough material was there to have made this into a mini series. Nonetheless it still comes off very well. Many people actually thought that the tale that Robert Shaws Quint character in "Jaws" tells is fictitious. This made for TV film sets that straight. A great injustice was committed all around regarding the entire USS Indianapolis incident and the court martial of its captain was only one of them. Another made for TV movie regarding Naval injustice is 1973's "Pueblo" which starred Hal Holbrook.
The movie starts with a 15-year reunion of the men who served on the
U.S.S. Indianapolis. Actually, many of the men are not there, and you
will find out why when you watch. But the hero of this ship is Captain
Charles McVay, and those who served under him cheer as he enters the
During World War II, the Indianapolis had an important mission. The sailors wonder why that box is so heavily guarded. There is lots of speculation; some claim it is special toilet paper for MacArthur. Down below, a high-ranking officer is informing McVay of something he seems to already know but won't confirm. That box contains the most deadly weapon ever developed. Those of us who know the outcome of World War II know exactly what that means.
There seems to be some disagreement on how best to avoid an attack by a Japanese sub. One sailor tells his superiors they are wrong in not trying to deceive the Japanese. Perhaps they should have listened to him, but he is sternly reminded who is in charge.
The Japanese are shown getting ready to attack, and perhaps the outcome of the war would have been somewhat different if they had succeeded. At this point, the sub commander doesn't believe an attack can succeed.
But the second time ...
In all the chaos, it's hard to believe anyone would have known what to do. Capt. McVay's attitude seems to be that abandoning ship would be the coward's way out. We know he survives to see the 15-year reunion. Eventually, it is clear there is only one course of action.
One would think the men would be rescued quickly, but there are procedures to keep the Japanese from knowing too much, and that may have contributed to a delay. So the men have more of an adventure than we might have expected.
This movie shows both sides of what it means to fight in a war. Stacy Keach gives a very strong performance as a leader who is tough but friendly and well-liked. How could anyone believe he was anything but a hero? But if you watch you'll find out some think he was not. There are plenty of courageous and even heroic actions, particularly those of the ship's doctor played by Richard Thomas. And then there are the men who need a leader to keep them from following their selfish desires. There are also cowards; you can't call them anything else. But would we do any better in such a situation?
Compared to "Saving Private Ryan", this would be a fireworks show on the Fourth of July gone awry followed by a dangerous kids' adventure at sea. It's hard to watch--this is war--but not graphic.
The Japanese seem cold and unfeeling, as one might expect. That's the image we have of them. But Hashimoto, who gave the order to fire on the Indianapolis, is shown to be human after all. He had a duty, and he succeeded. Not every time, but eventually. One scene with him later in the movie is pretty amazing.
This is certainly worth seeing.
Remember the boys out on Quint's boat? At night, down below, swapping
seagoing yarns, showing their scars, knowing the shark is out there,
waiting in the watery night, guys talk of exploits and escapes. Joining
in, the Roy Schieder character naively questions, "What's that one?"
noticing another tattoo on Quint's forearm, The USS Indianapolis. Quint
tells the tragic story of that WWII ship and crew. His personal
motivation as a shark hunter.
Well, if you want more of the story, that's what Mission of the Shark delivers. It is a nicely crafted historical drama with high marks for historical accuracy. Stacy Keach is wonderful as the captain, a tragic figure with biblically bad luck.
This is my first review, but I feel I must say something. Having just
finished reading Doug Stanton's In Harm's Way, I see important
opportunities missed in this film. There were true details omitted -
probably for time's sake - that would have made this a more memorable
film. For example, when the plane approaches a group of survivors, the
crew seriously wonders who they are because their faces are smudged
black from the huge oil slick that we never see in the film. As a test,
a crew member calls out, "What city do the Dodgers play in?" A feeble
voice answers, "Brooklyn." Wouldn't that have been a vintage, human
Dr. Lewis Haynes, incorrectly named as mentioned by other reviewers, had a powerful but ignored role in helping the men to heal psychologically by explaining at reunions why so many turned on each other and acted like barbarians in the water. Most had been unaware that they were witnessing not the moral failings of their friends, but instead the effects of salt water ingestion, exposure to extreme heat, continuous lowering of body temperature, horrific fear, etc., on both body and mind. Add to that survivors' guilt and the Navy's total lack of caring. At that time nobody knew of PTSD.
Thus I mourn for what could have been done in this film. The one bright spot was Stacy Keach's acting. He was masterful and at his finest.
I believe we owe it to those who survived as well as to those who perished, and to their loved ones, to tell this story again on film, and GET IT RIGHT!
A true story worth telling, this movie suffers heavily from contrived
dialog which was obviously written by someone unfamilar with the Navy.
It's a classic example of writers who have learned most of what they
think they know about their subject matter from watching previous
movies which were just as likely written by still other writers who
learned from watching still earlier movies, ad infinitum. The use of an
Iowa-class battleship to portray an obsolescent pre-war heavy cruiser
less than one-third its size didn't help, either.
One technical point: speed was always generally regarded a significant defense to submarine attack, and given the technology available at the time it was just plain bad luck as much as anything else that the Japanese were actually able to hit the INDIANAPOLIS. Note also that the submarine had to fire a total of six torpedoes to achieve two hits.
One last point: speaking as the survivor of a wild-animal attack, I can attest that the fear of it is infinitely worse than its physical reality, and I could easily come up with a long list of worse ways to go - surely one would suffer worse from dehydration and exposure, to say nothing of what the medical profession is capable of doing to you once you get to a hospital.
***SPOILER ALERT *** Incidentally, McVay never recovered from the sinking. He committed suicide in 1968. In 2000 the United States Congress passed and the President signed a formal resolution exonerating him from blame for the sinking.
I'm glad a movie was made about the sinking of the USS Indianapolis but
as usual, Hollywood has to screw it all up and use fictional
characters, with the exception of Captain McVay, and fictional
incidents. For instance, Richard Thomas's character was called
Lieutenant Steven Scott but was based on Dr. Lewis Haynes. Why can't
Hollywood just tell the story as it really happened and use real names
like they did with Capt. McVay is beyond me.
I saw this movie first before reading the book "In Harms Way" which really gave you insight as to what happened and the negligence on the Navy's part. The Navy failed to give Cpt. McVay the intelligence it had that Japanese subs were in fact lurking along the Peddie route he was taking. A US destroyer had been sunk in the vicinity a week earlier. This is information Navy Commodore James Carter knew about but did not give Capt. McVay, even as the two met prior to the Indy setting sail.
Secondly, Capt. McVay had requested a destroyer escort for his route to Leyte since the Indy did not have any sonar gear and destroyers did, but he did not get one.
When the Indy was struck by 2 torpedoes, several messages of being struck by torpedoes and her sinking and coordinates were in fact picked up by 3 different radio stations on Leyte. Several tugs were dispatched but 7 hours into a 21 hour trip, the tugs were recalled when Commodore Gillette, acting commander of the Phillipine Sea Frontier, learned they had been dispatched without his permission. No explanation was ever given to his reasoning. It also appears that at the time. it was the Navy's protocol to dismiss any messages that couldn't be confirmed as pranks. Commodore never followed up to see if the Indy had arrived as scheduled.
The whole thing was a travesty and a pattern of a Navy that always wants to fix the blame on everyone but itself, just like they did with the USS Iowa explosion. Of all the ships the Navy lost, why was Cpt. McVay the only Captain who was court-martial ed? Of course, Admiral Nimitz and Admiral Spruance were against a court martial and suggested a letter of reprimand however Admiral King, Chief of Naval Operations wanted a court martial and pressed Naval Secretary James Forrestal for one and he agreed. How ironic that Admiral King was the man pressing for a court martial when it was Admiral Kings incompetence that cost the lives of many merchant seamen along the east coast of this country in 1942 by refusing to deal with the growing U-Boat menace and only did so when the shipping companies were going to refuse to sail unless they received Naval escorts.
But Adm. King got his wish and Cpt. McVay was court martial ed and convicted on a charge of failure to zig zag despite a U.S. sub captain and expert on submarine warfare testifying that zig zagging made no difference in his ability to sink a target. Even the Japanese commander of the sub which sank the Indy was brought into testify and also stated he still would've sunk the Indy whether it was zig zagging or not.
This was not the Navy's finest hour though had it not been for a stroke of luck by Lt. Chuck Gwinn, piloting a PV-1. The plane had a loran navigation system but the antenna had broken off. A crewman had tried to make repairs in flight and Lt. Gwinn had gone back to help him. As he was making his way back, he happened to look out the window at the right time and saw the men in the water below otherwise it's most likely that every man in the water would've perished to the elements. Of course this was downplayed in the movie which shows Gwinn's character slipping just kicking back and looking at the side window though it did show what in reality, was a very tricky and one way landing.
I saw this film when it was first aired... Since then I have been interested in the story of the tragedy. This book has recently been published about the sinking, "In Harm's Way: The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors" by Doug Stanton. I recommend this book to anyone who would like to know the complete story with the most current information. This will probably be the last book with new interviews from survivors as source material.
This film is nicely filmed, though probably purposefully has the feel and look (and dialog) of a movie made in the 50s or 60s. Since the beginning and end are set in the 60s, I suspect that it was done on purpose. Scenes on the Indianapolis are fairly well done. The acting is a little stiff throughout, which is mostly due to a rather dry, stiff dialog and unimaginative script. They do manage to get the viewer steamed up at the Navy at the Court Marshall of Captain McVay. The film leaves a bit to be desired, but the saddest part of the tale is that the horror is true and teh abhorent behavior of the US Navy was unforgivable, even as of 1991. I have no idea whether the record or memory of McVay has been cleared since, but it certainly should be. The film makes a strong statement about the horrible costs of war.
An accurate portrayal of the sinking of USS Indianapolis and worthwhile
for telling a tale of survival under the most desperate conditions
which can be imagined. Also the most damning indictment of leadership
failure since Tennyson's Charge of the Light Brigade.
It was my misfortune, and that of the US Navy, that I viewed this production less than 3 days before I was to report to RECTRACOMGLAKES to begin what I expected to be my naval career. My confidence in the superiors appointed over me was shattered, particularly in Officers O-6 and above who might be reasonably expected not to misplace something as substantial as a heavy cruiser. My service was short, to my regret.
As for the court-martial of CAPT C.B. McVey, the practice of choosing a scapegoat in the aftermath of preventable disaster causing great loss of life appears to be endemic in the USN. Decades later, in the wake of the gun turret explosion aboard USS Iowa, naval investigators fabricated a fantastic tale of 'gay romance run amok' as the cause.
In the near twenty years gone by I hope that things have improved in the Navy. Most, enlisted and officers alike serve with great dedication and professionalism. Unfortunately a few bad apples spoils the barrel.
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