<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Brian Falk. Starring Tom Felton, Jake Abel, Garret Dillahunt, Nadia Parra
When I saw the trailer to Against The Sun I thought this was the same story as the one depicted in Angelina Jolie’s true story Unbroken but it isn’t. It’s similar but not as thrilling.
Against The Sun makes you wonder how many World War II airplanes crashed into the Pacific Ocean near Japanese territory and how many languished and perished as they were never rescued. Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken told us the tale of three service men that crash land in the Pacific and their 45-day ordeal but also took us on their journey at a Prisoner of War camp after being rescued by the Japanese. In Against The Sun there’s a prologue of three Navy men – Chief and Pilot Harold Dixon (Garret Dillahunt), radio man Gene Aldrich (Jake Abel) and the bombardier Tony Pastula (Tom Felton) – lost in their bomber with low fuel. They crash and end up in their lifeboat unaware of their actual location. And the whole film is the men on the ocean for 34 days.
It’s like most other stranded-in-the-middle of the ocean films. Do they have enough supplies, water, and food to survive? In this case, no. Do they have to be worried about sharks? Yes, definitely. How did they end up stranded there? That involves some flashbacks where they relive their flight and some confessions are offered up eventually. Most of the things you have a checklist for in this kind of film are ticked off. The storm at sea: check. Eating raw fish and birds: check. Extreme sunburn and hallucinations: check.
So then what’s left? Ultimately it’s upto the actors and the director to make those moments all the more thrilling and poignant. To pepper the film with a bit of entertainment value considering the setting is monotonous and can soon become tired. The American Film Company has tried to make Against The Sun as realistic to the true events as possible. That’s both good and bad. I’m not saying the film is dull; far from it. There are some truly engaging moments. But in its entirety it just gets repetitive.
The hallucinations the three men have could have been depicted better. The music tries but fails to support the visuals. The actors are all on the mark and do a good job of balancing emotions between hope and dejection, camaraderie and mistrust. While some of the shots are impressive – like the top shot of the sharks below the water and the shot where the men feast on a raft full of bloody fish – the shots of the sunset and horizon aren’t magnificent and after a while you don’t want to see the daily sunset marking another day missed from a rescue.
The thing is that since they’ve adhered to the real story, they haven’t embellished it too much, which is technically an honest thing to do considering so many Hollywood ‘true stories’ are far from authentic. Against The Sun would probably have been more effective had we not watched Unbroken before it.