From Alfred Hitchcock’s black-and-white classic Lifeboat to the 2014 Angelina Jolie-directed biopic Unbroken, lost at sea tales (particularly those taking place during WWII) have developed their own corner of cinematic history. But even though those studio films were made with considerable budget and scope for their times, audiences are often aware of how the true story material can be altered or enhanced for dramatic effect. Against The Sun (released on DVD from Anchor Bay Canada on May 5, 2015) is a small-scale lost at sea independent effort from director Brian Falk and the end result is no less strong than several similarly-themed studio-supported efforts.
It tells the story of three U.S. navy airmen (Raising Hope’s Garrett Dillahunt, Harry Potter’s Tom Felton and Percy Jackson’s Jake Abel)who crashed their plane in the South Pacific on January 16, 1942 (a month after the attack at Pearl Harbor) and struggled to survive on a small life raft for just over a month with very little at their disposal to live. What makes the film unique is that unlike most movies, Against The Sun purposely tells the story as accurate and as factual as possible (a standard set by the film’s producing backer; The American Film Company).
Although the film comes on the heels of the glossier Unbroken, for the most part Against The Sun holds up just as well as an engaging, tense and brutalizing look at a desperate and harrowing situation, executed with respect and maturity towards the true story. The movie pulls no punches in dealing with inevitable scenarios (like drinking urine, dealing with sharks and the possibility of cannibalism in the event of a death) and the three actors all give very physical and believable performances to their characters.
A viewer will be easily aware of Sun’s small-scale VFX flaws and budget by comparison, but those issues don’t do much to take away from the film’s inspiring and wrenching effect. Even more on the positive end for the movie is the DVD edition that consumers and interested parties can find it on. Although it is in standard definition, Sun is presented in a fairly good anamorphic widescreen picture with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The image suffers from some high black levels in the darker scenes that is a struggle at times, but the day images are nicely captured.
The disc comes with an effective Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix that pops with music cues and provides nice ambient oceanic noise throughout, plus a collection of seven featurettes that cover various aspects of the film’s production; from working in water tanks, make-up effects, rebuilding a WWII plane, costumes and visual effects. The DVD brings more to the table than expected for a release such as this, so by default it’s a hidden gem.
Against The Sun is a lost at sea drama that proves to be a much more valuable experience than one might expect at first glance; executed very respectably and backed up by a commendable DVD release from Anchor Bay Canada. The film nicely reflects the talent of three lesser-known actors and proves to be an inspiring tale of survival that plays like a perfect television movie event rather than a feature film, but regardless it ends up working on a viewer.