Free Press Journal

Movie Review: Against The Sun – A tale of human endurance 


Cast: Tom Felton, Garret Dillahunt, Jake Abel, Nadia Parra

Director: Brian Falk

What happened on the 16th of January? Columbus set sail for Spain on his first  voyage, the British captured Pondicherry from the French, Stalin and Trotsky battled for leadership, explorer Ernest Shackleton found the magnetic south pole, the Cavern Club opened in Liverpool,  home of the Beatles’ first appearance, an agreement was made to start the Vietnamese peace talks, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi fled Iran for Egypt during the Ayatollah-led Iranian Revolution, Operation Desert Storm was launched in the Persian Gulf etc etc.

Craving your indulgence, let me add: your reviewer celebrated her Nth birthday. On Jan 16, 1942, an American pilot, bombardier, and radioman found themselves adrift for a month on a raft without food or water during a scouting mission in the Pacific Ocean in an area patrolled by the Japanese navy.

Garret Dillahunt (No Country for Old Men), Tom Felton (of Harry Potter fame) and Jake Abel (Percy Jackson & the Olympians) show their mettle in this beautifully shot adaptation of the harrowing odyssey which was first chronicled by Robert Trumbull in The Raft: The Courageous Struggle of Three Naval Airmen Against the Seal and Fly Navy: Discovering the Extraordinary People and the Enduring Spirit of Naval Aviation, by Alvin Townley.

Co-written for the screen by director Brian Falk and Mark David Keegan, Against the Sun has much in common with Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken though I daresay Falk’s small budget flick will be seen by fewer people than Jolie’s epic. More’s the pity. For, fighting the elements to save your frail frame is a timeless story. And Falk’s Against The Sun captures the fears and hope of the beleaguered threesome as they struggled for survival, battling storms, sharks, and starvation. What kept  Chief Petty Officer Harold Dixon, Anthony Pastula and Gene Aldrich going against incredible odds? I Iike to think it was the grace of God that saved them.

Officer Dixon is a man well-versed in literature and sealore. When Aldrich shoots an albatross, Dixon says: “I can’t believe you’ve shot an albatross”. The bird, in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s famous poem, ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’, a lost-at-sea sailor kills an albatross which symbolises good luck and is treated like a “Christian soul,” by the other sailors. The killer is condemned to a life of wandering but the curse is broken when he learns to pray and respect nature. Dixon and Pastula don’t curse Aldrich who is seen as a faith-filled person from the start. Dixon too.

As he says,somewhat philosophically, in a scene: A man plots his course but the Lord decides. “Adrift at sea, the trio learns to be resourceful. They were luckier than the hero of Jolie’s biopic, U.S. airman and former Olympian Louis Zamperini who suffered the horrors of Japanese prison camps. Still, theirs is a story of endurance, teamwork and values that needed to be told.

And yes, they all lived happily ever after. Tony Pastula and Gene Aldrich became brother-in-laws. Aldrich’s sister married Pastula’s brother. And Aldrich married Pastula’s sister, Frances (Parra)

Some viewers may not enjoy this film as much as Unbroken, but if you stop comparing, you will.