Combustible Celluloid
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With: Tom Felton, Jake Abel, Garret Dillahunt, Nadia Parra
Written by: Brian Falk, Mark David Keegan
Directed by: Brian Falk
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic material involving peril and hardships, and for language
Running Time: 100
Date: 01/23/2015

Against the Sun (2015)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Raft Days

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Released very close to Angelina Jolie's similar Unbroken, Against the Sun is a much lower-key film, more old-fashioned, and less graphically agonizing. This kind of material can be a physically grueling experience for viewers, and director Brian Falk carefully balances scenes of despair with scenes of hope.

In the first months after the United States officially entered WWII, patrol planes are sent over the Pacific. On one such plane, pilot Harold Dixon (Garret Dillahunt), bombardier Tony Pastula (Tom Felton, otherwise known as Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter films), and radioman Gene Aldrich (Jake Abel), find their craft running low on gas and unable to raise their aircraft carrier on the radio. They crash land into the ocean and end up on a small raft, barely big enough for the three of them, with no flares, food, or water, and only a ragtag collection of odds and ends. Expecting to be rescued within a day or two, they must eventually survive for 35 days, enduring hunger, thirst, sunburn, sharks, and other challenges, both mental and physical.

However, the movie has two disadvantages. First, it's clear that it is based on a true story, so we know that the men will eventually survive to tell their tale. Secondly, it can be too quickly and easily compared to Unbroken, as well as to two other recent, high-profile "stranded on a life raft" movies, Life of Pi and All Is Lost. With its lower budget and lower profile, Against the Sun can't really offer up anything not seen in the other films. With the physical limitations inherent in these stories, there's not a wide range of plot possibilities. Eventually all the movie has is the talent and chemistry of the three actors, and that, in the end, is enough to keep it afloat.

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