Review: Films Set In Japan – ‘Tora! Tora! Tora!’ (1970)

On the morning of Sunday 7th December 1941 Japan attacked and partially destroyed the American Pacific Fleet which resulted in the United States entering WWII. Of course no review of this film can ever be complete without mentioning the commercial flop that was ‘Pearl Harbor‘ some 31 years after this one was released. Unlike that Hollywood version there are no side stories here and it just concentrates on the hard facts without need for sensationalistic actions and words or a fictionalised romance taking place at the same time.

 

The first strikingly novel thing about this film is that on-screen captions are used to introduce important new characters each time with their position shown underneath their name. There are no made up characters, plot lines or melodrama. Its the real deal depicting the story of the men whose decisions and actions led to a date which will live in infamy. Of course that means there’s very little in the way of surprise and there’s an inevitability as almost everyone knows how it ends.

However, ‘Tora! Tora! Tora!‘ shows that the events leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor are just as important as the attack itself. You can’t have the latter without the former but the buildup to the real action on the day of the attack is over one hundred minutes into the film which is some wait and I did feel it dragging a bit too much. Of course its a history film and documents the Pearl Harbor story well as it has an awful lot of information to get across which it supposedly does very accurately showing both sides of the story but that also means the same information is often repeated.

You could say that this film is two films in one with different writers, directors, cinematographers and so on but thankfully they blend together far smoother than I imagined they would. They proceed in parallel fashion before reaching their destiny in the skies above Hawaii on December 7th which, due to the time difference, was actually the 8th in Japan. Japanese characters even refer to this date though its translated as the 7th on the DVD to not confuse Americans.

There are no good or bad guys and we rarely see any intense passion from the cast which was an ok, but rather unremarkable, assembly of American and Japanese actors with no real stars or heroes. I just can’t help thinking that the title needed three exclamation marks to bring some attention to it! Sarcasm aside I guess it’s the story which is the star and it’s the plot which drives the movie forward (eventually!) and there’s nothing wrong with that but this type of film is really not for me which I’m kind of embarrassed about given the importance and significance of the story.

Tokyo Fox Rating 5/10

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