Review: Films Set In Japan – Unbroken (2014)

Due to the content of this film it has never come out in Japan and probably never will (other than maybe a minor release). Elsewhere though, it was released last Christmas but as it didn’t get reviewed on Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review show on BBC Radio 5 Live, this inspirational true story completely escaped my attention until very recently.

Some Japanese nationalists asked for the film and the director to be banned from Japan which usually wouldn’t matter too much but given that the director in this case is the very high profile Angelina Jolie that is unlikely to ever happen, especially given the public thirst for such A-list celebrities visiting these shores. 

Unbroken‘ is the second feature film to have been directed by Jolie and tells the life story of USA Olympian and athlete Louie Zamperini who went through so much in the air, at sea and on land. This is far more than just a war movie and there’s a lot of story to fit in within the constraints of the running time but Jolie managed to pull out the key elements and, for me, Jack O’Connell is convincing enough in the starring role.

Having already survived one plane accident, Zamperini then suffers a near-fatal plane crash in WWII and spends a harrowing 47 days in a raft with two fellow crewmen. This takes up the first half of the movie in scenes reminiscent of a survival type programme. The action on screen is minimal but nevertheless engaging and this section is not rushed.

The second hour sees them caught by the Japanese navy and sent to a POW camp and this part of the film is somewhat similar to ‘The Railway Man‘ (2013) and, like that story, this one is very much about the incredible forgiveness that these men have offered in the wake of such atrocities from their Japanese capturers.

Louie and his compatriot Phil are separated into different camps with protagonist Louie being sent to a POW camp in Tokyo headed by Japanese sergeant Matsuhiro “Bird” Watanabe who treats him very cruelly due to his status as a former Olympian.

Although it’s set in Japan the production never came anywhere near the country and instead filmed it all in Australia where a POW camp was built at the historic Fort Lytton National Park on the southern bank of the Brisbane River. Other scenes were shot in New South Wales at Blacktown International Sportspark, Werris Creek and Cockatoo Island respectively.

Being unaware of the story beforehand was a kind of bonus as it’s usually better to go into these things without any knowledge. As a result my mind wasn’t clouded by how well Jolie captured the essence of the book. With no preconceived ideas I just watched it and was enthralled by it for the 137 minute duration. Yes, it may have played safe and Zamperini’s character could possibly have been been developed a bit but overall I was more than satisfied.

As much as I like Coldplay, I’m not really a fan of pop music being in films but that is of course dependant on the type of movie but I just felt that this soundtrack was out of place and a more sombre reflective score would have been a more appropriate way of accompanying the initial end credits.

Unbroken Poster unbroken

Tokyo Fox Rating 7/10

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TF Film Review: The Tourist (2010)

‘The Tourist’ comes out in Japan on March 5th but as is the way (most of the time), it came out elsewhere last year. It is set in the beautiful location of Venice and its two stars; Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp aren’t exactly eye-sores. Having finally been to the

 

Italian city last August I was keen to see which locations would appear. It’s difficult to really pinpoint the exact places most of the time apart from one. That was the Hotel Danielli which I did go to as it was also used in ‘Moonraker’ in 1979 and can be seen here.

The plot of this romantic thriller revolves around Elise (Jolie) using American tourist Frank (Depp) as a decoy on a train going to Venice. She chose him to make the tailing police believe that he is her lover who is wanted by both them and a mobster who he stole money from. What ensues is the two stars evading the police. Despite its many negative reviews from the critics I did actually enjoy the escapist fun element of it as well as some amusing twists. My main gripe is that there are far too many rooms of people turning their heads as Jolie’s character walks by which may happen in reality given her beautiful looks but I don’t really want to see that in so many scenes. The ultimate compliment I can give it is that it held my interest for its entirety which is rare for me as I have poor concentration when it comes to watching both films and TV shows.

London Filming Locations: Tomb Raider

It certainly won’t be remembered as a classic film but ‘Lara Croft: Tomb Raider’ will be remembered. One reason is of course down to Angelina Jolie’s great portrayal of the video game heroine and another is the plot, its depth and the character development! Naturally, I am joking about the latter. Maybe one other reason it is remembered is because of the filming locations.

 

Ta Prohm temple (above) in Cambodia is by far the most famous place which the movie was shot at (which I visited four years ago) but there were also a few scenes filmed in London. Willis Faber at 10 Trinity Court (below left) is the mansion of villain Iain Glen and I was very impressed by the look of the place. Just a stones throw from there is the very famous Tower Bridge (below right) which Lara Croft (Angelina Jolie) rides her bike across on the way to the auction house.

  

 

On the way back from it she zooms through Leadenhall Market (below left) which I went to with my sister just before Christmas as its very near to Bank station where she works. Down in Greenwich is Old Royal Naval College and its Painted Hall (below right) was the interior of a ‘Venice’ church.

 

 

Angkor Wat Filming Locations: Tomb Raider

No messing around on day one for us in Siem Reap as once we had forked out $40 for our 3-day pass we set off to see the big one. Having become accustomed to the carnival fanfare of tourist traps we were pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t really overflowing but thats maybe mainly due to its huge size. That was to come at the ‘Tomb Raider’ based Ta Prohm the following day which was far more compact but as for Angkor Wat it was of course hugely impressive but to really appreciate all the fine archeological and architectural detail you really have to have a strong interest in the subject. What was great was that we could really explore the temples which is not possible at some other world heritage sites but i guess that will also be its downfall inevitably one day as tourism takes its toll on the place. Having split up to explore it i ended up ascending possibly the steepest ever steps that i have experienced. As always going up is the easy bit but i was absolutely bricking it when i saw how steep the descend was.
After looking around for a while this was one such case when a seller offering me a drink got me at the right moment and then i told some little kid that i wanted magnets and overhead postcard shots and before i knew it he was back by my side offering me exactly what i wanted for a dollar. I certainly couldn’t refuse him after that!
            
Next, we walked to the huge area that makes up Angkor Thom and wandered around the impressive Bayon within that at a leisurely pace as we were already feeling templed out and that was after only day one of three!
Not sure what it was that i ate on day one (or even before that) in Angkor but my stomach was in real pain on our second day as we started out at Ta Prohm which as aforementioned was where Angelina Jolie was filmed for some of ‘Tomb Raider’. I was just feeling so exhausted on that day and to make things worse it was also New Years Eve which is never the best of times to be feeling under the weather.
          
Cambodia is a country stricken by poverty but theres so many beggars and people selling you tacky souvenirs that it can become tiresome when you hear the whining sounds of “hello sir, you wanna buy? one dollar?” constantly and very persistantly. I had enjoyed the banter with them the day before but wasn’t in such a great mood here but i managed to keep face and in some ways i was a little disappointed that i never did see a tourist screaming at one of the local kids.
We walked for hours ending back at Angkor Wat late afternoon where i slept and woke up in time to see a reasonable sunset and for our new years eve night out we went to a Cambodian club just away from the backpacker area which was the darkest club i’ve ever seen. No expense spared on lighting in this place and not too much celebration at midnight too. The dancefloor cleared at about 11.58pm and we assumed there was gonna be some kind of countdown and celebration but not so as we saw in the new year watching two people blow up balloons on stage in some competition or other. Not quite on a scale with Sydney Harbour, Times Square or Big Ben!!
Our third and final day saw us hire bicycles to go around some of the temples which was nice and enabled us to see a lot more. This time we went back to Ta Prohm just before sunset which was amazing. Not because of the sunset but because it was completely deserted in contrast to the previous days hordes of tourists.
You can see the photos from the temples of Angkor here