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Tora! Tora! Tora! Movie Review

japanese film admiral attack

1970 – Richard Fleischer, Kinji Fukasaku, Toshio Masuda –

Sometimes history-based films are faulted for using fictional characters as composites for real-life people or for conflating separate events for the purposes of coherence or dramatic effect. Tora! Tora! Tora! avoids any such fictionalizing of its historical materials, but the resulting film shows that dramatic license is not always misplaced. The first hour of this joint production of American and Japanese film crews jumps from various meeting rooms, carrier decks, and private conversations in Hawaii, Washington, and Japan to create the background of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. As the attack nears, these scenes grow shorter, tension mounts, and the viewer is grateful. The actual historical background involving the event, however, takes in so many elements, going back at least to Japan's invasion of China in 1937 and its effect on American-Japanese relations, that historians like Akira Iriye have mildly faulted the film for taking a far too limited view of its pre-intermission events. The film presents American and Japanese diplomats meeting for negotiation, though these scenes lack any specific points of contention, such as the Japanese pact with Germany in 1940. Condensing the sprawl of history creates a formidable challenge, but some streamlining and dramatic license would have given greater coherence and sweep to the film's historic point of view.

Though the first hour or so lumbers a bit, after the intermission the movie proceeds more effectively. The filmmakers add some welcome personalizing touches. On their flight to Hawaii, for example, the Japanese pilots glimpse the rising sun out of their cockpit window and share a moment of celebration. Another scene shows Japanese pilots shouting out their guesses of ships' names from flash cards their superior holds up; one of them misidentifies his own flagship as the U.S. Oklahoma to the razzing of his friends. Another scene shows a hunt-and-peck Japanese typist slowly tapping out the crucial fourteenth part of a message Japanese diplomats are to deliver to Washington before the attack. (Although the film also shows that the U.S., with their decoding device called Magic, had intercepted the message and failed to act decisively through bureaucratic ineptitude). In one of the few humorous touches in the film, a student pilot taking a lesson on Sunday, December 7, suddenly finds himself amid the swarm of the Japanese attack squadron. Such moments prepare for the Oscar-winning visual effects that conclude a film whose appeal is probably more educational than dramatic.

Cast: Martin Balsam (Admiral Husband E. Kimmel), So Yamamura (Admiral Isoroku), Joseph Cotten (Secretary of State Henry L. Stimson), Tatsuya Mahashi (Commander Genda Yamamoto), E.G. Marshall (Lt. Colonel Bratton), James Whitmore (Admiral William F. Halsey), Takahiro Tamura (Lt. Commander Mitsuo Fuchida), Eijiro Tono (Admiral Chuichi Nagumo), Jason Robards (Gen. Walter C. Short), Wesley Addy (Lt. Commander Alwin D. Kramer), Shoga Shimada (Ambassador Nomura), Frank Aletter (Lt. Commander Thomas), Koreya Senda (Prince Konoye), Leon Ames (Frank Knox), Junya Usami (Admiral Yoshida), George Macready (Cordell Hull) Screenwriter: Larry Forrester, Ryuzo Kikushima, Hideo Oguni Cinematographer; Osamu Furuya, Sinsaku Himeda, Masamichi Satoh, Charles F. Wheeler Composer: Jerry Goldsmith Producer: Elmos Williams for Twentieth Century Fox Running Time: 144 minutes Format: VHS, LV Awards: Academy Awards, 1970: Visual Effects; Nominations: Art Direction/Set Decoration, Cinematography, Editing, Sound; National Board of Review Awards 1970: 10 Best Films of the Year Budget: $25M Box Office: $14M.

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