Wednesday, November 30, 2022

#2,872. Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) - War in the Pacific Triple Feature


A combined U.S. / Japanese production, Tora! Tora! Tora! is the epic retelling of the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, which compelled the United States to enter World War II. Based on actual events and directed by Richard Fleischer (American sequences), Toshio Masuda, and Kinji Fukasaku (who together handled the Japanese portion of the film), Tora! Tora! Tora! covers all the bases.

Angered by a trade embargo imposed on them by the U.S., Japan enters into an alliance with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy in September of 1940, thus becoming one the Axis Powers. With the threat of war looming heavily, Admiral Husband Kimmel (Martin Balsam) of the Navy and the Army’s General Walter Short (Jason Robards), both stationed in Pearl Harbor, issue a number of alerts to keep the troops on their toes.

As Japanese Ambassador Nomura (Shogu Shimada) and the U.S. Secretary of State (George MacReady) work towards a peaceful resolution, Japan’s navy, under the command of Admiral Yamamoto (So Yamamura), is preparing for a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, to cripple the American Navy. Assisted by Commander Minoru Genda (Tatsuya Mihashi) and Lt. Cmdr. Mitsuo Fuchida (Takahiro Tamura), Yamamoto puts his plan into motion, choosing the morning of Sunday, Dec. 7 as the best time to launch the attack.

Striving for an accurate portrayal of events both before and during the bombing on Pearl Harbor, Tora! Tora! Tora! spends its entire first half setting up the attack, from the growing tension between the two countries to their armies and navies preparing for the inevitability of war. Featuring a number of high-level meetings between bureaucrats and military commanders, the first half of Tora! Tora! Tora! has its moments; I especially liked the scenes where U.S. Intelligence was working feverishly to intercept and decode messages sent to the Japanese Ambassador. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough of these moments, and for a time the movie plods along at a slow pace. I do applaud the filmmakers for their historical accuracy, but there are reasons why most war movies don’t dedicate a lot of screen time to closed-door meetings! That said, the early Japanese segments of Tora! Tora! Tora! are livelier, in part because the military and their preparations are front and center, but I also think Masuda and Fukasaku infuse these sequences with an energy that isn’t present, at least initially, in the American scenes.

It’s during the second half of Tora! Tora! Tora! that the movie really comes alive, from the Japanese planes taking off to the attack itself, which, like the rest of the film, leans towards historical accuracy. Simultaneously exciting and heartbreaking, the bombing of Pearl Harbor is brilliantly brought to life, and stands as one of the best depictions of this tragic day in American history.

While there are no big-name stars in Tora! Tora! Tora!, the cast does a fine enough job, especially Robards as the cantankerous General Short; E.G. Marshall as Lt. Col. Bratton, Chief of Military Intelligence (he’s the first to raise concerns of a possible attack); and So Yamamura as the apprehensive Yamamoto, who fears that, even if the attack is successful, all Japan will have done is “Awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve”.

Though not consistently exciting, Tora! Tora! Tora!, by telling the story of Pearl Harbor from both sides of the conflict, has enough going for it to make it worth your time.
Rating: 6.5 out of 10

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