Thursday, September 25, 2008

Tora! Tora! Tora!

A month ago, I brought up the movie Tora! Tora! Tora! after it had aired on the Fox Movie Channel. As a heads up, it's airing again at 9:30 AM ET on September 26.

The movie is a clinical look at the events leading up to Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, as seen from both the American and Japanese points of view. As such, we know to a certain extent what is going to happen. Japan's preparations will end in success, while all the negotiations in Washington will be for naught. However, it's always interesting to see how the events of history are often decided by what seem like small coincidences. The US military, for example, kept their planes on the ground away from the perimeter fences, which was supposed to keep them more secure. On the other hand, this actually made it easier for the Japanese to destroy more planes. Overall, we see that there was a series of ultimately disastrous decisions on both sides leading to a long, drawn out war, although a lot of the moves on the American side probably couldn't have been seen at the time as leading to disaster.

The cast is fine. On the American side, it's full of stars, at least in the sense of the actors being well-known names: Martin Balsam and Jason Robards play Hawaii-based military commanders; Joseph Cotten plays the Secretary of War; other well-known names from the second level of older Hollywood stars include E.G. Marshall and James Whitmore (who appeared in great movies like The Asphalt Jungle and Them!, and will be turning 87 in a few days). I don't know much about the Japanese actors, but they all do a good job.

There's also the actual attack on Pearl Harbor. Special effects back in 1970 were nowhere near as advanced as what can be done today, but they're still quite good and effective here. The actual attack, to be honest, shouldn't be the most important part of the movie, even if it technically is the movie's climax. Still, Tora! Tora! Tora!'s portrayal of the attack is quite good.

In short, Tora! Tora! Tora! is an outstanding movie, perhaps the best look at the actual attack on Pearl Harbor. (From Here to Eternity may have a better story around the attack, but it's really not a movie about the attack, but about military men whose lives and personal relationships are shattered by the sudden attack.) Tora! Tora! Tora! is also available on DVD, and is well worth watching if 9:30 AM is an inconvenient time for you.

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