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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
For someone who has studied the events that took place at Pearl Harbor
in the December of 1941 in detail for years, and for someone whose
great uncle partook and survived those events, the 1970 film 'Tora!
Tora! Tora!' is literally like looking through a window into history
itself. Dim-witted viewers may prefer Michael Bay's awfully written and
poorly directed chick-flicked version of the story from 2001, which is
a travesty and an insult to those who were there. I'm fine with that.
If they want to watch Michael Bay's 'Pearl Harbor' while they breast
feed their three year olds and release their pet pythons into the
Everglades, I'm perfectly cool. But to those who prefer thoughtful
films with realistic action, careful direction, and scenarios that make
sense, comes an underrated masterpiece. That underrated masterpiece is
'Tora! Tora! Tora!'. Not only does it successfully tell the true story
of Pearl Harbor in a documentary-style fashion while managing to keep
the audience interested, but it also succeeds as a film where 'Pearl
Harbor' does not. 'Tora! Tora! Tora!' has the most realistic battle
sequences ever filmed, the greatest special effects in a war film, the
greatest movie sets ever built (Which include an entire recreation of
the Japanese Battleship Nagato, an entire section of the USS Arizona's
stern, and the flight deck and bridge of the Carrier Akagi,
meticulously accurate, although the bridge is on the starboard side
rather than port as it was in real life), the greatest sound effects in
a war film other than those of 'Platoon'... Need I go on?
In short, it is a spectacular and realistic film that sticks fully to the facts, rather than speculation or fiction, or romantic nonsense like Bay's film does. It tells the TRUE STORY of Pearl Harbor... The story of the Japanese military leaders and admirals who carefully plotted the attack out, the generals, admirals and officials on the American side who failed to heed the warnings and allowed it to happen, to the courageous and determined Japanese airmen who carried it out, to the equally as courageous and determined American soldiers and sailors on the burning airfields and sinking ships who tried to repulse it.
It does have some very minor inaccuracies, like the wing shapes and markings of the A6M Zeros, or the model of the B17s being flown by the American airmen coming in from the mainland, whom the Japanese were tragically mistaken for by the radar boys at Opana Point. It also shows sailors evacuating the USS Navada via rope ladders or simply jumping, which never happened. It also shows the destroyer USS Ward as a modern, post-1945 vessel, rather than the antiquated, WWI-era four-funneled destroyer she actually was. And, less noticeably, the Japanese Carrier Akagi's bridge is on the starboard side, rather than to port, as it was in real life. But this doesn't matter, since the film's film's portrayal of life aboard a Japanese Carrier, as well as the technical details involved, are still paramount.
But, other than these few, minor glitches, everything else in 'Tora! Tora! Tora!' is at least 99% accurate, from the way the USS Arizona looked when she exploded, to the moment in which Adm. Husband Kimmel (played wonderfully by Martin Balsam), said "It would have been merciful had it killed me," when a spent round of ammunition smashed through the window of his headquarters and scarred his jacket.
No film has ever shown the suffering and terror experienced by those who were there better than this film, from the burning corpses strewn across the decks of the Nevada to the horrific sight of the Arizona being consumed in an explosion that killed more than a thousand men in an instant. When watching the film, you can almost smell the burning fuel and feel the concussion of the bomb-hits. You can feel the jubilation of Cmdr. Mitsuo Fuchida in his B5N High-Level Bomber, high above the jagged Hawaiian hills, when he sees the U.S. fleet totally asleep and waiting for his flight to sink it, and the dismay Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto must have felt when he found out that his primary targets, the U.S. carriers Enterprise and Lexington, were out on a training exercise and out of the range of his own fleet.
'Tora! Tora! Tora!' is a realistic, terrifying, and fascinating film that every American should see, and a fine tribute to the brave few, on both sides, who were at Pearl Harbor on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, the morning in which America's hopes for peace in the Pacific capsized like the USS Oklahoma.
Americans never really understood how they were dragged into World War
I during the period from 1914 to 1918; and the horrors that humanity
went through in that period, in which thirteen million people lost
their lives, made the United States, which, like the rest of the world,
was to suffer further horrors in the Great Depression of the 1930s,
wary of entering international conflicts that had nothing to do with
them. Even the rumblings from Adolf Hitler in Germany meant nothing to
the U.S.for a while, anyway. When Japanese emperor Hirohito ordered a
surprise attack on America's Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on
December 7, 1941, however, America woke up to a new kind of reality, as
the war was bought to their very doorstep. This was the story told with
frightening accuracy, from both sides of the conflict, in the
multi-national 1970 World War II epic TORA! TORA! TORA!
Based on Gordon Prainge's book "Tora! Tora! Tora!" and Landislas Farago's book "The Broken Seal", this well-mounted movie, which, at a cost of $25 million, was among the most expensive films made in Hollywood up to that time, focuses, on the way the Imperial Japanese navy prepared to do what its emperor was ordering of it, and the way the American military staff in Hawaii were trying to understand what they were up to. The truth of the matter is that America and Japan had both been at odds for some time over various issues regarding China and control of commerce in the Pacific at the time; both nations had been devastated by the Great Depression. Negotiations between the two countries were going on between the two for much of 1941; and if Japan could not get what it considered a fair deal from a country that was still largely considered isolationist and inferior in the eyes of the world, then it would take it all by force. As far as the American military was concerned, there was no indication that a sneak attack of any kind was imminent on them; and it was assumed diplomacy would work things out. It then came through a deciphering of secret Japanese communiques that an attack was under way; but by the time the deciphering was in the hands of the Pacific fleet staff, it was too late. Pearl Harbor was virtually destroyed in a matter of two hours; numerous battleships, including the "Arizona", sank to the bottom; and almost 2,500 people were killed. It was the greatest single loss of life in any attack on the United States...until September 11, 2001, of course.
It would have been tempting for 20th Century Fox, the studio that funded and distributed this film, to make it a jingoistic piece of propaganda and paint the United States as the victim (even the 2001 blockbuster PEARL HARBOR, a near-enough remake of TORA! TORA! TORA!, flirted with that); but, like on its 1962 classic THE LONGEST DAY, it avoided doing so. Instead, thanks to the participation of two prominent Japanese directors, along with veteran U.S. director Richard Fleischer (THE BOSTON STRANGLER; FANTASTIC VOYAGE), the film looks at the events leading up to December 7, 1941 from each side of the conflict, with the Japanese, including their revered Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto (Soh Yamamura), anxious to strike but knowing full well what it may mean for their empire in the end, and the Americans misreading Japanese intentions and disregarding the numerous warning signs until they are backed into a corner. The film gives equal credit to both sides, as befitting as accurate an account of history as Hollywood can muster.
Featuring the Oscar-winning special effects work of L.B. Abbott, A.D. Flowers, and Art Cruickshank, TORA! TORA! TORA! also features solid actors like Jason Robards, Martin Balsam, E.G. Marshall, Joseph Cotten, E.G. Marshall, Richard Anderson, George Macready, James Whitmore, Wesley Addy, Leon Ames, and others rounding out a fine cast, along with Goldsmith's always dependable scoring genius, which here combines American and Oriental themes in a unique way. By avoiding the romantic sub-plots and the gung-ho theatrics of the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced and Michael Bay-directed PEARL HARBOR, TORA! TORA! TORA! makes itself stay truly memorable, and will certainly make the viewer wonder just how certain wars throughout history get started. In the case of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which led to six months of victory for them in the Pacific before they were ambushed at Midway in June 1942, it was a combination of misreadings, misunderstandings, and (on the part of the Japanese) the nerves of riverboat gamblers that made history happen. And as TORA! TORA! TORA! makes abundantly clear, such is often the way history gets made.
Tora! Tora! Tora! is the Pearl Harbor story. The real story, not a
fictionalized Hollywood romance which just happened to be taking place
in Hawaii in 1941. No made up characters, plot lines or melodrama here.
This is the real deal, the story of the men whose decisions and actions
led to a date which will live in infamy. As such there aren't going to
be much in the way of surprises. There's an inevitability to the film,
everyone knows how the story ends. But the film still manages to be
compelling, dramatic and entertaining. For a nearly two and a half hour
long movie in which you know the ending from minute one that is no
Tora! Tora! Tora! is in a way two different films, the Japanese one and the American one. The two movies within this one movie have different writers, directors, cinematographers and actors. This could have easily led to a very disjointed feel. But things come together rather smoothly. The two stories fit together remarkably well as they proceed along their parallel tracks, destined to come together in the skies above Hawaii on December 7. While there are a few recognizable faces in the cast there are no real stars, no characters who obviously stand out from all those around them. This is a case where the story is the star. The plot, not the performers, drives the film forward. Which is not to say the performances are not good, they certainly are. Each actor, American and Japanese, plays his historical part more than well enough to let you totally buy into the story. You see the decisions the true-life men made and realize how all the small decisions led inexorably to one of the most significant historical events of the modern age. On such small details can history turn. If there can be any complaint with the film it is that the buildup towards the day of the attack can be slow at times. There's an awful lot of historical information to get across and often the same information is shown twice, from both the American and Japanese perspective. But a somewhat slow pace is a small price to pay for the painstaking historical accuracy the film achieves. It would be hard for a documentary to tell the Pearl Harbor story any more truthfully or any better. And however long the film took to get to December 7 the final payoff is no doubt worth it. The film's conclusion, inevitable though it may be, is breathtaking. Action on a grand scale, a powerful ending to a thoroughly compelling film.
I was aboard the USS Yorktown during the filming of this movie in late 1968. As I remember it we were heading for Pearl to assume our role as primary recovery ship for the Apollo 8 mission.The "Zeros" were loaded at either Long Beach or San Diego. A lot of irony in the fact that the ship that replaced USS Yorktown that was sunk at Midway was now being decked out as a Japanese carrier and carrying Japanese aircraft and was now being used to make a movie about Pearl Harbor. An aerial view of the ship in the movie shows the ship with an angled deck.....which there were none of in WW II. OOPS! Doubt many (if any) of the public really noticed or would really care. Have often wondered what was going through the minds of folks in Hawaii who survived Dec. 7, 1941 as they watched the recreation going on about them. I love this movie and was found it exciting to watch its creation.
I am a big fan of War and Military movies. I think this film rates up
in the top tier for accuracy, information, and education on the events
that led up to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that ultimately
thrust the US in WWII.
Be forewarned that film runs long at 144 minutes. But one can hardly fault that considering the wealth and breadth of material to be covered. I think it was insightful to show both the US and Japanese perspectives in the film. It helps one better understand the motives and strategies of both sides. The first half views more like a documentary. It's not until the last half that the action really gets going.
I think all the actors did a fine job portraying their characters. I'm glad they forewent casting big name heartthrobs and instead opted for lower key character actors. I think it was also a good decision to have the Japanese speak in their own language for a more realistic depiction. However, if subtitles bore you, this probably isn't the film for you.
It's interesting to note that this film was a flop when released in the US but was a huge success in Japan. This ties in with the fact that the US Navy office was inundated with complaints that they allowed US service persons to participate in the filming - they felt it glorified the Japanese aggression and showed the US as bumbling idiots that were unprepared.
SIDENOTE: Gotta love the "Decoding machine" and the officer's explanation of how it works: the Japanese transmission goes in here, whirls around inside this box, then comes out the other side decoded. Hilarious! Not bad for a quasi-computer in the 1940's!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This focus of this film is on the morning of Sunday, December 7th,
1941, the Japanese invasion of Pearl Harbor.
This movie is outstanding... just superb. You won't find better action footage in any WW II film and there's plenty of it too! We (Americans) clearly got our behinds tromped during the Pearl Harbor invasion but, because this is an American film, that facet of actuality is slightly played down, (micro victories by individuals are featured to counter our overall demise), as is Roosevelt's alleged desire to enter the war minimized, (my 90 year-old aunt asserts that FDR was Satan himself, I think mostly due to how our family members, during the conflict, were fruitlessly lost and suffered as POWs).
In any event, the scenes herein shift between Washington D.C. political activities and those of the Pearl Harbor principals. Of course, the Japanese planning and action sequences are similarly featured.
The film is shot in letterbox and runs 144 minutes in length. Excellent color saturation, with great casting (bulging with big period stars), top scenery, believable script, 70 mm cinematography, and awesome sets all contribute to the aggregate success of this exceptional film. It's all very realistic and not hokey in any sense. A lot of the footage, where the Japanese are speaking, is subtitled in English but it's well-done and not at all distracting. Compare it to the German subtitles in "The Longest Day".
I can't convey enough good comments about this movie. If you are even just a casual movie viewer of common genres, you'll probably much enjoy this well-made historical film, albeit some dramatic artistic license was tastefully invoked by the directors, Richard Fleischer, Kinji Fukasaku, and Toshio Masuda .
I do recommend that you have the movie "Midway," (a sort of historic Act II), ready at hand to watch following "Tora! Tora! Tora!" the former of which is a similarly fine film.
An excellent movie depicting the events leading up to and during the
bombing of Pearl Harbor. Akin to the much later movie "Hiroshima" this
film, while a war movie, concentrates mostly on the events leading up
to the bombing. While we all know what actually happened on that
fateful day, the events of this movie make for an interesting thriller
of a race against time to decipher the impending event that will shape
the course of history.
Taking a look at both sides with the Japanese planning of the attack and the Americans hoping to figure out what they are up to; it is a masterpiece of historical movie making.
For me the second best "war" movie made, being the runner up only to "Alls Quiet on the Western Front".
I had seen this film 15 or 20 years ago and just recently watched it
again with my 11 year old son who is big history buff. He loved it.
If you are the kind of person who thinks that fast food is too slow you will probably think this film is too slow, but if you're interested in the history of WWII and the events surrounding Pearl Harbor this is a must see film.
This film was not made to showcase any one actor's talents, but instead is an ensemble effort that with few exceptions accurately portrays the events leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor and the attack itself. So while the acting is definitely competent and believable, the real star is the story itself.
Knowing the end result (Pearl Harbor is successfully attacked - I hope someone does not find this to be a spoiler!) you nonetheless find yourself hoping against hope that someone will be able to break through and actually warn Admiral Kimmel and/or General Short of the impending attack. Alas this does not happen.
I have seen some harsh criticisms of this film as being boring and slow. All I can say is that if you are a thoughtful person with a little imagination you will not find this film boring and slow.
The story of the "Day of Infamy" as seen through the Japanese and American point of view. As in the "Longest Day" we see how the events on both sides unfolded and how this tragedy came to be. The acting-mostly by Hollywood veterans is low key and effective. The massive scenes of the Japanese preparing for the attack have a documentary like feel to them that give this film a lot of its credibility. There is no stupid romantic story or bad, inaccurate history like the miserable "Pearl Harbor"The raid on Pearl is probably one of the most convincing scenes of destruction ever filmed. The battleships, planes and other equipment rings true and it is obvious that the producers tried to get it right. There are a few anachronisms here and there, but not really too terrible. The "miniatures" of the ships of the US Fleet are models that are 50 feet long! A full half section of the Arizona was constructed as well as a two third scale replica of the Japanese carrier Akagi. Even though the planes are "customized" WWII era trainers, they are accurate replicas.The only real problem with the film is that some of the pre-invasion scenes run somewhat long, but in the light of this film's scope, they can be overlooked. All in all, this is the best film on the subject and is one worth owning. An unforgettable experience, especially for military and history buffs.
It is a very good movie, but only if you're a history buff. It gives
details that show the events leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor,
and gives a good attack scene. Best of all, there is no love plot such
as there is in Pearl Harbor.
It doesn't take sides, and it shows how inept democratic administrations are, namely FDR's. It shows how the American brass was full of politicians, and not soldiers, with the exception of one: General Marshal.
The Japanese, and American actors were well cast, and it showed the internal rivalries of fascist Japan. There is one thing funny though, it leaves out Admiral Halsey's statement, made after the attack, regarding the Japanese: let's put it this way, it wouldn't have been politically correct! It is an all-in-all good movie, but you have to, as I said, like history.
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