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Old fashioned gut and glory with a sentimental subplot
This is not exactly a masterpiece of of a movie. It depicts, generally, the "glorious" battle for Hill 203 during the Russo-Japanese war in 1905. The hill was eventually captured at stupendous loss of life on both the Japanese and Russian sides. The capture of the hill enabled the Japanese army to put pressure on the Russian pacific fleet, thus securing the Japanese victory together with Admiral Togo's "lucky" win in the coming naval battle.
The movie is sometimes quite heavy, complete with thick pancake make up even in close-ups and stunningly unrealistic beards. The fighting scenes are full of hands thrown up in the air and death cries, ketchup blood and people yelling banzai. All in all it reminds me of the kind of war movies put out in Hollywood about 30 years earlier. For history buffs and those interested in seeing a war movie with a more "oriental" flavour, I'd recommend it. I've never found a subtitled copy though the Japanese is not so difficult.
Worth noting are the actors playing Emperor Meiji, General Nogo and the young idealistic lieutenant who also provides the movie with a subplot of love, a woman left behind and the angst of combining an internationalist pacifist world view with a burning patriotism. Super stuff.
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