|Index||4 reviews in total|
The opening film of last year's Tokyo International Film Festival, the
reviews for Midnight Eagle has so far been less than stellar, and I was
curious to find out why. I mean, a disaster- like movie with elements
that threaten in epic proportions couldn't be all that bad, what with a
nuclear bomb atop a snowy mountain, with the risk of a nuclear fallout
causing death and environmental damage through all of East Asia, and a
race against time to prevent it from happening, relying on the heavy
shoulders of a few, seem like a stroll in the park right?
The Japanese are in familiar territory, given the experience learnt from the old days when Gozilla stomped Tokyo, right up to the recent Sinking of Japan remake, you'd come to think by now they can fuse the best practices from such movies, and put together something with enough thrills and spills to excite the action seeking audience. Wrong. In fact, nothing much really happens here, and I have to admit that Izuru Narushima is no Michael Bay, who can really pump the adrenaline in folks with just a clock on countdown. Here, although there's a need to wrap things up in 48 hours, everything proceeds with a severe lack of urgency.
Which really puts the damper for it to be a "race against time" thriller. In trying to tell a story in as large a scale as possible, it incorporated three fronts before converging them all in the finale (Transformers, anyone?), but does so in a very slow manner. You have the political front, led by Prime Minister Watarase (Tatsuya Fuji) who on one hand declines to reveal the incident to the public lest a panic occurs and he loses his job, and on the other pandering to the US request of maintaining confidentiality, because they had actually flown nuclear bomb carrying stealth bombers over the skies of Japan. Yes the USofA again conveniently becomes the blame victim just had how it was in Korea's The Host, which one wonders whether their allies are becoming tired of their military antics.
Then there's the "action" front with war photo-journalist Yuji Nishizaki (Takao Osawa), who on his frequent journeys to the Northern Alps, photographs the incident, and on the cajoling of his friend Shinichiro Ochiai (Hiroshi Tamaki), they decide to scale the mountain to investigate up close, only to have "agents" (North Korean spies actually, in lieu of the more politically correct subtitles) also on the same mission, but to finish off what was started. The duo need firepower to handle the adversary, and that comes from the Defense Forces' Major Akihiro Saeki (A-Saku Yoshida). Lastly, Nishizaki's sister in law, whom he isn't on good terms with, given the sexual tension between them (or so I read their body language), handling some events on the domestic front with some injured North Korean and his girlfriend, who holds the key to end the danger.
In some ways, it resembles Robert Redford's Lions for Lambs, which also has a battlefront created on the high mountains, while pencil pushing decision makers survey the action from the comfort of their warm, sparse bunker operations room. Since it's a drama more so than an action movie, a lot of extras are just sitting in the background, trying not to sleep while the actors emote, and looking prim and proper in their starched uniforms decorated with countless of medals. The Japanese seem to be unable to get rid of showing off technical superiority with long distance communications over huge television monitors that give unprecedented clarity in both video and audio, of course with plenty of loopholes abound too.
While there's a lack of urgency, the enemies are faceless too, with inanimate objects like "the bomb" and plenty of snow-camouflaged, masked soldiers armed with automatic machine guns and RPGs, so they don't really present themselves as menacing or life-threatening, just as another generic goon that gets dispatched easily. Midnight Eagle could have been a taut action thriller, but what we got was plenty of unnecessary drama that bloated the plot.
When a U.S. stealth bomber mysteriously crashes in a remote section of
the Japanese Alps, a pair of intrepid war correspondents head up into
the mountains to investigate what the plane might have been carrying.
Meanwhile, two other journalists stay behind in the city to see if they
can unravel the mystery from there.
This decidedly low-tech Japanese film is short on action scenes and special effects - the helicopters look like toy models suspended from invisible wires - and long on conversation and personal angst. The latter is provided mainly by the central character, a world famous war photographer who became disillusioned with what he saw on the battlefield and retreated into the wilderness, where he took endless pictures of mountains, alienating his now deceased wife and abandoning his little son in the process. But when the gravity of the current situation is revealed to him, he decides it's time to swing back into action, at great personal risk to himself and the buddy with whom he's working.
Apart from its being overlong and distended, there's nothing drastically wrong with "Midnight Eagle." It's a perfectly serviceable nuclear-age drama, I suppose, that just doesn't happen to add up to a whole lot in the end.
Long story short, DO NOT WATCH THIS MOVIE! I don't think I've ever seen
a Japanese movie where I don't have a SINGLE positive thing to say
about, but this is it.
This movie stars many relatively big-name actors who have been inconsistent in the past, and they all delivered even worse performance than their previous worst. The acting is so bad in this thing that they're practically just standing there reading the script. I think this movie is supposed to be a thriller, but it's nothing more than a sleeper. The entire cast completely lack energy and passion, and had shown no signs of urgency in the face of impending doom.
The story line for this movie was even more pathetic than "L change the worLd". Even if you overlook the ridiculous setting, the character behavior makes absolutely no sense and there were countless plot holes. There were just way too many "why didn't he just..." or "how can they..." moments. The movie is so poorly written and directed that it made me laugh at how corny and stupid it was.
"Midnight Eagle" is a disgrace to the Japanese film industry, and I hope no unfortunate soul picks this movie as his or her first encounter with Japanese films.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I have to disagree with the previous reviews. I saw this picture last
night and from where I sit, it's NOT an action picture but a drama.
Just because it has guns in it, dosn't make it an action picture. In
reading the previous reviews they keep referring to solving the problem
in 48 hours and there being no urgency to do so.....Where this 48 hour
time line came from, I don't know. It's never mentioned in the picture
as far as I can see. We as the audience do not know that there is a
nuclear bomb involved until 3/4 of the way through the story. (though
you may guess that there is)....And in any case, there is no way the
hero's of the story could have known of the 48 hour dead line.
Those who accuse this picture of being slow, may be correct, but as a drama, it takes the time to lay out the characters and their motivations. There is no "sexual tension" between the hero and his sister-in-law. She's P.O'd at him because her sister died while he was off doing his job rather then taking care of the sister, his wife. Then we find out that the wife never told him he was sick. Those who denigrate this picture don't seem to have much of a handle on real life. I found this picture to be extremely well done, beautifully photographed, the acting was OK and the ending completely understandable. It's not a bad picture, just different...and not an action film, though it has some action in it. This my first exposure to a Japanese film that wasn't a Kung-fu/Martial arts picture, horror/Monster film or Akira Kurosawa epic. I liked it overall.
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