During World War II, an American pilot and a marooned Japanese navy captain are deserted on a small uninhabited island in the Pacific Ocean. There, they must cease their hostility and cooperate if they want to survive, but will they?
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During World War I, a British aristocrat, an American entrepreneur, and the latter's attractive young daughter, set out to destroy a German battlecruiser, which is awaiting repairs in an inlet just off Zanzibar.
During World War II, a shot-down American pilot and a marooned Japanese navy captain find themselves stranded on the same small uninhabited island in the Pacific Ocean. Following war logic, each time the crafty Japanese devises something useful, he guards it to deny its use to the Yank, who then steals it, its proceeds or the idea and/or ruins it. Yet each gets his chance to kill and/or capture the other, but neither pushes this to the end. After a while of this pointless pestering, they end up joining forces to build and man a raft...Written by
Shinobu Hashimoto was brought on to inject an authentic voice to the Japanese dialogue. However, his rewrite to the script made Toshirô Mifune's character a buffoon which in turn would have made the film a comedy. Mifune refused to play the character any other way than how Hashimoto wrote it. After a series of back-and-forth battles with his interpreter, director John Boorman convinced Mifune that the version of the script by Hashimoto was in error. See more »
American version featured an alternative ending where the two get drunk and walk off in separate directions arguing at each other; in the British version they start yelling and a bomb from the sky falls and blows everything apart. See more »
Isolation in extreme conditions allows for very telling studies of human beings, and potentially unpleasant philosophical conclusions. Marooning a character on an island will get you some dramatic results, and the only way to take it a step further is to maroon that character's worst possible enemy with him. That's what Hell in The Pacific proposes.
This is not Cast Away Meets WWII. For one thing, it has a much tighter focus, completely losing anything beyond the island's horizon. It is admirable in its bloody-minded focus, and, with only two actors to cast, it's hard to imagine how it could have been any more perfect that pitching wild-man extraordinaire Lee Marvin opposite Kurosawa favorite Toshiro Mifune. A genius idea, but one that could have failed with a more conventional approach.
We are introduced to both antagonists in a neutral way, free to prefer which ever one we choose, though that is hardly the point, and director John Boorman makes it both easy and at times hard to sympathise with either in equal measure. Both actors do a fine job, playing mostly emotional and physical roles with great restrain and intelligence.
Boorman's direction is perfect, rejecting excess stylization in favor of a subtle approach, aided by superb photography. You have got to see this at least once, simply because, for all its visceral thrills, it is quite profound without ever trying to be. Because it boasts top performances from two of the last century's greatest leading presences in action cinema. Because, though frustrating at first, the ending is, for once, the smartest one that could have been chosen. Humanity is on trial and the judges choose to be honest and pragmatic, thus delivering something that combines greatness and very thoughtful substance.
We need more films like this!
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