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The Strange Things Boutique




DVD region 2. Metrodome.

Assault on the Pacific: KamikazeMost war stories are told from the point of view of the victor, for obvious reasons, so to see a Japanese movie about the dying days of World War 2 is interesting, to say the least. But Assault on the Pacific is a bloated, sluggish effort that leaves rather a nasty taste.

The film follows the formation of the Special Attack Corps – that’s Kamikazes to you and me – as a last desperate attempt by the Japanese military to stave off defeat. While the stated aim of the Corps is to crash their bomb-laden planes into US ships, the reality is that few of the aircraft reach their targets – particularly once the Americans realised what was happening – and the real plan was to make a show of force by being willing to sacrifice wave after wave of young men.

Most of the film follows the various recruits as they live out their final days on an airbase near a small village, and the effect they have on the people around them. And as such, it had the potential to be a moving story about the futility of war and the waste of life in order to score political points. Unfortunately, the film drags on and on (for 130 minutes) with characters that are so flimsy and a cast list so cluttered that you’ll have trouble remembering who is who, and won’t really care anyway. There’s little emotional impact in this film, and the action scenes promised by the sleeve are few and far between.

More unsettling is the feeling you get watching this that producer / writer Shintaro Ishihara and director Taku Shinjo actually see something heroic in this sacrifice. While they make clear that the deaths of the Special Attack Corps are a waste of lives, the continual level of hero worship shown - not only by characters in the film, but in the whole narratuve – is a little disturbing: while all nations have every right to remember their war dead (and the more totalitarian the regime, the less likely it is that the dead had any say in their military lives), there’s a fine line between memorial and celebration - and this film seems to trample across that line on a few occasions. There was nothing heroic about the actions of the Kamikaze, and those who died should be seen as victims of a fanatical militaristic regime, not as noble heroes who gave their lives for the greater good. It cheapens the memory of the dead to suggest that there was any honour in what they were made to do. Flag-waving is ugly enough in American war films, and it feel even less appropriate here.

There is probably a powerful story to be told about the Kamikaze – this, sadly, is not it.






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