ON THE PACIFIC: KAMIKAZE
DVD region 2. Metrodome.
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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