The Japanese sneak attack that plunged the US into WW II is lavishly and fairly accurately, if not enthrallingly, brought to the screen in this Japanese-US coproduction. The strategies of the Japanese high command as they prepare to further their expansionist aims by destroying the main
American naval base in the Pacific are contrasted with the normal peacetime business of US government officials and military brass, only a few of whom are suspicious that the Japanese aren't sincere in their desire to negotiate. The film climaxes with the Pearl Harbor attack itself, re-created on
the actual locations with the kind of detail that only millions of Hollywood dollars can buy. The first half of this movie, as the Japanese plot and Americans scratch their heads in apprehension, is static, boring, and 79 minutes long, the duration of many better movies. This is followed by 65
more minutes that largely comprise the actual attack--which, once it finally comes, is spectacular, involving dozens of planes refurbished to look like Japanese fighters, dive bombers, and torpedo planes. But despite all the grand spectacle, even the attack, as unimaginatively staged by Richard
Fleischer, begins to bore after a while. How many times can one see planes swoop down and drop bombs on ships without it getting tedious?
The film was the result of years of negotiation between Japanese and American investors. In the end, two different films were made; a Japanese film showing the Japanese side, and an American film doing the same for the US point of view. The two films were then edited together in two different
versions, one for each nation. Initially, 20th Century Fox hired the great Japanese director Akira Kurosawa (THE SEVEN SAMURAI) to direct the Japanese sequences, telling him that Englishman David Lean (LAWRENCE OF ARABIA) was to direct the American sequences. As it turned out, Lean was never
involved with the film and Kurosawa shot only for a few weeks, chafing under the tight controls imposed on him by the studio. The unhappy Kurosawa purposely got himself fired from the picture, and was replaced by Toshio Masuda and Kinji Fukasaku, two unremarkable directors of Japanese genre
pictures equal in stature to Hollywood hack Fleischer. It all ended up costing over $25 million and failed miserably at the box office in the US, but was a great success in Japan, although it still took several years before the studio made back its money (partly through the sale of the battle
footage, which appears in MIDWAY  and MACARTHUR ). The film won an Oscar for Best Special Effects and received nominations for Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction/Set Decoration, Best Sound and Best Film Editing.
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- Rating: G
- Review: The Japanese sneak attack that plunged the US into WW II is lavishly and fairly accurately, if not enthrallingly, brought to the screen in this Japanese-US coproduction. The strategies of the Japanese high command as they prepare to further their expansion… (more)