Tora\! Tora\! Tora\! Film Details
Overview: The story of the 1941 Japanese air raid on Pearl Harbor, and the series of preceding American blunders that aggravated its effectiveness.
Tagline: The incredible attack on Pearl Harbor.
Review: “Tora Tora Tora” is my favorite war movie, and objectively one of the best documentary-style accounts of an historical military event. Told equally from the Japanese point of view (actually, more), it reflects a joint Japanese-American effort to stage the events leading up to Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor and the attack itself. Martin Balsam plays Admiral Kimmel, supported by a good cast portraying the key U.S. figures, but closest to a central personality (there really is none) is Admiral Yamamoto (So Yamamura), the architect of the strike. “Tora” contrasts his views on naval/air strategies with those of the Japanese “Old Guard”, and emphasizes his doubts about the notion of war with the U.S. From the American side, apart from Kimmel and U.S. Army General Short (Jason Robards), the principal characters are decoders Colonel Rufus Bratton (E.G. Marshall) and Lieutenant Commander Alvin Kramer (Wesley Addy) — actually, in both cases, more so than Short. “Tora” gets straight to the point — no good love stories (“From Here to Eternity”) or inane ones (“Pearl Harbor”) get in the way. The only mention of the subject comes when Kramer, as the ability to trust anyone is being questioned, is asked whether he trusts his wife, and states, “as a matter of fact, I do.” Good, let’s get down to business. Unlike in the plastic “Pearl,” in which “oil” is the 10-second explanation for the bombing, the Japanese are treated in depth. The warlike spirit is shown, but Japanese are not all saber-rattling fanatics, and are willing to consider peaceful alternatives. Aside from Yamamoto, important figures are strategist Admiral Genda; naval task force leader Admiral Nagumo; and air strike leader Lt. Fuchida. I won’t bother to name other Japanese actors, but suffice it to say none is Toshiro Mifune; for whatever reason, many (including myself at one point–well, I was once his neighbor in Tokyo) seem convinced he is in “Tora.” “Tora” being chiefly a chronicle of military facts, there is no appearance from symbols of state President Roosevelt, though his advisors figure prominently, and Emperor Hirohito, and only a brief one of hawkish Prime Minister Tojo; his predecessor Prince Konoye, whose desire not to have war with America is eclipsed, is given more focus. The issue of Roosevelt’s advance knowledge was rudimentary in 1970, and is not the sort of thing the film sought to treat anyway. Amen, read that last clause again, those who criticize unfairly some aspects of the movie. Kimmel is portrayed more sympathetically than Short, who comes across as somewhat brusque and brassy and makes a major strategical error by keeping U.S. planes together in the airfields to guard against sabotage in Hawaii by Japanese locals. From the navy’s viewpoint, problems were perceived, but a principal difficulty was simply that there were not enough ships to go around, aside from the problem of generally underdeveloped mechanisms of defense, such as radar. However, the movie also shows, more subtly, that Kimmel was not up to the task. The earlier part of “Tora” focuses on piecemeal strategic points without completely tying them together. However, there is much to cover, so it is difficult to provide contexts and explanations for everything. What we do get is presentation of the most important strategic issues, and America’s unpreparedness. As the time of the attack approaches, “Tora” takes advantage of its better opportunity with events, as opposed to strategies: the Japanese submarine, the radar warning, the telegram, other communications failures, bad luck with weather. It clearly sets forth the near-term facts behind America’s failure of prevention–just tell us what happened. But ultimately, the biggest blunder is on the Japanese side, separate from the attack itself. Admiral Yamamoto’s and Admiral Halsey’s contemplations fittingly wind down the dramatic recreation of the shock and surprise of the attack. There are beautiful scenes of Hawaii, too; indeed, “Pearl” edges out “Tora” only in sunsets. The sea and blue sky, islands and mountains, Hawaiian music at military clubs. The Japanese planes take off in dark early dawn, nice aura, then a striking rising sun precedes beautiful dawn settings and the attack. Sorry to be so narrative, but to do so is fitting in reviewing this very narrative movie. There are no dash and elan, no good guys or bad guys, and in fact, no protagonists or antagonists. Expressions of anger are not terribly intense and are fleeting, no intense passions are worked up. The closest thing to a hero is Colonel Bratton, whose importunations to accept his warnings are legitimized only too late. “Tora” turns the trick for viewers with a more straightforward than sensationalistic approach who want to see a good, intelligent story; uncontrived people; an excellent extended battle staging yet no cheap special effects; no blood and gore; good flow. I am a big fan of “Lawrence of Arabia,” and tho I ultimately see all its scenes as justified, I admit it had moments of drag, in both the first and second halfs. Some people think “Tora” drags at times, but it never drags for me. Besides, it is much shorter than “Lawrence” and many other epics. Fair enough, some simply do not like this type of movie as much as I do. But the attack on Pearl Harbor itself is one of the most dramatic events in military history and certainly U.S. history, and that helps carry the day. Geopolitics, strategy, unpreparedness, codebreaking issues, miscommunication, before a war, then a sneak attack — John Wayne not needed. 10 out of 10.
Country: Japan, United States
Language: English, Japanese
Duration: 144 min
Genre: Action, Drama, History
Also known as: Tora! Tora! Tora!,Tora! Tora! Tora! – I epithesi sto Pearl Harbor,Тора! Тора! Тора!,I epopoiia tou Pearl Harbor,トラ・トラ・トラ!,偷襲珍珠港,¡Tora! ¡Tora! ¡Tora!,Die Schlacht, die die Welt in Brand setzte,Η εποποιία του Περλ Χάρμπορ