Director: Taku Shinjo
Screenplay: Shintaro Ishihara
Producers: Shintaro Ishihara
Starring: Satoshi Tokushige, Yosuke Kuboguka, Michitaka Tsutsui, Keiko Kishi
Year: 2007
Country: Japan
Duration: 130 mins

In the final months of 1945, with the US naval forces pressing attacks against the Nippon Empire, the Japanese military decide to create an elite air force unit named Special Attack Corps – whose sole mission was to storm US Air Carriers; not to survive but to die in the name of honour. These were the Kamikaze pilots.

What I liked about this film was that it neither glorified the ‘honour’ of such sacrifice and neither did it belittle the decision and efforts made by those involved. The Japanese military hierarchy were desperate – success in the war appeared to be slipping away from them and a drastic course of action seemed to be their only way of either snatching victory or petitioning for more reasonable surrender terms, should the Allied forces win.

Taken from first-hand accounts Assault on the Pacific: Kamikaze portrayed the dichotomy of honour and duty over practical sensibility: Would the death of 5,000 young men (most in their late teens or 20s) be worth the sacrifice? And what lasting impact would it have on those who lived through it?

My only real complaint about this film is that I thought it was slightly overlong. At 130 minutes I felt that it could have lost 20 – 30 minutes and been better for it. Several sequences continued after the essence of the story had been portrayed, and had it been a more ‘commercial’ film the extra material would have likely ended up on the editing suite’s floor.

However, this film is well worth the effort to watch. After a while the sub-titles blend into the background and the visuals take over. The photography is first rate and it adds greatly to the balance between the peace and beauty of the scenery and the horror of war.

Assault on the Pacific: Kamikaze is released on DVD 25th April.

Review by Andy Goodman

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