DVD Review – Battle of the Pacific
Epic Japanese war film Battle of the Pacific is now out in the UK, nearly 18 months after its initial release. Tom takes a look to see if it has been worth the wait.
Documenting the US invasion of the island of Saipan during World War 2, Battle of the Pacific focuses on the actions of a gallant Japanese captain who refuses to surrender and inspires his men to continue fighting long after Japan have lost the war. The story is told from both the American and Japanese perspectives, almost as if Eastwood’s similar outings Flags of our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima have been combined into a single picture, and is based on the book by Don Jones, a US marine who survived both Pearl Harbour and an ambush by Captain Oba and his men.
For a cast of predominantly unknown actors, all involved do a commendable job of portraying the hardships of life on a war-torn island, with Yutaka Takenouchi standing out as Captain Oba, who struggles with the choice between loyalty to his country and saving the lives of the remaining civilian survivors. Sympathetic to their cause is Captain Lewis played by Sean McGowan, the American determined to prevent more casualties with his attempts to persuade the Japanese to surrender. Lewis faces a strict deadline as the Japanese are due to be exterminated if resistance continues and he enlists the help of Prisoners of War to relay messages to their fellow countrymen in an effort to bring a peaceful end to the conflict.
As the film is based on the memoirs of a United States marine it is inevitable that the story tends to glorify the actions of the Americans but the Japanese are given equal footing and it is Captain Oba’s scenes that resonate far more than those featuring Captain Lewis. The squalid living and tough decisions that face the surviving Japanese islanders is far more engrossing than the American attempts to resolve the conflict, with the hardships of daily life on the island increasing tension between the survivors.
Due to the scale of the island the action is understandably limited to small scale skirmishes but these are well shot and highlight the ferocity and determination of the Japanese defense in the face of defeat. The choice to die honourably in battle is an opportunity that these soldiers will not miss and the Americans soon realise that clearing the island of all enemies could lead to many more unneccesary deaths.
Battle of the Pacific is an involving war film that tackles the subjects of loyalty, courage and leadership very well it is just a shame that the epic scope of the story is diminished by a number of cliched scenes. A lot of time is given to minor characters whose involvement in the story is minimal and this hinders the overall pace which makes the film feel overly long. There are some captivating battle sequences but this heartbreaking story could have been something very special if given a more lavish treatment.
Battle of the Pacific is out to rent and own on DVD from 11th June through Arrow Films.
About The Author – Tom Bielby
Long time film fan and aspiring film writer, Tom is a horror fanatic who wasted far too much time at University sitting through every film in the IMDB Top 250. He is partial to foreign films and cult cinema and would love to rid the world of people who rustle their popcorn during important scenes. He can be found on Twitter under the alias @filmbantha
Are you a fan of epic war films or do the often harrowing stories leave you longing for something more upbeat? Please feel free to share your thoughts below.