on June 7, 2004
Tora! Tora! Tora! is the single best movie ever made about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It features excellent performances from such actors as James Whitmore, E.G. Marshall, Jason Robards and Martin Balsam. The special effects are far more convincing than what's in modern movies. It also has some of the best movie music of all time. Best of all, the movie shows the sheer complacency on the U.S. side that enabled the Japanese to successfully mount the surprise attack.
Tora! Tora! Tora! is far superior to any other movie ever made about Pearl Harbor. In fact, it is one of the absolute best movies ever made about World War II. It is a classic motion picture in its own right.
On a scale of 1 to 5, it really merits a 10.
on February 27, 2014
It takes a while to get going but it is a really long film....be prepared to sit lots or watch it in several shifts.....It is a well acted movie considering the limitations on screen play etc. for that time period....(no computers)
on March 26, 2004
Based on research of Gordon Prange, author of "At Dawn We Slept", Tora! Tora! Tora! is a very accurate portrayal of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
There have been several treatments of the famous battle (as one-sided as it was), including the recent (and crummy) "Pearl Harbor" (2001). This is the best.
As other reviews have pointed out, the attack was an extremely successful one for the Japanese from a military standpoint. By 1941, the only check on Japanese expansion in the Pacific was the United States Navy. Yamamoto's plan was bold and creative, but it depended a lot upon luck, as the film and the book point out. The United States had installed a radar facility that operated part-time, and did detect the first wave of incoming Japanese planes. The US was more concerned with sabotoge, and parked their planes closely together. The Japanese mini-submarine that was detected and sunk off Pearl Harbor should have raised alarms, but didn't.
It all points to a fundamental principal of war. Everyone got complacent. We thought Pearl was too far from Japan to attract an attack of that magnitude. We thought we would see the fleet or at least the Japanese planes long before they would present a threat. Our technology (radar) provided an extra safeguard, but wasn't properly used. Our cracking of the Japanese diplomatic code provided an extra sense that we would know of an attack prior to it happening.
I've read the transcript of the congressional inquiry into the attack that was undertaken in the late 1940s. It is fascinating. They point out one of the reasons we were complacent. There had been 'war warnings' sent out several times in late fall 1941, warning of an imminent Japanese attack somewhere in the Pacific. Nothing happened. This bred a laissez-faire attitude toward imminent attack.
The only thing that saved the US Navy was the US carriers were at sea, and that main target of the Japanese escaped unharmed, a fact that was to be of great importance to the subsequent conduct of the war.
Some reviewers here have expressed surprise that the US was so badly fooled. One reviewer here calls the US's actions 'slipshod and arrogant'. Huh? We prepared for the danger that we expected, not something nobody believed could have occurred. 'Blithely oblivious'? Again, incorrect, as the proceedings of the congressional investigation have pointed out. 'Dry and boring'? What movie did that reviewer watch? 'Incomprehensible decision' to park the planes closely together? How about the dangers of sabotage? 'We didn't expect an attack'? Not accurate at all. The US was painfully aware of the danger Japan presented.
The US attitude is understandable, though, when you realize they were viewing a far-off war in Europe, and no one then imagined a war in their own backyard. It is hard to expect the unexpected.
Very Highly recommended!
on January 12, 2004
I first saw Tora! Tora! Tora! (Tiger! Tiger! Tiger! in Japanese) in 1974, when I was 20 years old on Atlanta's Channel Two. As strange as this may sound, I have always liked movies about World War II. My stepfather had served in the Navy during the war and in fact he had joined the service shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which is the subject of this 2 hour and 25 minute-long Japanese-American 1970 production.
This movie was directed by several directors including Toshio Masuda and Kinji Fukasuka, but the American version (yes, there is a Japanese version) gives the credit to veteran director Richard Fleischer. Based on Gordon W. Prange's "Tora! Tora! Tora!" and Ladislas Farago's "The Broken Seal", the film accurately depicts the events on both sides of the Pacific leading up to the stunning attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet on Sunday, December 7, 1941.
Even though it covers an 18-month period between Admiral Yamamoto's (Soh Yamamura) initial planning for Operation Hawaii and the attack itself, Tora! Tora! Tora! (the title refers to the code used to inform the Japanese that the Americans had been caught by surprise) never drags or seems dull. I learned, for instance, that Japanese Ambassador Nomura was a skilled and honorable diplomat who did not know what his country's military leaders were planning, and that he hoped to avoid war. I was also stunned by how General Walter C. Short (Jason Robards) was so preoccupied by the threat of sabotage from Hawaii's 125,000 Japanese inhabitants that he foolishly parked all the bombers and fighters in Hickam and Wheeler Fields in neat rows, supposedly to make them easier to guard but actually making them sitting ducks.
What amazed me about watching this movie is how clueless Pearl Harbor's defenders were on that Sunday morning. Though many people think the first shot of the Pacific War was fired by the Japanese, it was actually fired by the USS Ward on a Japanese midget submarine trying to sneak into the harbor. This happened roughly an hour before the first bomb fell on Battleship Row. I would have thought that the report of an unknown submarine being fired upon in a restricted area would have alerted the whole fleet. Wrong! American officers in Oahu were so certain that the Japanese would be spotted long before they could launch a strike that Captain James Earle (Richard Anderson) asks for confirmation before he tells his superiors. This does not make Adm. Husband E. Kimmel (Martin Balsam) very happy and I thought he was very angry that the Ward's initial report did not reach him in time.
The movie makes clear to the audience that history often hinges on small but significant details. Who would have thought that the fate of two great nations would be decided by a diplomat's slow typing speed, or that a report of a large radar blip off to the north of Oahu would be received with the phrase, "Well, don't worry about it."? It sounds like bad fiction but everything in this movie is based on historical fact.
Tora! Tora! Tora! has incredible battle scenes. Most of the aerial scenes were shot using either vintage planes or realistic replicas (because there are no flying Zero fighters, T-28 Texans were modified to look like the famous Japanese planes). The Navy actually allowed 20th Century-Fox to film in and around Pearl Harbor and rented a World War II era carrier that was to be decommissioned to serve as a stand in for the Japanese carrier. Clever editing, good miniature effects and carefully built live action sets give the illusion that one is actually reliving the Day of Infamy.
The 60th Anniversary Special Edition DVD was released around the same time as 2001's Pearl Harbor. It features an all new 20-minute documentary, director's commentary, the orginal theatrical trailer, and restores the movie to its original widescreen format. It has four audio tracks (English 4.1, the commentary, English Dolby Surround, French Mono), and subtitles in English and Spanish.
on October 27, 2002
There's no denying the grand effort that went into making this historical presentation of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Taking accounts of both sides of the war equally, made respectively by both United States and Japanese production crews, Tora! Tora! Tora! is a great documentation of how the attack really occurred. Unlike the recent Pearl Harbor film, which tries to tell the historical story (with many flaws), a love story and a disaster story, Tora! Tora! Tora knows what is meant to be, and strictly follows the historical angle.
Unfortunately, this dedication to fact is the films major weakness. There are no real characterizations of any of the major roles, no central character the audience can connect with, either on the American or Japanese forces. This lack of a so called staring role (which both sides should have had) makes the film feel more like a documentary then a movie. What characters the film does center on are all flat and rather uninteresting. Not to mention poorly acted.
Despite this, the film provides a great understanding of how the attack really occurred, and gives a wonderful visual feast of the disaster. For 1970, when this film was released, the visual effects are outstanding. Definitely worth at least one viewing, more if you're a World War II buff.
on August 22, 2003
This in-depth portrayal of the infamous December 7, 1941 attack on the US Navy Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor is possibly one of the most researched and accurate historical films ever produced. It provides a magnificent viewing experience, and despite not having the fancy and exuberant special effects that the recent flick "Pearl Harbor" was filled with, it is possibly the most enjoyable war movie you can watch. Unlike the more recent film, which was undoubtedly directed at today's younger crowd, who (aside from myself and those like me) are less interested in history and more interested in lots of explosions and sweet tender emotions, this film did not blaspheme the attack by turning an account of it into a stupid love story. It's just the politics, strategies, mistakes, and triumphs that made December 7, 1941 the saddest day in American history up until September 11 of 2001.
One of the greatest aspects of this film is that it sheds light on the absolute brilliance of the Japanese Naval strategists. Admirals Yamamoto and Nagumo and Commander Genda were three of the greatest military leaders/strategists of World War II, and possibly, of all time. The film presents the attack not as a barbaric act of unprovoked massacre, as most Americans would like to think it was, but rather, as a decisive military move in the better interests of Japan. After all, as (the character who played) Yamamoto stated in the film, the Americans would have been (and proved to be) the most difficult enemy that Japan had ever fought. The attack was basically an act of desperation, as the warmongering Japanese Army, who controlled politics, blatantly rejected the Navy's pleas to avoid a war. I was very happy to see this film treating the brilliant Japanese planners and pilots not as the heartless murderers that many ignorant Americans see them as, but rather as the national heroes that they had become for Japan by acting in what they believed was the best interest of their nation. After all, isn't that how we think of our soldiers? If it isn't, then we need to sit down and examine our conscience.
Even without the jazzy special effects, this film recreates the combat scenes very well. Unless you're a computer geek who believes that special effects make a movie and the story line is just there for the hell of it, you won't notice any problem with the explosions and aerial combat. In fact, the replica Japanese aircraft (BT-13s and AT-6s modified to look like A6M 'Zeke' [Zero] fighters, D3A1 'Val' dive bombers, and B5N2 'Kate' torpedo bombers) and American P-40s engaging in actual aerial maneuvering was much more spectacular than if it had been recreated on computer screens. The pyrotechnics used were fantastic as well, and the scene of a B-17 landing with one wheel up was a scene to remember. On a side note, if anyone was ever fortunate enough to catch the Commemorative Air Force's (formerly Confederate Air Force) reenactment of the attack at an air show, they actually had the B-17 "Texas Raiders" crank one wheel down and fly LOW over the runway to recreate that very scene! I'm not sure if they still do that, but that was the kind of thing that made memories!
Overall, if you want a truly unbiased account of the attack on Pearl Harbor, without the liberal twist thrown in to make it look like our brass and President were helpless victims instead of revealing the mistakes made by the top levels of our government and armed forces, then you'll love "Tora! Tora! Tora!" I recommend it to anyone with an interest in war movies, military history, naval warfare, aviation, or just plain great movies.
on August 31, 2003
Tora! Tora! Tora! is a highly historical film that made an attempt to cover the entire ground of what happened on December 7th, 1941. And I think they succeeded in doing this, giving us an education on how Pearl Harbor came about, why the Japanese bombed us, and what went wrong. I was very pleased with how this film was molded and crafted and how real the movie was.
Reading from other people's reviews, I have found that some complaints are about the length of the movie and that it is boring. Well it is boring if history being converted to film bothers you. But if you like to get down to the skinny of things and kinda find out why things happen, why 12/7/41 occured then this film is fascinating not boring.
Another complaint is how the Japanese are shown as smart and wise and the Americans as stupid or slow. Well, to be honest, history says that is a correct analysis of the way things were. Our command at Pearl Harbor was inept, they did stupid things, they made poor decisions, the White House made serious flaws that made way for the attack to become imminent. And the Japanese were very determined, very ingenius on their planning of this attack. They had a lot of time to think about this raid, so naturally when one is well organized that person is going to be portrayed as smart. The Japanese out smarted us on that day, or as the film shows, that year of '41.
I liked how this film led up to the attack on Pearl Harbor, beginning several months prior to the raid. This gave us an idea what was going on in both sides' minds. It gave equal time to the Japanese strategists and to American high command and intelligence. If anybody has a problem with a war film giving each side an equal balance in a film, as far as point of view, then don't watch this film.
My only concern for this film, that costed it one star, is that you never get to know any of the characters. They are kind of distant characters, obviously just imitating historical people long gone, but even then I think the viewers would like to get to know the characters. Because there were so many characters, and the point of views switches so often, I can see where this is a problem. But it's the sacrifice you give when you have lots of characters you want to give equal perspectives to. Still, one character you could really get to know in this film is something I still expected.
As a result to no real deep character you can follow in this film, this movie is nothing more but a historical documentary with movie drama and sequences. And this is OK, it's a good 4 star war movie. But it isn't the most entertaining either. I do recommend this movie, but please don't watch it with the expectation of being entertained with action. Watch it because you want to know more about what happened before and during December 7th, 1941.
on December 14, 2002
This is a movie for history buffs as well as for those that just like a good movie. It depicts Pearl Harbor with an ensemble cast, cohesive storytelling, effective special effects (even by today's standards), great cinematography, and excellent film editing. The lack of romance and other sub-plots enhances the drama and tension of the event. This is history at its finest, wrapped in storytelling as only Hollywood can do.
On December 7, 1941, 350 aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy, in two waves, conducted a surprise attack on the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Island, Oahu, Hawaii Islands. While more successful than could have been reasonably expected (who could have known that it really would take the Americans completely by surprise?), it still fell short of being decisive. The Pacific Fleet was devastated in a single air battle that lasted a bit under two hours. In that short time the US lost 21 ships sunk or damaged out of the 90 or so that were at anchor in or near the harbor, or under way near the harbor. This included all 8 battleships assigned to the Fleet. Three of these, the West Virginia, the Oklahoma, and Arizona were sunk. The West Virginia was later raised and returned to duty. Most of the other vessels, including the other 5 battleships, were eventually repaired as well. In addition to ship losses, 188 US aircraft were destroyed and another 159 damaged. Although totals vary, some reports carry human losses at 2,403 dead (including 68 civilians) and 1,178 wounded (including 35 civilians). No matter what the precise totals, they were high.
For all of this damage, it's important to understand what the Japanese missed. Neither of the two Pacific Fleet carriers (Enterprise and Lexington) was in or near port that day, so they were unscathed. Missing the carriers ultimately would prove grievous to Japanese strategy. Moreover, a third wave scheduled to hit harbor installations, repair facilities, warehouses, and fuel dumps on Oahu was cancelled.
The story of Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor cannot be told effectively without providing background on why and how it came to be, and the movie does just that. The attack was rooted in the effect the Great Depression had on Japan's economy, which stimulated their desire to control the natural resources needed to fuel their economy; Japanese militant expansionism, which put them on a collision course with the US; and Japanese military culture and tradition, which made them willing to take on a world power significantly their superior and which also believed in initiating hostilities by sudden, overwhelming attack; and the war Europe.
There were many in the Imperial Japanese Navy that understood the fearsomeness of what they were getting into. Ironically, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto (Sô Yamamura), the mastermind of the strategy to strike the American fleet at Pearl felt this way.
The movie pointed out that the Japanese diplomatic ultimatum was not presented until after the attack started and points to this as one of the reasons behind the massive US public embitterment after the attack. Hence, Admiral Yamamoto's doleful warning (and the most memorable line from the movie), "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve." (The second most memorable line is by an old man fishing while warplanes are practicing their low-level runs, "Navy pilots attract geisha girls, but they frighten the fish." It's the same all over, I guess.)
While it doesn't delve into all of the geopolitical issues as much as it could, it does provide an understanding of the events that led up to the attack and the devastation it caused, with an even-handedness that is refreshing. This starts from the very beginning of the movie where the credits are alternated between the American cast and film crew and the Japanese, and continues throughout the movie as scenes shift back and forth between the Japanese and American perspectives.
Particularly effective is how the movie builds tension as the Japanese plan is put into action, alternating between the Japanese strike force and the Americans. The Japanese fleet sails determinedly through the stormy northern Pacific while the American intelligence staff at the War Department in Washington becomes increasingly frustrated as they attempt to raise the alarm. The Americans' misguided posture is juxtaposed with the almost youthful exuberance of the Japanese flight crews and maintenance teams as they continue their training and preparation shipboard. Their enthusiasm is contrasted with the solemnity of their Shinto prayer and the tension of their senior officers. The tension mounts as the director employs the Gettysburg-esque technique of using maps to show the fleet's progress toward the Islands. It culminates in the dawn launch, with engine exhausts aflame, large formations of planes circling overhead as they form up before departing for the final air leg to their target, and the unsuspecting, unconcerned American fleet awakening on a lazy, sunny December morning in Hawaii, feeling safe.
If there is any noteworthy failing, it is that the move fails to depict the pathos of war - the overwhelming of the base (and presumably the civilian) medical facilities, the pain and suffering of incapacitating injuries, the civilian casualties, the mass of dead, injured, and struggling men in the water, the frantic attempts to escape by men trapped below decks in sunken and overturned ships.
While it provides an excellent history lesson, the movie also has the look and feel of a good story. The story it tells is two-fold. It tells of the misguided desperation of the Japanese that led them to take on the United States (if their post-war success is any standard for comparison). It also speaks to America's arrogance in 1941. We knew Japan was dangerous, but didn't expect them to come at us the way they did. Our belief in ourselves got in our way. In the end the American deaths at Pearl Harbor resulted from the failure of our imagination. We just didn't think this attack would happen.
on June 11, 2002
The 2001 blockbuster "Pearl Harbor" was more about Hollywood than history, a passionate love-triangle forming an important part of the story-line. The 1970 flick "Tora! Tora! Tora!" offers a rather different story of the same event, one devoid of soap opera, romance, blood and gore, but one that is far more true to history. The account of traditional historians is followed, rather than that of revisionists who claim that President Roosevelt had prior knowledge of the attack but knowingly sacrificed his Pacific fleet as an excuse to enter the war. All the incidents and details are apparently historically documented from ship logs and other records, and the focus on a historically accurate movie is evident from the opening statement which affirms that all events and characters are true to historical fact. Certainly the movie breathes authenticity in every respect. Remarkably, it presents both sides of the Pearl Harbor tragedy of December 7, 1941: American and Japanese. To accomplish this, there was a collaboration of two production teams involving American and Japanese film-makers. And the results are convincing: unlike Hollywood's 2001 "Pearl Harbor", the Japanese side is presented accurately and fairly, with even the dialogue in Japanese (with English sub-titles) - the title itself referring to a Japanese word for "attack!" If there is any bias, it is present in minimizing Japanese aggression, but most would agree that it the movie gives a fairly accurate picture. The end result is a documentary-like movie, with the convincing aura of historical fact.
The story of course revolves around the events of the Japanese attack on the US naval fleet in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, which led to the United States declaring war on Japan in the Second World War. The attack featured tactical brilliance and surprise, and was a great success. In less than two hours, Japanese planes armed with torpedoes sunk or seriously damaged 18 warships, destroyed 188 aircraft and damaged another 159, killed 2,403 and wounded 1,178 American military personnel. Fortunately for the Americans, their aircraft carriers escaped damage only because they were not in Pearl Harbor at the time of the attack. Japanese losses comprised only 29 planes and pilots, five midget submarines and one large sub with their crews.
The largest part of the movie focuses around the politics and preparation for the attack, and consists mainly of dialogue. Numerous historical personages play a role, and viewers are given some insight into Japanese-American relations before the attack. Of particular interest are several scenes featuring Japanese ambassadors and politicians, showing that even amongst the Japanese there were different attitudes towards US-relations. Alongside hard-liners who advocated aggression, there were also pacifists who truly wanted to strive for a peaceful resolution. The suspense gradually builds as the foundations are laid for a surprise attack, and as the US ignores the warning signs of impending danger. The final part of the movie features an extensive and convincing reenactment of the attack itself. The movie's G rating is somewhat deceiving - while there is no real blood and gore as such (although there are a few rare instances of blasphemy/profanity), viewers are treated to multitudes of spectacular explosions. There are also some delightful scenes of a dramatic aerial dog fight. All in all it's a breath-taking and fitting climax, and even by today's standards features pretty impressive cinematography and action. The exaggerated emotion of Hollywood is absent, but in many ways this enhances the historical record rather than blurs it with sensationalism.
The fact that events are presented more clinically and coldly means of course that Tora! Tora! Tora! lacks the human element that is present in films like 2001's Pearl Harbor, and there is no real sense of what it was like from the perspective of the soldiers. But by sparing viewers of sensationalized stories of individuals, we get a more overall picture with a real sense of what it was like from the perspective of the military leaders. It is not so much the story of personal successes and failures, but the failure of the United States military as a whole. In the process, numerous surprising facts are revealed for those not very familiar with the historical events of the Pearl Harbor tragedy. Three such facts struck me: Firstly, the fact that the success of the Japanese was due in part to a comedy of errors by US intelligence in failing to properly anticipate the oncoming attack, and that the US navy was unprepared and defenseless largely through its own fault. Secondly, the fact that the Japanese showed restraint by deciding not to launch as many waves of attack as initially planned. Thirdly, the fact that rather than revel in victory, the Japanese commander-in-chief was most displeased that the carefully planned timing went wrong (Washington received the planned ultimatum an hour after the attack rather than half an hour beforehand), because he realized that it would just infuriate the United States all the more: "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve."
If you want be wowed by Hollywood's fancy special effects, horrified by Hollywood's blood and gore, and cry over Hollywood's romantic soap opera, go watch 2001's "Pearl Harbor". But for those who want a tribute to history's real story, you need look no further than 1970's "Tora! Tora! Tora!" If there are weaknesses, it might be that the acting is not always convincing, and that this is a story that is so objective and filtered of bias that it lacks the human element. But soap opera doesn't have to be present to make an movie enthralling - the suspense and the chronicle of real events is enthralling in itself, and the final action scenes of the air attack are remarkably real and heart-stopping. And all the more powerful because they reflect history. For most of us, history is to be preferred over Hollywood any day.
on February 25, 2002
Why? Oh, why does Hollywood think they have to put a contrived, thinly written, melodrama in front a well-mounted documentary recontruction?
The producers of "Tora! Tora! Tora!" avoided the traps which captured the people in charge of "Midway" and "Pearl Harbor."
I unvariably sit in darkened movie theaters or in front of my video monitor thinking. "Will you please get the star-crossed lovers out of sight. And show me how the battle played out? How the generals thought it out? How the soldiers felt?"
This movie came out when I was a kid. And I loved it! I soaked the history up like a sponge. I still like it today. Give me detail, detail, detail. Clearly give me an exposition and illustration of the facts.
However, to be maddeningly inconsistent, I also like movies like "Gettysburg" and "Titanic."
I liked "Gettysburg" because the dramatic scenes comment and develop the battle scenes. Based on the "Killer Angels," this movie takes the time to tell us about the mindset of the people involved. I liked the "lull in the battle" conversation back at camp. It sounded authentic not contrived like "Midway." It also doesn't lose the thread of narration of the battle.
I liked "Titanic" for different reasons. It is the great "story" of 20th century civilization. It is has been told so many times, we are all familar with most of the incidents involved. The genius of "Titanic"'s screenplay is to acknowledge that fact. Cameron moves his fictional characters and story around and through the "real" story and characters without disarranging them. All the real incidents are alluded to and shown, but they don't interupt his fictional narrative. Watch carefully all the great stories and characters are there, but not told. As we follow Jack and Rose around the ship, you'll see Astor and his valet, the Straus's, the priest praying with his flock. . . And who is that beside them on the stern of the ship? The baker who survived the sinking pretty much as Jack and Rose did. You might say Jack and Rose are Rosencratz and Guildenstern and "Titanic" is "Elsinore" in "Hamlet." Cameron only tells his fictional story. He doesn't try to tell both.
You can only tell one story at a time.
Tora, Tora, Tora chooses to tell about the battle, and does it well.
"From Here to Eternity" chooses to tell its story and does it well.
I don't know what "Midway" and "Pearl Harbor" are trying to do but I don't like it much.