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 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 October 12, 2003
Any one who has read my review of the recent Pearl Harbor film will know what was wrong with that film and why. Thankfully, the battle must not suffer with a horrible film based off of it, and we can turn to this one for support and relief.
I believe many people unfortunately try to look at this film as any other film. I guess they expect a corny love story, or maybe a racial issue, or perhaps even a father-son fight that gets resolved during or after the battle. But you have none of that, and that is why this film is so good: it is about the Battle of Pearl Harbor, why it happened, who fought in it, and who is responsible for its consequences. As the title of my review says, its pretty much a "pseudo-documentary."
The Japanese side is shown just as much as the American side, and it is fascinating to watch a World War II film that gives you such balance on the different parts in the war. We watch the planning, the dialogue between the Japanese commanders, most of them different in tone and experience, and when the battle finally happens you are just as much aware of what the men in the Zeros are thinking as much as the men in the battleships (perhaps the men in the Zeros more so).
The battle scenes themselves are well done, no stock footage is used like the movie "Midway," and every event of the battle is fairly covered. And they last a good while, it doesn't just go for ten minutes like the movie formally called "Pearl Harbor." This film is about the battle, and so it presents it to the best of its ability.
Shortly after I saw the movie "Pearl Harbor," I watched a documentary on the History Channel about the battle. As it talked about the battle, I realized there was so much the movie could have put in to include more of the battle...and then I realized something; "Tora Tora Tora" DOES include all of that.
on October 7, 2003
There are not many movies that portray the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor as anything but what it was--a carefully planned massive assault on a totally unprepared United States naval base. TORA TORA TORA is not Hollywood's typical war movie that places character exposition at the forefront. Here directors Toshio Masuda and Kinji Fukasaku for the Japanese and Richard Fleischer for the United States detail a film that is more documentary than character driven. Yet, despite this sense of hidden-camera reality that focuses on all ranks from admiral to seaman, the actors succeed in infusing the film with a feeling that on both sides there were no heroes or villans. In fact, if there is any villainy, it is not the attacking Japanese who must wear the mantle of evil but rather the slipshod arrogance of those who were entrusted to defend Pearl Harbor against just the kind of annihilation that struck on that Sunday morning in December, 1941. The Japanese side is told primarily through the perspective of Admiral Yamamoto (So Yamamura), who was in overall command of the attack fleet, and Lt. Commander Fuchida (Takahiro Tamura), who was one of the Zero pilots on the first attack wave. Yamamoto is a cautious commander, one who has no political agenda, but is determined to carry out his objective exactly even if it means not taking advantage of unexpected opportunities to wreak further destruction on American ships. He will preserve his fleet above all else. Fuchida has a much more narrow view; when he sees that a second attack wave is needed to finish the job, he is appalled that Yamamoto has instead ordered the fleet to return to Japan. Neither of them is presented as the stereotyped buck-toothed sabre-rattling Jap so often presented in a previous generation's war movie. Each in his own way is strictly business. The American side is anchored by Martin Balsam as Admiral Kimmel and Richard Anderson as Captain Earle. Kimmel is a competent commander who discovers too late that bureaucratic bungling of misguided messages can have the most tragic of consequences. When the attack begins, he is stunned but quickly organizes what defenses he has. The fall guy is Earle, who might have gained a precious few hours of advanced warning had he heeded the implications of frantic radio messages suggesting an attack was imminent. Yet, Earle is a one-dimensional stick man who collectively symbolizes the head-in-the-sand myopia that then afflicted US military intelligence about the oncoming Rising Sun whirlwind.
TORA TORA TORA is a film of rapidly shifting points of view. The first three quarters is a microscopic analysis of the events preceding the attack. The Japanese are seen as supremely confident that they will achieve total surprise. In fact, when the first Zero fighters are in view of Pearl, they are astounded to note that not one shot has been fired at them. An American radar station operator notes that his radar screen shows a massive inflight of unidentified planes, but a call to his superiors results in his being told not to worry. The American fleet and dozens of combat planes are neatly stacked in rows, just waiting to be picked off. The Americans, by contrast, are blithely oblivious to what now seems like unmistakable warnings of looming disaster. In Washington, Japanese ambassadors Nomura (Shogo Shimada) and Kurusu (Hisao Toake) wait patiently outside the door of Secretary of State Cordell Hull, knowing full well what was then occuring on the other end of the world. For the briefest moment, Nomura is seen as a man who is profoundly saddened that he is a forced puppet mouthing words of a futile peace.
All of the behind the scenes style of film making is needed as a segue to the catastrophic air assault on Pearl. The attack, which lasts for an extended thirty minutes, is stunningly effective, even more so than the computer-enhanced graphics of the recent remake with Ben Affleck. Essentially, the Japanese airplanes swoop down and destroy both docked ship and arrayed plane. The return fire is piecemeal. Here and there is a spirited ra-ta-ta by a lone America gunner. The surprise is complete. Three battleships are sunk, and nearly every plane is destroyed on the ground. These scenes of carnage are difficult to watch, yet they serve to remind us that eternal vigilance is needed for a proud country to survive. The dramatic focus of the movie is not on the destruction of the Pacific fleet at all, but surprisingly on the Japanese view of that destruction. The Japanese had intended to declare war first, and then to attack, but a bungling on their part reversed this order. A despondent Admiral Yamamoto concludes the film by noting to his otherwise jubilantly cheering subordinates: "I can hardly imagine a way that is more likely to infuriate the Americans. I fear that all we have done was to awaken a sleeping giant." TORA TORA TORA is unique among war films in that it shows that even in war, there are men of good conscience who are caught up in matters over which they have very little control.
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 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.
on March 11, 2014
One of THE BEST war movies, cinematography, script, acting and vintage war planes ( in particular the "Zeroes" )! I also believe it's a relatively accurate portrayal of the attack. The total lack of belief by the US that ANYONE would dare attack Pearl Harbour, even though there was plenty of warning - all of which went unheeded resulting in the staggering losses experienced by the men on those doomed ships. Also from the perspective of the upper echelon in the Japanese high command as evidenced by the "waking the sleeping giant" proverb used in the movie. The Japanese knew they'd unleashed "hell on earth" with this move. From my understanding some of the Generals were forced into this - they knew they would not come out victorious in the end!
Definitely worth watching and purchasing when on sale - especially the "remastered" version! Enjoy.