Tora! Tora! Tora! (DVD) Review

By: Britt Gillette

Nominated for five Academy Awards (most of them related to effects and visuals), and winner of the Oscar for Special Visual Effects, Tora! Tora! Tora! is a true Hollywood blockbuster. Long before the star-studded, over-hyped Disney film Pearl Harbor, film creators gave us a much better picture of the events surrounding December 7, 1941. Often shown on the History Channel, Tora! Tora! Tora! almost fits the definition of a documentary. The film doesn't employ sideshow tricks such as love triangles (i.e. Pearl Harbor) in order to create audience interest. In fact, few of the actors stand out on their own. Instead, each character plays his part as it most likely unfolded in real life - and the real life version of Pearl Harbor is interesting enough on its own…

Tora! Tora! Tora! originates as the Japanese call sign for a full-fledged attack on the American naval installation at Pearl Harbor. When the Japanese Empire continues its expansion throughout the Asian-Pacific realm, the United States institutes economic sanctions. As further divisions threaten to bring about war between the two nations, Japanese admirals convene in order to plan a surprise preemptive attack on the United States Navy in the event that war becomes inevitable.

Among those present is Admiral Yamamoto (So Yamamura) who agrees to carry out the plan, but as a man who studied extensively in the United States, he believes his fellow countrymen underestimate the resolve and the industrial might of the American people. Nonetheless, the Japanese continue their surveillance of Pearl Harbor with a plan to annihilate the US Navy and its vital fleet of aircraft carriers.

Meanwhile, certain people in Washington are intercepting coded messages between the island of Japan and its ambassador to the United States. As the rumor of a Japanese attack begins to take hold, officials attempt to convince the top leaders in the chain of command. But the idea of such a bold and unprovoked attack is difficult to comprehend.

When the Japanese arrive at Pearl Harbor on December 7th, they realize their plan has worked well. They achieve total surprise, and the call of Tora! Tora! Tora! goes out to the fleet, launching a second wave of attack planes. The Japanese attacks sink several battleships, but not a single carrier (the carriers unexpectedly left the harbor to practice maneuvers). Threatening to annihilate Pearl Harbor, the Japanese are unexpectedly called back by a conservative admiral, leaving the scene before than can inflict maximum damage. The mistake is eloquently expressed by Admiral Yamamoto who fears that his countrymen have "only managed to awaken a sleeping giant"…

Despite its 1970 release date, Tora! Tora! Tora! remains a wonderful film that can hold its own in the special effects department with any modern day blockbuster. In fact, the older camera technology makes the scenes subconsciously feel more realistic than modern day films such Pearl Harbor. If you're looking for a good, suspenseful movie (and one which teaches history too), then you'll be hard pressed to find a better option than Tora! Tora! Tora! One of the best war films of all time, Tora! Tora! Tora! is a definite must see film.

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