JAPAN 2009 Directed by: Tetsuo Shinohara Written by: Yasuo Hasegawa, Harutoshi Fukui, Kenzaburo Iida Novel: Tsukasa Ikegami, Kenzaburo Iida Music: Taro Iwashiro Cast: Hiroshi Tamaki, Keiko Kitagawa, Yoshikuni Dochin, Yuta Hiraoka, Eisaku Yoshida, Toru Masuoka, Mitsuru Fukikoshi, Masaya Kikawada, Taiga, Taku Suzuki, Kimito Totani, Akiko Nagayasu, David Winning, David Barnes, Eric Weidman, Joe Rayome
During the final days of World War II, a Japanese submarine and a US destroyer are fighting it out somewhere off the coast of Okinawa. Captain Koramoto is leading his men and the I-77 submarine to attack an American convoy, and while another submarine is destroyed by the Americans Koramoto and his men successfully sink several enemy ships – until the destroyer finds them and a life and death game between the two vessels and their captains begins.
LAST OPERATIONS UNDER THE ORION continues with the new wave of nationalist movies that have proven to be successful at the local box office. It is far more toned down and as objective as that is probably possible compared to other movies, leaving room for the views and feelings of the antagonists as well.
LAST OPERATIONS UNDER THE ORION is a good attempt to show both sides of the coin called war, and in that respect the movie is very different. I wouldn’t really call it a naval action movie as even though it concentrates largely on the battle between the submarine and the destroyer LAST OPERATIONS UNDER THE ORION deals with questions of honor, justification of orders and the human side of conflict.
All that may not be more than skin-deep most of the time, but given that many movies of this kind are sole action films or nationalist propaganda LAST OPERATIONS UNDER THE ORION is at least trying to give us a good story without black and white clichés and leaves the judging to the audience. From a Japanese perspective, this is probably as far as they are willing and able to go, even criticizing the notorious suicide missions designed to sacrifice people for the greater good.
What LAST OPERATIONS UNDER THE ORION clearly lacks however are originality and a more profound description of the characters. The latter often remain pale and semi-believable, partly thanks to some heartthrob actors, partly thanks to the script that is too careful and tame and almost seems to say sorry for its attempt of criticism as if it wants to make up for its objectivity with harmless characterization. The protagonists are simply too nice and considerate, nothing disturbs the perfect first impression and nothing adds to their predictable behavior throughout the movie.
LAST OPERATIONS UNDER THE ORION scores even lower in the originality department: you will find bits and pieces of many war movies and submarine flicks recycled here, but it is surprising to see how much the film as borrowed from the world’s greatest submarine drama of all time, the German epic DAS BOOT.
Wolfgang Petersen’s unsurpassed masterpiece has been the inspiration for many of the key scenes of LAST OPERATIONS UNDER THE ORION, and the copycat simply doesn’t live up to a comparison at all. DAS BOOT is in a league of its own, and looking at ORION from this angle quickly reveals how far LAST OPERATIONS UNDER THE ORION is trailing behind. LAST OPERATIONS UNDER THE ORION is a submarine whereas DAS BOOT is the submarine movie.
LAST OPERATIONS UNDER THE ORION is a welcome change from American naval films, but just as most projects out of Hollywood LAST OPERATIONS UNDER THE ORION doesn’t really add much to the genre. It even borrows its narrative framework from another iconic war movie – SAVING PRIVATE RYAN.
So unless you are interested to see what comes out of a cross-breeding between SAVING PRIVATE RYAN and DAS BOOT you might as well skip LAST OPERATIONS UNDER THE ORION. If you are a fan of the genre however LAST OPERATIONS UNDER THE ORION offers a slightly different take on the subject and might be fine addition for completists.
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