After witnessing Michael Bay’s bombastic retelling of the attack on Pearl Harbour, it’s refreshing to watch events unfold from a Japanese perspective. An early end to the war was Yamamoto’s aim, and he demanded that a warning be sent to America before the infamous attack. “When Japanese samurai strike an enemy at night, at least they kick the pillow to awaken him first. If we attack before a final warning is delivered, the Japanese Navy’s name will be ruined.” As we were soon to discover, that warning arrived too late, and the inevitability of war swooped down from the skies above.
Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku is known to most as the man who masterminded the Pearl Harbour attack, the ill-advised invasion that awakened a sleeping giant. However, The Admiral sets out to explain how Yamamoto was actually against a lot of the Japanese Army's decisions during the war, including starting a war with the United States. Award-winning director Narushima Izuru (Rebirth) paints the picture of a charming family man, a respected naval strategist whose only goal was peace. The Admiral is available on UK DVD and Blu-Ray courtesy of CineAsia.
Yakusho Koji (Thirteen Assassins) takes on lead duties, a thankless task injected with warmth and integrity by the ever-reliable performer. He is joined by the likes of Tamaki Hiroshi (Nodame Cantabile), Abe Hiroshi (I Wish), Kagawa Teruyuki (Golden Slumber), Yanagiba Toshiro (Space Battleship Yamato) and Tanaka Reina (Flowers). The Admiral successfully depicts the last five years of Yamamoto Isoroku's life, starting with his opposition to Japan signing the Tripartite Pact with Germany and Italy in 1939.
Yamamoto recognised that the attack on Pearl Harbour was a mistake, but his views were not shared by everyone. After the attack, the Japanese public considered him a man of God-like proportions, and pro-war figures – including a newspaper editor played by Kagawa Teruyuki – were unimpressed by his reluctance to dive into battle. The Battle of Midway was Yamamoto’s second attempt to sue for peace, but it too ended in disaster, from a certain perspective at least. They had attempted to catch their enemy off guard by luring the American fleet into a trap, but the United States was ready and waiting, and the war that Yamamoto had tried so desperately to avoid was about to engulf the nation.
The Admiral is an enjoyable movie with great performances and adequate action sequences. If you’re expecting a sweeping epic of Michael Bay proportions you’re in for a disappointing evening. The Admiral is light on action, sentiment and heroics, but rich in subtle human drama. The effects are not up to Hollywood standards (the budget wouldn’t stretch to that) and Narushima Izuru directs drama better than he does action, but The Admiral remains a fascinating diversion that should hold your attention throughout.
The decision to avoid blockbuster heroics proves fruitful for The Admiral, a stripped down, emotional outing that impresses with engaging drama, memorable performances and solid – if unspectacular – action sequences. It’s a little too drawn out at times, but simplicity is key to the film's success, and Narushima Izuru’s affecting drama is all the more admirable for it. AW