Site created 12/15/97.
review added: 5/26/00
Tora! Tora! Tora!
1970 (1999) - 20th Century
review by Greg Suarez of
The Digital Bits
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras):
Specs and Features
145 mins, G, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced,
single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch 1:21:24, at the start
of chapter 19), Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailers for
Tora! Tora! Tora!,
The Longest Day, film-themed
menu screens, scene access (31 chapters), languages: English (DD
4.1) and French (DD Mono), subtitles: English, Spanish, Closed
"I fear all we
have done is to wake a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible
December 7, 1941: a day that will live in infamy.
Tora! Tora! Tora! (the
Japanese signal to attack), is a documentary-style film that
captures the days and hours leading up to the Japanese attack on
Pearl Harbor, the tragic event that catapulted America into World
War II. The aspect of this film that intrigued me the most is that
you get both points of view. During the American scenes in the film,
there is an American cast and director, and during the Japanese
portions of the film there is a Japanese cast and director. Here's a
bit of trivia for you: Akira Kurosawa was the producer's first
choice for director of the Japanese side, but he declined.
Tora! Tora! Tora! is a far cry
from the John Wayne WWII motivational glory films from the '40s and
'50s - this movie pays great attention to facts and details, and
attempts to present an accurate depiction of the events before and
during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
As the Japanese prepare for war, they decide that the only way they
will have a chance against the U.S. is to cripple the American
Pacific Naval Fleet stationed at Pearl Harbor. Diplomatic talks with
the Japanese lead to dead ends, and the nation officially sides with
the Axis powers in Europe. The Japanese skillfully prepare for
attack with precise dedication, while the Americans stationed at
Pearl Harbor have no idea of the hell about to be unleashed upon
On that fateful Sunday morning in December of 1941, the Japanese
aircraft trounce the American Naval Fleet with cat-like speed and
skill. The Americans are caught off-guard by what many consider a
treacherous act by the Japanese. The Japanese take full advantage of
the situation - American fighters are parked in groups in the middle
of the base airfield to avoid perimeter sabotage... right where they
can be easily destroyed on the ground. And the Japanese also know to
attack on a Sunday when the men stationed at Pearl Harbor are
typically resting. After the attack, the commander of the Japanese
forces, Admiral Yamamoto (So Yamamura) has regrets about the attack,
and can sense the impending danger of "waking" the
American war machine.
While not a great film in the traditional sense of a "movie,"
Tora! Tora! Tora! is an
excellent documentary. The acting is not very good, and the only
stars that people will recognize are E.G. Marshall as Col. Bratton,
and Jason Robards' very brief role as Lt. Gen. Short. I will say,
however, that acting by the Japanese cast surpasses that of the
American cast, and I was very impressed with Yamamura's portrayal of
Admiral Yamamoto. Tora! Tora! Tora!
definitely would be right at home on The History Channel (a.k.a. The
World War II Channel), and should be required viewing by WWII buffs
and modern history students for its very balanced and objective
reporting of December 7, 1941. In no way is this film biased to one
side of the conflict, and that makes for very interesting viewing.
The special effects during the attack are actually pretty good.
Shot before the age of CGI, there are some obvious instances of
model usage and mattes, but overall the action is real, and nicely
choreographed. One sequence definitely worth mentioning involves two
American pilots that manage to find two undamaged airplanes, and
engage some Japanese fighters (chapter 29). The action in the air is
very effective, with lots of barrel rolls, sharp turns, and bullet
The anamorphic widescreen presentation (this feature is again not
listed on the packaging) is framed at 2.35:1, and is very good for
its age. The picture is smooth with excellent color fidelity. Fine
picture detail is impressive, and there is no noticeable compression
artifacting. The overall video presentation still looks slightly
dated, and is not quite as sharp as the newest and finest transfers.
The Dolby Digital 4.1 audio (4.1 signifies mono rear channels) is
effectively spatial, but suffers from dated fidelity. There are some
instances of nice directional airplane panning effects, but the ADR
dialog and some sound effects are not integrated very effectively
into their environments. Low frequency activity during explosions is
also conspicuously absent. The only extras to be found on this DVD
are theatrical trailers for Tora! Tora!
Tora!, and other Fox WWII movies Patton
and The Longest Day.
Tora! Tora! Tora! is a fine
documentary-style film about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
The usage of both American and Japanese filmmakers provides an
unbiased film and unique viewing experience, and is uncommon in the
genre. The audio and video are slightly dated, but still provide a
nice presentation. The lack of extras is disappointing, but at least
you won't be caught by surprise.