Today: February 21, 2024

Battle Of The Pacific

Like most genres, War films have a ready stock of character stereotypes – the angry, bellowing colonel or the gun-ho sergeant – that are often brought in to fill the usual roles

Like most genres, War films have a ready stock of
character stereotypes – the angry, bellowing colonel or the gun-ho sergeant –
that are often brought in to fill the usual roles
; this can sometimes result in a lack realism, if such characters are
overused to the point of caricature. This is a trap Battle of the Pacific
only narrowly avoids. While there are parts that feel straight out of the War
Film Handbook, Hideyuki Hirayama still manages to create an often-moving
depiction of soldiers trapped by a sense of duty and honour.

The film focuses on a
conflict between the American and the Japanese forces on the island of Saipan,
towards the end of World War II. The surviving Japanese soldiers, led by the
resourceful Captain Sakae Oba, take refuge on a mountain and are forced to outwit
the vast number of invading American troops in order to survive. While the film
takes awhile to find a comfortable pace, it comes in to its own during the
tense, cat-and-mouse battle that plays out between Captain Oba and the US
forces. Yutaka Takenouchi is a commanding, war-hardened presence as
Captain Oba – who the US troops refer to as ‘The Fox’ – and it is the physical
and emotional struggle of him and his troops that forms the most interesting
part of the film. Torn between the desire to survive and an overbearing sense
of honour and shame, the dichotomy faced by the Japanese soldiers is a sad
indication of the conflicting emotions and ideals created by war.

The film makes a point of
showing that these contradictory ideals exist on both sides of the battle, as
we are shown a not-too-dissimilar struggle taking place among the US troops.
While Hirayama’s decision to alternate the focus between the Japanese and the
Americans provides an effective way of building tension, though, it also
highlights an unfortunate lack of subtlety at certain points in the film. In
contrast to the understated portrayal of Captain Oba, for instance, certain
characters among the US troops fall straight into a predictable genre mould. Daniel
’s choleric Colonel Pollard is perhaps the biggest example of this,
barking orders and dismissing rival viewpoints in a way that will appear all
too familiar to those who know the genre. This lack of subtlety also comes
through in other areas of the film. The music occasionally borders on the
melodramatic and some dialogue over-emphasises the film’s central themes.

Despite its flaws, though,
Battle of the Pacific still does an effective job of showing the messy,
horrific nature of war and the mistrust bred by a conditioned hatred of the
opposition. It also manages to balance its bleak subject matter with some more
uplifting moments: a baby, rescued against the odds from an abandoned home,
offers a metaphor for the continuity of human life and a much-needed glimpse of

Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email:

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