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Tora! Tora! Tora!

review by Zach B.

Rated G

Studio: Fox

Running Time: 145 minutes

Starring Martin Balsam, Joseph Cotten, E.G. Marshall, James Whitmore, Jason Robards, Soh Yamaura, Tatsuya Mihashi, Takahiro Tamura, Eijiro Tono, Koreya Senda

Screenplay by Larry Forrester (American Sequences)
Screenplay by Hideo Oguni and Ryuzo Kikushima (Japanese Sequences)

Directed by Toshio and Kinji Fukasuka (Japanese Sequences)
Directed by Richard Fleischer

Retail Price: $29.98

Features: Theatrical Trailers

Specs: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 4.1, English Dolby Surround, French Mono, English Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Chapter Search (31 Chapters), THX Certified

"Tora! Tora! Tora!" is a movie that's remembered and liked, however, I don't think it's given the proper treatment as it really deserves. It's more like a cult movie in some ways, it's held in a certain spot. Audiences do enjoy it, but as far as a movie that's a "war classic", people don't consider it one. When war movies are discussed, it's never really mentioned. While I've seen some better war movies, "Tora! Tora! Tora!" is pretty underrated if you ask me, and has an excellent sense of style as well as an accurate sense of history. It can be slow at times, however, it's still very interesting and very well made. The movie always intrigues me and I find it pretty entertaining in many respects. The film was nominated for five Academy Awards® and won for best visual effects, but the other nominations were in the technical department.

"Tora! Tora! Tora!" is in documentary style, as we go back and forth between the United States of America and Japan and see the development of events that eventually led to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The film doesn't glorify everything and doesn't leave anything out. It shows the mistakes that each side made as well as what they did and tried to do. The U.S. uses a machine to break Japanese code, the Japanese plans the attacks and so on. The way it's presented though you don't get confused, and you're always wondering what will happen next, even though most of us know our history and of course, knows what actually happens. If you never learned about Pearl Harbor and the events, or forgot or need to know something, or curious for some additional depth on the subject, I really do recommend that you check out "Tora! Tora! Tora!". For you school kids out there, you may want to watch the movie to help you better understand what you're studying*. (*Note: DVDlaunch does not encourage watching a movie to study for a test. Take notes, review your textbook and study hard the old fashioned way!)

What I think is so interesting about "Tora! Tora! Tora!" is that it's not one sided, it cuts back and forth between the US and Japan. Scenes are never really dull and are pretty necessary, as they all come together to tell a very unique (and true) story. What I also think is really interesting how the film had two production teams: an American one for the United States parts and a Japanese one for the Japanese parts. Each do a superb job creating the events and tensions people felt, and I really liked how the Japanese parts are very authentic. They don't speak English, but rather, Japanese and there are subtitles. While not so many movies do that as of late and just have people speak English instead of a native language, I still think it's a nice experience.

There are also some pretty high production values. I mentioned the historical accuracy, but the script is quite intelligent. Things are easy to understand are not dumb-downed for the masses. The direction is really lean and tight, giving that good documentary style I mentioned before. The film also has some breathtaking shots and great editing to give you a sense like you are there, as well as that you're never confused. The cinematography and editing got Oscar® nods. The opening shot, at least I think, is pretty magnificent. As far as the acting goes, it's decent. Nothing too spectacular, but it could have been a lot worse. Still, most of the actors make the roles believable. And the best for last... the special effects. Wow. The battles are a bit later on in the film, but they look quite authentic and pretty real.

If you've never seen it, "Tora! Tora! Tora!" is a very rewarding war movie that you'll probably gain a lot out of. However, Fox recently re-released a special edition, so go for that one.

Presented in the glorious widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1, all I have to say that this THX-certified transfer transfer will drop your jaw to the ground. For a film that's now over thirty years old, the result is really, really impressive. The film starts out a little shotty, but really cleans up. Black level is great, detail is pretty fantastic and hues as well as fleshtones are really accurate, to help bring the documentary-style of the film to full life. However, there are some bits of grain, and the look of the film is a little bit soft and faded. In the end, it's a great clean up that really shows that old films can still look great if given good treatment.

Fox gives us a nifty THX-certified 4.1 track for "Tora! Tora! Tora!" as well as English Dolby Surround and French mono tracks. The 4.1 is pretty much mono spread around, and you can tell the age of the sound due to some pretty low fidelity. I had to crank my speakers up a bit, but as far as the actual track, it really did surprise me. There is some really nice speaker use here, such as with planes flying and the action sequences. The music sounded excellent too. However, I felt there could have been better surround use in some areas and more split surround use, to give a more enhanced enhanced effect, sort of like actually being there. I noticed a few missed times where this could have occurred, but in total, a lot makes up for it with other great sounds to draw you in. More bass extension would have been nice as well, but it does a fairly good job during the action sequences. You'll probably really like this track, and if you don't, you have a choice of English Surround and French mono, as well as Japanese and English subtitles.

You get three Theatrical Trailers. One is for "Tora! Tora! Tora!", and is in full frame and two channel sound. It looks terrible with a lot of grain, dirt and a lot, but it's pretty interesting to see an old trailer compared to so many new ones. It's a little long, and they make it seem like a whole cliffhanger and try to get you intrigued (though you should know some of the answers if you know your history). After so many new trailers, it's a nice change of pace to watch an old one. There's also trailers for "Patton" and "The Longest Day", each in non anamorphic widescreen of 1.85:1 and 2.35:1 aspect ratios, respectively.

The presentation for "Tora! Tora! Tora!" is very well done, however, go with the new special edition. "Tora! Tora! Tora!"is a very well done, balanced, intelligent and entertaining movie. If you like the film, it should definitely go in your collection. If you haven't seen it, be sure to check it out.

(4/5 - NOT included in final score)




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