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Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Frank Sinatra hit the director’s chair for this standard-issue WWII film about a Japanese unit left behind on a nameless Pacific Island until they get crashed by a planeload of American troops. It’s a gimmick, but a useful one: how does war play out in a vacuum?; can an ad-hoc truce hold once the men restore communications?; who wants to be the asshole on the atoll? A neat premise for a helmer like Sam Fuller, Robert Aldrich or Don Siegel, but not, alas, Sinatra whose attention wanders alarmingly. He gives himself the showy role (he’s Francis the Medic!) and he also gives himself the big dramatico scene (an anesthesia-free leg amputation on a wounded Japanese). And damned if he doesn't handle it effectively, largely in a carefully composed mastershot. But too much of the staging is perfunctory, with action sequences that don’t ‘read’ and lazy line-ups straight across the screen. The Japanese actors come across well enough, but the American contingent is plumb awful. By the time we hit the big insanity-of-war climax, it all feels like one big set up.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: If you turn the subtitles on for the Japanese dialogue, it gives you subtitles for everything, Japanese and English. Annoying. Why not watch it without them for that Mystery-of-the-Orient effect like in the old SHOGUN mini-series.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Clint Eastword's WWII two-fer, FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS/'06 and LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA/'06 tackles the WWII East/West POV in epic fashion.

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