Tora! Tora! Tora!
By Sean Axmaker
"Sir, there's a large formation of planes coming in from the
north, 140 miles, 3 degrees east." "Yeah? Don't worry about
it." This is just one of the many mishaps chronicled in Tora! Tora!
Tora! The epic film shows the bombing of Pearl Harbor from both sides
in the historic first American-Japanese coproduction: American director
Richard Fleischer oversaw the complicated production (the Japanese
sequences were directed by Toshio Masuda and Kinji Fukasaku, after Akira
Kurosawa withdrew from the film), wrestling a sprawling story with dozens
of characters into a manageable, fairly easy-to-follow film. The first
half maps out the collapse of diplomacy between the nations and the
military blunders that left naval and air forces sitting ducks for the
impending attack, while the second half is an amazing re-creation of the
devastating battle. While Tora! Tora! Tora! lacks the strong
central characters that anchor the best war movies, the real star of the
film is the climactic 30-minute battle, a massive feat of cinematic
engineering that expertly conveys the surprise, the chaos, and the immense
destruction of the only attack by a foreign power on American soil since
the Revolutionary War. The special effects won a well-deserved Oscar, but
the film was shut out of every other category by, ironically, the other
epic war picture of the year, Patton.
Tora! Tora! Tora! received an Academy Award
for Special Visual Effects (A.D. Flowers, L.B. Abbott). Tora! Tora! Tora!
also received Academy Awards nominations
for Cinematography (Charles F. Wheeler, Osami Furya, Sinsaku Himeda,
Masamichi Satoh), Film Editing (James E. Newcom, Pembroke J. Herring,
Inoue Chikaya) and Sound (Murray Spivack, Herman Lewis).