Top positive review
"We have awakened a sleeping giant..."
on March 20, 2015
"Tora! Tora! Tora!" is a dramatic re-enactment of the events of December 7, 1941, the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, thereby drawing the United States into World War II. Released in 1970, this is a very good film that's written and produced along the same lines as several other war movies that seek to re-create significant battles with historical accuracy.
The first half of "Tora! Tora! Tora!" recounts how relations between Japan and the United States became increasingly strained, and how this led the militaristic leaders of the Japanese Imperial Government to view the United States Navy as a threat to Japan that must be "dealt a fatal blow."
A central section of the film recounts the brilliant detective work of two American military intelligence officers. They analyzed intercepted and decoded messages from the Japanese government to its embassy in Washington DC and deduced that Japan was about to attack the United States. The scenes in which they arrived at their logical conclusions, and then tried to convince their superiors to act upon their findings, are among the best in the film - taut, suspenseful, and filled with a low-key but palpable tension.
The last forty-plus minutes of "Tora! Tora! Tora!" dramatize the actual attack on Pearl Harbor with stunning realism and historical accuracy. On a warm, sunny Sunday morning in December 1941, Japanese "Zero" fighters and torpedo bombers wreak havoc upon the American fleet, leaving in their wake four battleships sunk and over 2,200 American military men and women dead. The scenes that depict the aerial assault are almost frighteningly realistic, without ever becoming gratuitously violent.
One unique aspect of "Tora! Tora! Tora!" is how it attempts to tell the story of Pearl Harbor from the standpoint of both the American and Japanese sides of the conflict. Japanese sequences are written, produced, and directed by Japanese filmmakers, and acted by Japanese actors speaking in their own language. (English subtitles are provided.) American writers, producers, directors and actors were responsible for all American sequences.
"Tora! Tora! Tora!" is a surprisingly good movie imbued with good writing and acting, well-executed battle scenes, and high entertainment value. How well did "Tora! Tora! Tora!" convey what actually happened on December 7, 1941? Very well indeed, I'd say. It's a pretty good history lesson on the events of that fateful "Day of Infamy. " Highly recommended.