Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) Poster

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One of the best WW2 movies ever.
ljcjpjlj21 October 2004
Tora! Tora! Tora! has long been a favorite of this WW2 buff. Considering I have had 34 years to study and learn about the war since the film first was shown, I still maintain it is almost unbeatable in terms of realism and historical accuracy. An added attraction for me has always been it's total lack of a love interest. Unlike the recent "Pearl Harbor", T!T!T! is not complicated by any silly love stories. While by recent standards the movie may seem slow paced and plodding, the details of the events leading up to the attack is gratifying to see and actually educational. The attack action is thrilling, well paced, and in its use of models, actual planes and other equipment,is extremely realistic with few distracting anachronisms. Be aware that this is definitely not a movie to watch if you are in a hurry.
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"Why Are The Winds And The Waves So Restless?"
stryker-531 January 1999
On Sunday 7 December 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy launched a surprise attack on the US Pacific fleet in its moorings at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. At the time, no state of war existed between the two nations. An ingenious pre-emptive strike, as the Japanese 'hawks' saw it, was condemned by the world as one of the greatest acts of treachery in modern history.

"Tora! Tora! Tora!" meticulously traces the build-up to Pearl Harbor by examining the diplomatic, military and intelligence events and developments on both sides. The film is unimpeachably even-handed, telling both sides' stories simultaneously, and interleaving the Japanese and American versions with intelligence and an almost total absence of jingoism.

Japan's warmongers considered their country to be trapped by history and geography. As the industrial nations surged forward in terms of prosperity and military might, Japan was in danger of being outstripped, having few natural resources of her own. If Japan was to compete with the USA and USSR, she would have to 'reach out' for the raw materials available in southern Asia and the Pacific, but this would mean confronting the USA, the great maritime power in the Pacific.

The film explains all this very well. We learn that the Japanese have an age-old tradition of striking against their enemies without warning, and that air superiority is the new doctrine. The brilliant Japanese planners such as Genda (played by Tatsuya Mihashi) have grasped the lessons of the European war and know the vital importance of naval air power. By 1941, battleships have become a liability - slow, lumbering dinosaurs which invite attack and cannot defend themselves against aircraft. The way forward is mobile air power, and that means aircraft carriers. If the Japanese can catch the American carriers at Pearl Harbor and destroy them, then the war will be won before it has properly started.

The Americans take a fateful decision to send out their carriers on reconnaissance missions. This strips Pearl Harbor of protection, but paradoxically ensures that Japan cannot win the war - no matter how spectacular the success of the surprise attack, the mission will fail if the US aircraft carriers survive.

Throughout the build-up, the Japanese navy chiefs such as Yamamoto (So Yamomura) have a snippet of classical Japanese poetry on their minds: "If all men are brothers, why are the winds and the waves so restless?" They take this to mean that it is the rule of nature for man to attack his fellow man. By the end of the film, Yamamoto has abandoned this view and now believes that "We have aroused a sleeping giant, and filled him with a terrible resolve."

The film catalogues the accidents and mistakes which combined to make Pearl Harbor a worse disaster for the USA than it need have been. American aircraft are bunched together in the middle of the airfield in order to reduce the risk of sabotage near the perimeter fence, but this helps the Japanese bombers to destroy them on the ground. Radar equipment cannot be placed in the best locations to give early warning, and in any event the radar data are misinterpreted when they predict the attack. Because the attack falls on a weekend, it is difficult for middle-ranking officers to contact military and political chiefs, and the contingency plans are inadequate. Radio Honolulu broadcasts through the night to guide a fleet of B-17's to Hawaii, inadvertently acting as a navigation beacon for the Japanese warplanes.

If the painstaking build-up to the attack is a little slow and ponderous, it is certainly epic in scale, and when the action erupts it comes as a mighty climax. The tension is palpable as the Japanese planes take off from their carriers, black against the ominous dawn. What follows is a breath-taking cinematic coup as Pearl Harbor is ravaged.

Verdict - A historical account of almost documentary accuracy culminates in vivid action scenes. A marvellous film.
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If you really want to know what happened...
mermatt10 June 2001
...see this film.

Whether you want to waste time seeing Brucheimer and Bay's self-indulgently long PEARL HARBOR with its totally extraneous fictional romance -- that's up to you. But whether you see it or not, the real history of the human stupidity on both sides of the Pacific that created the attack is clearly portrayed in TORA! TORA! TORA!

The new DVD edition has insightful commentary by the director plus a documentary about the attack. This film is tensely paced and displays and excellent cast. The Jerry Goldsmith score is kept to a minimum but is very effective. The special FX for the attack are all the more impressive considering they were done before the advent of computer generated FX such as those in PEARL HARBOR -- and they equal those of PEARL HARBOR.

If you want to know the real story, see this film and then also check out the companion stories in FROM HERE TO ETERNITY, DESTINATION TOKYO, and THIRTY SECONDS OVER TOKYO.
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Excellent, if not one of the best documentary style movies of all time, as told from both sides, of the event that plunged the United States into the Second World War.
grafspee7 December 2004
This movie reigns supreme over it's 2001 version Pearl Harbor which is really a fictional love story confined within a true conflict. Tora Tora Tora is based on actual events leading up to this avoidable tragedy, notably the bureaucratic bungling and complacency from the top down which allowed the Japanese attack to succeed.

Throughout this well done production, the story in true chronological sequence shifts between the two opposing sides with full subtitles giving the role played by each leading actor.

The viewer is given a clear concise unfolding of events with the part of the code-breakers importantly emphasized.

The attack is quite breathtaking in parts with several scenes closely resembling or being actual footage taken.

Ironically the breaking of the Japanese naval code by U.S. Intelligence gave the Americans every opportunity to correctly contemplate the next move of their adversary, but a desire for utmost secrecy by the Roosevelt Administration and the top brass of the Navy and Army restricted the transmission of clear and proper communications necessary for the Pearl Harbor commanders, Admiral Kimmel and General Short to make sound objective judgments regarding their respective commands.

Both men were treated shabbily by their superiors in the aftermath of the attack, were relieved of their command, and for decades thereafter had to endure the shame and responsibility placed on them in allowing this occurrence to happen.

This movie does a lot to exonerate them from their part in this terrible disaster.

P.S. I had the great honor of meeting bugler Richard Fiske personally, (USS West Virginia) with a colleague of mine when we visited Pearl Harbor in March 1997, (plus autograph),and had our photo taken with him. It is one of my enduring photos of this great sailor who gave his time unselfishly as a volunteer survivor, at the base, to give two second generation Australians the respect of knowing that we met a man who belonged to a nation which contributed to the success of winning the Pacific War.
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An underestimated epic
the2belo27 February 2002
I have not seen the movie _Pearl Harbor_; nor, for that matter, do I plan to. I do not personally care for films that warp an important historical event to suit a formulaic date-flick format (a certain travesty involving a big steamship comes immediately to mind). If I go to the movie theater to watch a historical account, then that's what I want to see. _Tora! Tora! Tora!_ is exactly that, and more; it very nearly puts you right in the middle of the conflagration.

It continues to be a source of total wonder for me that _Tora! Tora! Tora!_, a movie made nearly thirty-two years ago, is so expertly presented. The reason for this is twofold: usage of lesser-known character actors to keep plot distraction to a minimum, and the usage of vintage working ships and aircraft to keep the realism to a maximum. These two elements merge together to produce what amounts to a cameraman in a time machine filming the actual events on site.

Since this was a collaborative effort between both US and Japanese film studios, the numerous switches between scenes will give you a good look at the differences between directing (and acting) styles. I am constantly amazed at the boldness of the content for a film released in the US during the Vietnam War, and only 25 years after the Pearl Harbor attack itself; compared to the rather wooden Martin Balsam and Jason Robards, Takahiro Tamura's Lt. Commander Fuchida is replete with a charisma I would never have expected from The Enemy. The Japanese side of the tale is laid before you so well that one is sent into the minds of the people involved, a rarity for American war films. (Sometimes it goes a little bit over the edge -- Admiral Yamamoto's comment "I know [the Americans] are a proud and just people" is a mistranslation -- but the general mood is accurately conveyed overall.)

And then there is the beautiful and sometimes chilling scenery. The attack scenes themselves are eye-popping and brazen enough -- an awesome effort given the technology of the period -- but my personal favorite scene is the Japanese lead strike force's departure from their aircraft carrier. Those of you who purchase the DVD version of the movie should crank up the volume at this point. This is a piece of film that most probably can never be shot again: REAL aircraft flooring their REAL engines and taking flight from a REAL ship of war, against the backdrop of the early dawn, one after another, until the sky is alive with what looks like waves and waves of warplanes. Although the aircraft and ships used were modifed American stock, the flags, uniforms, and color schemes are all authentic... resulting in a spine-tingling spectacle of Japanese pilots plunging headlong into what was ultimately a disastrous mistake. They are depicted as human beings, as they should be.

It is an astoundingly accurate presentation of a dark moment in history for both the US and Japan, free of pretense, pandering to the audience, big-bucks megastars, lovey-dovey sappiness, and computer-generated pixels. You don't *need* any of these things to create a fantastic movie; all you need is history, which we all know is stranger -- and scarier, and more engaging -- than fiction. _Tora! Tora! Tora_ should be in every movie fan's library.
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"I fear we have only awakened a sleeping giant..."
wandering-star24 February 2007
I just finished reading a great book on the history of Japan in the Second World War, "Rising Sun" by John Toland, and decided to watch Tora! Tora! Tora! again.

This is a great movie and immaculately accurate down to the last detail, such as how the Japanese trained for the attack on Pearl Harbor at Kagoshima City on Ryukyu Island. The book describes how the pilots in crews of three, zoomed down over the mountains behind the city, over the pier, and dropped torpedoes at a breakwater 300 yards away. The movie had all these details. Throughout, it was accurate even down to the exact wording of communications and quotes from the various people involved.

I loved how the Japanese directed the Japanese parts and vice versa for the Americans. It really told both sides of the story.

Technically as a film though, it has limitations. Some of the models used are kind of cheesy, but some are actually pretty good. But hey, it was 1970, this is before Star Wars even. And a lot of the acting is pretty wooden.

If you're looking for great special effects, and not much substance, see Pearl Harbor. If you're interested in the story, the "why", and figures involved in this historic event, definitely see Tora! Tora! Tora!.

Better yet, read the book I referenced above - it won the Pulitzer Prize and you won't be able to put it down - and you will be spellbound by this movie knowing all the background and reasons for the Japanese attack, and all the details about the characters.
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Extremely Faithful
skallisjr5 May 2005
I can review this from a different perspective: my father was a Coast Artillery officer in the U. S. Army stationed at Fort Kamehameha, abutting Hickam Field, when the attack took place. He had his family with him, so my mother, my sister, and I also were involved. I was pre-kindergarten at the time, but have a good memory. Naturally, I've read extensively about the attack since.

Speaking personally, the attack in the film sounded real, though our mother kept me and my sister inside for much of the attack (we had to go outside to get evacuated from our quarters).

But that aside: the film mirrors historic events closely. However, (possibly a minor spoiler or two follow) there were some little points that had been added for the audience's sake.

The MAGIC machine, which was breaking the Japanese PURPLE cipher, did not have to be explained to either officer, but one did, so the audience would get the drift of what was happening. (The actual machine was the greatest cryptological feat of World War II, greater than Enigma, because it was developed from scratch by Frank Rowlett under the direction of William Friedmann.) The film was based in large part from the books of Professor Gordon W. Prenge, an historian who specialized in Pearl Harbor. Prenge interviewed many of the principals in the action, on both sides, and became friends with several.

This is the best film on Pearl Harbor. I got tapes for my mother and sister, both of whom shared my reaction to it.
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How It All Began
Sargebri18 February 2003
This is one of my favorite war films. What makes it so great is that just like "The Longest Day" this film looks at the events that led up to and during one of the most momentous moments in the history of not only this country, but Japan as well. I also loved the acting in it. Martin Balsam and Jason Robards should have been nominated for their performances as Admiral Kimmel and General Short, respectively. Also, I wonder how much different it would have been if Akira Kurosawa had directed the Japanese scenes as he originally was supposed to. I also wonder if the fact that it dealt with one of the darker chapters in American history had something to to with its poor box office showing on this side of the Pacific (ironically, it was a box office smash in Japan). However, it is still a great film and I especially loved it at the end when Yamamoto made his famous comment "I fear we have awakened a sleeping giant and filled him with terrible resolve." How right he was.
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As a Professor of History...
Jetman52525 April 2003
It never ceases to amaze me that people know as little as they do about their nation's past, even when Hollywood mostly propagates myths.

"Tora" does not mean "kill" in Japanese. It means "Tiger" (Prange, Gordon W.,"At Dawn We Slept", New York: Putnam, 1981.)

This movie was one of the better dramatizations of the Pearl Harbor debacle, focusing more on the miscommunications and errors in judgment shown by the military leadership in Hawaii. Also covered is the pure luck the Japanese First Air Fleet had. Left out, mostly because it had not yet become publicly available, was the information that the White House, the State Department, and the upper echelons of the military kept from Admiral Kimmel and Lieutenant General Short. Both of these men were made scapegoats for failing to protect their commands from attack, while being deprived of the information they really needed to do so. (Stinnett, Robert B. "Day of Deceit", New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000.)

Still, this is a vastly better movie than the recent farce made by Michael Bay. It was no more an accurate portrayal of Pearl Harbor than Ghostbusters was factual.
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Codename: Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!, the best recreation ever...
jlpicard1701E21 July 2004
Some of you younger movie-goers, may only know of "Pearl Harbor".

Forget it!

If you want to have the actual story of what "really" happened on December 1941, then you have to go back to this movie made in 1970.

"Tora! Tora! Tora!" is a vision from both sides of the coin, not just the American one.

"Pearl Harbor" is more a love story in its context and has only one vision, the unilateral and unnecessary patriotic American one. This is not history as it should be told.

"Tora! Tora! Tora!" was the codename given by the Japanese fleet to its carrier pilots to start the attack on Pearl Harbor.

This is far less a shooting war movie, than an actual historic recreation of facts happening on a certain month, week, day and moment in 1941.

Everything is told, from the bureaucracy involved (slow at that, as usual), to the actual military decisions on both sides and on the ground.

The attack, when it comes, is a majestic recreation that, once watched side by side with the actual documentary footage available, makes you realize that were it in black & white, one could not distinguish its differences. That's how accurate it is!

Expenses were not spared at all in doing this recreation. The aircraft used are all faithful reconstructions (a rarity!).

All the actors involved (American and Japanese) have played their roles with outmost accuracy and sense of drama.

The watcher is taken in and left wondering "what next", even if he already knows the story. Not a moment passes in boredom.

This is another fine movie I would recommend for schools and war museums.

It is a movie for thinkers, not warmungers, and it is certainly not one for those who always love to wave flags around.

In other words, this is history, told at its best.
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Superbly done
grahamsj37 February 2005
This film tells the story of the attack by the Japanese Navy on an unsuspecting Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The film is balanced insofar as it's perspective, being told from both the Japanese and American sides. The storyline begins pretty much with the decision by the Japanese government that, unless negotiations with the United States were to take a decidedly different direction, there would be no choice but to go to war. It then follows the planning of the attack by Admiral Yamamoto and his staff. Concurrently, it shows that the negotiations between the two countries was not going well at all (from the Japanese standpoint). Depicted are, sadly, the absolutely dreadful decisions made by the US Commanders at Pearl Harbor, the ignoring of evidence that an attack was imminent, the lack of coordination in communications that resulted in huge delays in receiving crucial information and, lastly, ignoring the incoming Japanese raiders after they were spotted on American radar on their way in. The actual bombing and combat footage is very well done. The acting is superb by the entire stellar cast. Overall, if you want to know how a tragic event came to be, this film will explain it. It is historically mostly correct, although some artistic license was taken, for sure. Overall, an excellent production!
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Solid History.
j-d--113 August 2005
In pure movie terms, this film is pretty light. As a historical drama it is almost perfect. Based on Gordon Prange's book of the same name, the film draws on Prange's 30 years of official USN research to draw some interesting and thought-provoking questions about the mistakes made by both sides in the lead up to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

For the history buffs it even raises some questions which are not part of most people's understanding of how and why it happened the way it did. For the general public it puts all the basic points of the attack into one neat, interesting package. Some characters have been combined and events changed slightly to aid production but nothing of any real significance is altered.

The Japanese sequences were originally intended to be directed by the great Japanese director Akira Kurosawa but when the producers realised that those parts alone made up four hours of screen time, the trouble started and Kurosawa was replaced. The acting is solid but unremarkable, as one would expect from a film of this type.

The battle sequences are, for the most part, beautifully done. The producers spent cubic dollars converting old trainers to look like Japanese fighter and attack aircraft and succeeded brilliantly. Only the real oficianados can tell them apart. The flying is fantastic and it looks brilliant against the Hawaiian scenery.

About the only thing missing, and probably a salient reason for its lack of real commercial penetration, was the lack of a love angle.

By contrast, it is amazing to me that "Pearl Harbor", made some 30 years later, was so bad in comparison. Had the producers actually watched this film before making such a turkey, they might have actually learned something. "Tora, Tora, Tora!" is a film which could be shown to any history class with few concerns as to its authenticity. "Pearl Harbor" should never be shown again.

Considering the amount of information which had to be conveyed in such a small amount of screen time, "Tora, Tora, Tora!" is remarkably successful.
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Excellent history film
gettysburg_photos25 February 2007
I'll begin my review of Tora! Tora! Tora! by quoting several negative lines from other reviews on here....

1. It's just that it takes too long getting there. I've never before been in the position of wanting American ships to hurry up and sink; it meant the movie would be over that much faster.

2. This movie had great actors, was shot on location for much of it and contained some very interesting history. However, it wasn't a great film, rather it was pretty flat for the first hour and a half.

3. It went into too much detail.

4. Tora! Tora! Tora! is three parts boring history and one part action movie.

End of quotes.

One of Hollywood's greatest problems in making historically accurate films is, many viewers have the attention span of a three-year-old. If they can't stomach an hour or two of history in a film I'd hate to see how they'd handle reading a book.

Tora! Tora! Tora! is a masterpiece in film making. The events leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor are just as important as the attack itself. Without the former you can't have the latter. If you enjoy history and don't need events to happen right this instant, it's a must see.
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A Date Which Will Live In Infamy
bkoganbing14 August 2007
The real story of Pearl Harbor may have begun in 1853 when a squadron of U.S. frigates under Matthew C. Perry forced open the isolationist Tokugawa shogunate that governed Japan to take a reality check and open trade with the outside world. In less than 100 years Japan became an industrial power, every bit as formidable as any western country and was able to attack the country that forced it open.

Our Far eastern foreign policy from then until 1941 was simply trading concessions with both Asian powers, Japan and China. When they became rivals in Asia we and other countries had to choose up sides. Alternately we favored China and Japan, but in 1941 U.S. sympathies in Washington and in public opinion was favoring China.

The island chain of Japan is notoriously lacking in natural resources. Even the United Kingdom which it is often compared to has deposits of coal and iron and that created the British steel industry. Japan has to import and in the age of imperialism, they became every bit as imperialistic as any of our western countries, maybe more so because their need was greater.

Note during the film of Tora Tora Tora it is remarked that the U.S. Fleet in Hawaii was like a dagger pointed at Japan. When the island country of Hawaii was formally annexed to the United States and the Phillipines acquired after the Spanish American War at the end of the 19th century we became rivals in the Pacific to the Japanese. And imagine if the Japanese who were most anxious to annex Hawaii themselves had done so. The dagger would have been at our West Coast. Of course the poor Hawaiians had little to say about any of this.

All that has to be factored into what you are seeing in Tora Tora Tora. That and more is what led up to the events that are meticulously recorded in documentary style. Unlike the later film Midway which spoiled a good account of the battle with a personal story, Tora Tora Tora does not waste any of the viewers time in that regard.

The participants are there in all their flaws. Admiral Husband Kimmel who made the fortunate choice of sending out the aircraft carriers which was an act that may have eventually won the Pacific War for America is played by Martin Balsam. Nevertheless he took the fall for the attack as did Chief of Naval Operations Harold Stark played by Edward Andrews.

One very luckless man was Army commander in Hawaii General Joseph Short played by Jason Robards, Jr. who was in real life in the Navy and at Pearl Harbor. Short made the fatal decision to put all the aircraft at Hickam field in the center of the field because he was afraid of saboteurs. The better to bomb them from the air.

Three members of FDR's cabinet are portrayed, George MacReady as Secretary of State Cordell Hull, Joseph Cotten as Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, and Leon Ames as Frank Knox the Secretary of the Navy. Franklin Roosevelt being the wise leader he was and knowing that our eventual entry demanded bipartisan support chose a pair of Republicans in Stimson and Knox. Would that our current president had that kind of foresight.

George MacReady who usually portrayed polished villains is a good guy here and has one of his best screen moments as the Japanese envoys are ushered into his office AFTER the attack has begun to issue Japanese diplomatic demands.

Tora Tora Tora should be shown in schools as a great piece of well acted documentary film making if that's not a contradiction in terms. It won an Oscar for Special Effects which are out of date compared to the later Pearl Harbor movie, but still done well. Catch it if you can by all means.
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Excellent history lesson for a more mature viewer
gary-stedman9 June 2003
Interest in this film has obviously risen since the the release of the recent 'Pearl Harbour', and comparisions are unavoidable. While I'm not going enter into another round of 'Pearl Harbour' bashing (it is, after all a rather spectacular piece of rubbish!), it must be said that 'Tora Tora Tora!' is a far superior piece of film making. featuring battle scenes that would reappear in countless WWII war movies.

Aimed at a mature and intelligent audience, Tora Tora Tora is the definitive account of America's entry into WWII, and does, to its credit, show the Japanese reasons for the assault. It's near, documentary style may not appeal to the modern 'MTV' style viewer, but keeps your interest throughout. A ominous tension builds slowly, prior to the assault that is well delivered.

A excellent epic, from a generation of films that it is unlikely will ever be produced again.
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samos13 November 2002
My father and I saw the Virginia premier of "Tora! Tora! Tora!" We were there as a guest of my father's best friend (a Pearl Harbor survivor). There were a lot of Pearl Harbor survivors at that premier.

I remember the survivors talking about how accuratly the attack was presented. They also talked about some of the inaccuracies (mostly uniforms and aircraft) but overall they thought it was great. Many grown men cried as they remembered fallen comrads.

I'm still impressed with the special effects. Several postings have complained about how "fake the backgrouds" looked. I've been to Pearl Harbor and the movie was actually filmed there.

There have been comments about the lack of suffering shown. Even if it had been filmed the studio would not have released it. Combat footage from World War II is shown on the History Channel today couldn't been shown in the theaters or TV when I was growing up (the 50's). It was considered too graphic for public consumption!

FOX had to build the full-sized battleships that you saw in the movie. They weren't computer generated images (CGI). Actually, they only built one that stood in for all the other battleships. There wouldn't be another massive shipboard set built along that scale until James Cameron's "Titanic".

The models of the ships (both U.S. and Japanese) built were also done on a large scale.

They had to assemble a fleet of flying Japanese aircraft (they modified existing surplus U.S. Navy and Air Force trainers) and rent real B-17s and P-40s. Those planes you see up there on the screen are real. Many of those "Japanse" aircraft are still flying and can be seen at Air Shows across the nation.

Whereever possible, the exact locations of the attack were used. In at lease one case, a hanger that was scheduled for demolition was destroyed in the filming of the movie.

It's much better than "Pearl Harbor".
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No False Glory Here
patrickf5 June 2001
A fascinating film - and remarkably even-handed for a World War II epic. Pearl Harbour is shown as an American debacle, and a terrible Japanese mistake. Having read a number of books on the subject ("Day of Infamy", "At Dawn We Slept" etc.) I believe this is the most accurate depiction of the events. There is an incredible tension in watching fallible human beings - not plastic heroes - cope with momentous events. In some ways it reminded me of "13 Days"(2000), but without it's successful conclusion. Richard Fleischer has had a spotty career but this is one of his best, combining his documentary-realistic style (as in "The Boston Strangler"(1968), "Compulsion"(1959), "10 Rillington Place" (1971))and his taste for spectacle (as in "The Vikings" (1958)). Fukasaku"s work I am not so familiar with, but it can be compared to sympathetic treatments of the Imperial Army by other Japanese directors- Ichikawa's "Harp of Burma"(1956) and Kobayashi's "The Human Condition"(1959). There are a number of British and American war films that attempt to show the Japanese troops as more than "Tojo and his band of bug-eyed monkeys" (a quote from a John Wayne film), such as Lean's "Bridge on the River Kwai"(1957), John Boorman's "Hell in the Pacific"(1968), and Spielberg's "Empire of the Sun"(1987).Just as "TTT" was criticised for it's even-handed approach, so too were these films. Here in Australia, the Pacific War also causes much angry debate, mainly due to the Australian POW's who died in Japanese captivity, & the Japanese bombing of Darwin (our Pearl Harbour). I think "TTT" was unpopular at the time for another important reason. "TTT" was a film about an unprepared world power - the USA - being defeated by an underestimated and implacable Asian foe in a daring sneak attack. "TTT" was released 2 years after the Tet Offensive (1968) in the Vietman War, and must have seemed uncomfortably close to home. Hollywood in the late 1960'& early 1970's, shied away from films depicting the Vietnam War (too divisive, too downbeat, too controversial etc.), but were OK on films set in another time tackling similar themes and questions. Films that are obvious metaphors for Vietnam include: Altman's "MASH"(1970)(Korean War as Vietnam War); Penn's "Little Big Man"(1970)(Washita River as My Lai, Little Big Horn as the Tet Offensive); Robert Wise'"Sand Pebbles"(1966)(1920's China as Vietnam); Ralph Nelson's "Soldier Blue"(1970)(Indian Wars as Vietnam) and even British films like Tony Richardson's "The Charge of the Light Brigade"(1968)(Crimean War as Vietnam). I guess people can only watch so much defeat, which is why "Patton"(1970) was welcomed. Even though it begins with an American catastrophe (Kasserine Pass), it ends in victory.
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Near perfect in its attention to detail.
MartinHafer30 August 2014
While not every detail is perfect, I really appreciate how the makers of some historical movies try very, very hard to get it right. In contrast, many war films (such as "Midway") are shoddy when it comes to the details--such as using stock footage of planes or tanks which didn't even debut until well after the battle. And, very, very few war films try to explain the events leading up to it. This drives ex-history teachers like me nuts! However, "Tora! Tora! Tora!" is an amazing film because they tried so hard and the film feels so complete. Of course the filmmakers had to make a few adjustments--such as converting American T-6 airplanes to look a lot like Japanese planes and recreating Japanese ships because they'd all been lost during WWII. But they TRIED--and I appreciate that. And again and again, the film stresses details--details that might bore some viewers but make history nuts salivate!

So why am I giving this movie a 10? After all, I almost never give such a score to a movie. In addition to the two huge pluses above, the movie excels because it does not burden itself with superfluous love stories (such as in "The Battle of Britain") nor does it give way to sentiment. It is almost like an actual recreation of events as they unfolded-- brought to the big screen in epic fashion. All in all, probably the best war film of all time because of its attention to detail, scope and accuracy.

Apparently, Roger Ebert HATED this film for the reasons I loved it. He hated the detail and wanted to have the characters fleshed out more-- like a typical Hollywood production. I didn't mind its documentary-like style and as a certifiable history nut, it's the sort of film I adore!
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More docu less drama, but quality mostest
Kakueke18 November 2001
"Tora Tora Tora" is my favorite war movie, and objectively one of the best documentary-style accounts of an historical military event. Told equally from the Japanese point of view (actually, more), it reflects a joint Japanese-American effort to stage the events leading up to Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor and the attack itself. Martin Balsam plays Admiral Kimmel, supported by a good cast portraying the key U.S. figures, but closest to a central personality (there really is none) is Admiral Yamamoto (So Yamamura), the architect of the strike. "Tora" contrasts his views on naval/air strategies with those of the Japanese "Old Guard", and emphasizes his doubts about the notion of war with the U.S.

From the American side, apart from Kimmel and U.S. Army General Short (Jason Robards), the principal characters are decoders Colonel Rufus Bratton (E.G. Marshall) and Lieutenant Commander Alvin Kramer (Wesley Addy) -- actually, in both cases, more so than Short. "Tora" gets straight to the point -- no good love stories ("From Here to Eternity") or inane ones ("Pearl Harbor") get in the way. The only mention of the subject comes when Kramer, as the ability to trust anyone is being questioned, is asked whether he trusts his wife, and states, "as a matter of fact, I do." Good, let's get down to business.

Unlike in the plastic "Pearl," in which "oil" is the 10-second explanation for the bombing, the Japanese are treated in depth. The warlike spirit is shown, but Japanese are not all saber-rattling fanatics, and are willing to consider peaceful alternatives. Aside from Yamamoto, important figures are strategist Admiral Genda; naval task force leader Admiral Nagumo; and air strike leader Lt. Fuchida. I won't bother to name other Japanese actors, but suffice it to say none is Toshiro Mifune; for whatever reason, many (including myself at one point--well, I was once his neighbor in Tokyo) seem convinced he is in "Tora."

"Tora" being chiefly a chronicle of military facts, there is no appearance from symbols of state President Roosevelt, though his advisors figure prominently, and Emperor Hirohito, and only a brief one of hawkish Prime Minister Tojo; his predecessor Prince Konoye, whose desire not to have war with America is eclipsed, is given more focus. The issue of Roosevelt's advance knowledge was rudimentary in 1970, and is not the sort of thing the film sought to treat anyway. Amen, read that last clause again, those who criticize unfairly some aspects of the movie.

Kimmel is portrayed more sympathetically than Short, who comes across as somewhat brusque and brassy and makes a major strategical error by keeping U.S. planes together in the airfields to guard against sabotage in Hawaii by Japanese locals. From the navy's viewpoint, problems were perceived, but a principal difficulty was simply that there were not enough ships to go around, aside from the problem of generally underdeveloped mechanisms of defense, such as radar. However, the movie also shows, more subtly, that Kimmel was not up to the task.

The earlier part of "Tora" focuses on piecemeal strategic points without completely tying them together. However, there is much to cover, so it is difficult to provide contexts and explanations for everything. What we do get is presentation of the most important strategic issues, and America's unpreparedness. As the time of the attack approaches, "Tora" takes advantage of its better opportunity with events, as opposed to strategies: the Japanese submarine, the radar warning, the telegram, other communications failures, bad luck with weather. It clearly sets forth the near-term facts behind America's failure of prevention--just tell us what happened. But ultimately, the biggest blunder is on the Japanese side, separate from the attack itself. Admiral Yamamoto's and Admiral Halsey's contemplations fittingly wind down the dramatic recreation of the shock and surprise of the attack.

There are beautiful scenes of Hawaii, too; indeed, "Pearl" edges out "Tora" only in sunsets. The sea and blue sky, islands and mountains, Hawaiian music at military clubs. The Japanese planes take off in dark early dawn, nice aura, then a striking rising sun precedes beautiful dawn settings and the attack.

Sorry to be so narrative, but to do so is fitting in reviewing this very narrative movie. There are no dash and elan, no good guys or bad guys, and in fact, no protagonists or antagonists. Expressions of anger are not terribly intense and are fleeting, no intense passions are worked up. The closest thing to a hero is Colonel Bratton, whose importunations to accept his warnings are legitimized only too late.

"Tora" turns the trick for viewers with a more straightforward than sensationalistic approach who want to see a good, intelligent story; uncontrived people; an excellent extended battle staging yet no cheap special effects; no blood and gore; good flow. I am a big fan of "Lawrence of Arabia," and tho I ultimately see all its scenes as justified, I admit it had moments of drag, in both the first and second halfs. Some people think "Tora" drags at times, but it never drags for me. Besides, it is much shorter than "Lawrence" and many other epics. Fair enough, some simply do not like this type of movie as much as I do. But the attack on Pearl Harbor itself is one of the most dramatic events in military history and certainly U.S. history, and that helps carry the day. Geopolitics, strategy, unpreparedness, codebreaking issues, miscommunication, before a war, then a sneak attack -- John Wayne not needed.

10 out of 10.
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THE Pearl Harbor Movie
possumopossum8 December 2006
This definitely beats PEARL HARBOR all to pieces. I remember when this movie first came out in Birmingham. It was advertised as a special event, you had to special order tickets for it. My mother and I went to see it on a Saturday afternoon, and, even though I knew what was coming, I was kept on the edge of my seat the whole time. Based on the books THE BROKEN SEAL and, if I'm not mistaken by a book of the same title as the movie, it tells the story of Pearl Harbor very well, from all the events leading up to the attack to the day of infamy itself. This is not historical fiction, this does not try to juice things up with a tear jerker love story. This is an unsentimental, meticulous look at actual events leading up to the attack as told from both the American and Japanese perspectives. Jerry Goldsmith's score to this movie is the most emotionally gripping I've ever heard. For soundtrack buffs, it's available on CD, on a double bill with the soundtrack to PATTON.

I have seen several movies about the attack on Pearl Harbor. There is PEARL HARBOR (which is a piece of crap), IN HARM'S WAY, and FROM HERE TO ETERNITY. There is even a Pearl Harbor sequence in THE WINDS OF WAR. These latter three movies are good, in fact I have DVDs of IN HARM'S WAY and FROM HERE TO ETERNITY, as well as TORA TORA TORA. But this is by far the best of the lot and it gives you the straight scoop without any politically correct BS thrown in. One emerges from this film emotionally drained, as you feel the fury of watching our airplanes getting bombed while trying to take off. Your heart aches as you watch a lone American airplane in a dogfight with a whole squadron of Japanese fighter planes. An excellent film. 10 out of 10. I don't give that lightly, either. By the way, check out the cinematography as the Japanese planes take off from their aircraft carrier. It is absolutely beautiful watching the sun rise while those planes are taking off one by one.
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Do you have confirmation?
marbleann13 November 2005
I haven't seen this movie is years. I actually have it on DVD and never watched it. But Fox played a few war movies on Veterens Day and I watched it again. First I love war movies. Not the soapy Pearl Harbor type movies, but a real nuts and bolts war movie. On seeing this movie for a second time a I noticed a lot of things I didn't see the first time. Little thing like the submarine trying to sneak into Pearl Harbor and how our ship saw it and blew it up. I never knew that happened. And the aftermath in which a call is made to the base commander and all he can say is ask for confirmation because these things happen all of the time. I wanted to smack him. It is incredible how a lot of middle men actually prevented word about the attack getting to the right person. Such as the guys who pick up a plane formation heading for Pearl Harbor and the men who received the message just brushing it off, and not conveying it to the correct person. Or how the Wesley Addy character had to run around DC trying to talk to anyone who would listen to no avail. Or the man who has direct access t the Commanders after getting concrete evidence and decides not to call the commander at Pearl Harbor but wants to run it by the President first. It is amazing how middlings actually held the fate of PearL Harbor in their hands and blew it. I also admire way they show the Japanese perspective. I love movies like that because it shows that the other side are soldiers like we are and are committed to their cause too, right or wrong. It humanizes them as it should. All Quiet in The Western Front was one of my favorite novels and movies because it was told through the eyes of a very young German recruit. I see how they are all psyched into going to war as they do here to young men and when they fight they see this is not what they signed up for. There was no side stories, thank you, because they ruin all war movies. This is a very good war movie. And it gave us a inside view of the steps leading to the Attack. I would recommend this to anyone who wants to see good movie about Pearl Harbor without an foolish love story or side stories.
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Still the best and not challenged by "Pearl Harbor"
markcarlson222218 January 2007
I've been watching this film since I was ten years old and it had just come out. I was fascinated then, and not even a military history buff as I am now. but over the years, I've come to appreciate an effort well-done. On the scaled of this film, to have built full-scale mockups of Nagato and Akagi and huge models of Arizona, Nevada, West Virginia, and all the rest is stupendous work and it really shows in the finished film. My comment, based on having seen that turkey "Pearl Harbor" which from this point on I shall refer to as PHew, one can really understand the difference between full scale models and CGI for special effects. Sure CGI can give filmmakers incredible abilities to create anything they want and make it do everything, but it's so obvious that CGI is used, it's very transparent and forgettable. The blowing up of USS Arizona in TTT was far and away more stunning and realistic than a computer-generated one in PHew. Remember 'Titanic?' A real, full-scale ship is what did the trick and made it come to life. PHew was a waste of film and money, and an insult to the men and women show survived and died that December day. As for the few shots of 'John Finn' the intrepid lone machine gunner who shot down a Zero and damaged others at Kaneohe Bay NAS, the depiction is a bit off. Finn wasn't behind a sandbag revetment, and he wasn't bandaged up during the fight. How do I know? John Finn is my neighbor, here in East County San Diego and I've talked with this fascinating old veteran many times. Even at over 96 years of age, he's sharp and interesting to talk to. He too, prefers TTT to PHew. BIG surprise. This film also shows a cautious, reluctant Admiral Kimmel (Martin Balsam) and acerbic General Walter Short (Jason Robards) as being unable to save their commands in the weeks prior to the attack. They had tried to be prepared, but failed to take the right action, despite their correct intentions. Washington's diplomats, politicians and senior military are depicted as being complacent and not taking the threat of Japanese aggression in the Pacific seriously. This is partially true, and FDR is said in some accounts to have been holding back on critical information which could have warned of the impending attack. History is still debating this. But the truth is, Kimmel and Short were made the scapegoats for the attack. They didn't deserve that fate, and I see them as casualties, just as the more than 1,200 other men and women killed that day. Soh Yamamura, who portrayed Isoroku Yamamoto, does a credible job of handling the role of a man who was targeted by US forces during the war as the leading villain in the attack. Yet he wasn't totally in favor of such action. He was forced by the General staff, particularly Hideki Tojo, to hit the American fleet and keep the US out of Japanese aims in the Western Pacific. Yamamura's brooding scenes give the admiral emotional weight. BTW, did anyone notice not one of the P-40 fighters flown by Lt. Welsh or Lt. Taylor flew in the streets of Honolulu? And they didn't bring down the entire Japanese Naval Air Service? Funny thing, even though it's not as visually exciting as PHew, it's far better and more believable. My feelings about this film are this: It's not perfect, but no one has ever done better since. Nine out of Ten.
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An understated film that is better than the sum of its parts.
Eternality29 October 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Michael Bay ought to be digging a hole large enough to hide himself from embarrassment. Moreover, he should bring along a portable DVD player, and the Tora! Tora! Tora! video along into the dugout. The original version directed by Richard Fleischer puts Bay's remake on Pearl Harbour to shame. There are several obvious reasons to it.

Historical accuracy is very important. And that is where Tora! succeeds. The film provides a factual, chronological account of the day of Infamy. The story follows faithfully to the events (from both American and Japanese perspectives) that unfolded in a straightforward (but sometimes boring) manner. Another major factor is the focus. Tora! does not dwell on distracting subplots, such as a love story, to move the film along. The slow pacing of the film in the first half needs improvement though.

While none of the extensive cast gives a stellar display, the technical aspects of the film surely steal the show. With visual effects still in its infancy, the recreation of the actual attack on Pearl Harbour can be summarized in one word - 'Spectacular!'. Realistic (although less exciting than Michael Bay's version) and absorbing enough to make any viewer gaze in awe, and admire how filmmakers could achieve that much in the early 1970s. Tora! Tora! Tora! is an understated film that is better than the sum of its parts.

SCORE: 8.5/10 ( All rights reserved!
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How a war movie should be made...
ptl016813 February 2010
MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS Right from the off, this is one of the most realistic war movies ever made. Taking a neutral stance and showing both sides of the conflict is a masterstroke. Weaving both viewpoints seamlessly is also another great aspect of this film.

The acting on both sides, Japanese and American is top rate. They just don't make them like Martin Balsam and Jason Robards any more - both give top performances.

The non-CGI effects are amazing once the action gets underway - some of the stunt men look in genuine danger as they escape the flames and explosions.

Forget 2001's Pearl Harbor which was a turkey by any stretch of the imagination - this is the definitive 7th December 1941 movie.
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