A big-budgeted Japanese action pic based on a popular novel by Tetsuo Takashima, Midnight Eagle addresses the notion that war is avoidable if countries refuse to establish national armies. Given Japan’s post-WWII situation, it’s a relevant issue, but the larger one that arises during Izuru Narushima’s film is whether a country without a military force or culture has any means of properly making a movie about covert military intrigue. Certainly, this clunky, monotonous work suggests that such a feat is impossible, given that every one of its battlefield shootouts and armed-forces strategy sessions comes off as phony. This artificiality has a distinctly ‘80s feel to it, what with the countless melodramatic moments shot in slow motion and scored to cheesy synthesizer music. Yet after early hints of potential Schwarzenegger-ish goofiness, Midnight Eagle settles into near-complete torpor. The trifurcated story focuses on a jaded war photographer (Takao Osawa) attempting to locate a downed American stealth jet with an active nuke in the Japan Alps, as well as his sister-in-law’s (Yuko Takeuchi) journalistic investigation into a secret agent related to the aircraft’s crash, and the prime minister’s (Tatsuya Fuji) stern hand-wringing over the crisis. Narushima has a competent visual eye but his film has serious pacing issues, squandering all sorts of time on drawn-out conversations over dilemmas that wind up being resolved through convenient and/or preposterous means. Unfortunately, the alternative to this talkativeness is action that’s staged without coherence or flair, meaning that the entire shebang is a washout any which way you cut it. Eventually, shameless manipulation and bountiful corniness become standard operating procedure. However, as this tale winds down—very, very slowly—to a faux-heartrending show of courageous self-sacrifice, the dominant impression left is one of filmmakers making things up as they go along.
- 131 min
- Izuru Narushima
- Yasuo Hasegawa, Kenzaburo Iida
- Takao Osawa, Yuko Takeuchi, Hiroshi Tamaki, Eisaku Yoshida, Tatsuya Fuji, Sayaka Kaneko, Kazuki Namioka, Hiroki Sahara
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