Stephen reviews: The Sky Crawlers (2008)

skycrawlers_1The Sky Crawlers [スカイ・クロラ] (2008)

Starring Rinko Kikuchi, Ryo Kase, Chiaki Kuriyama, Shosuke Tanihara

Directed by Mamoru Oshii


Sky Crawlers is an odd one. Despite its premise of fighter pilots at war, it is very far from an action film, or even much of a war film. It is a Mamoru Oshii film, and that, perhaps, is the best description you can give it. Like most of Oshii’s films, it is slow and methodical, more concerned with savoring the moment than it is with telling a story. Of course, this is why Oshii’s films tend to be kind of boring. And while I did have a certain amount of interest in what was going to happen, it is a pretty damn boring film.

The biggest hurdle to get over is that the film makes no attempt to explain what’s happening. Sometimes playing it mysterious can help the mood of a story, making you keep watching to find the answers. But if it goes too far — and it definitely does in Sky Crawlers — it turns the film into a dragging, confusing affair that goes nowhere. Even the setting and tone of the film are drab and ponderous. Colors are muted, and the locales have an old fashioned 1950s feel to them, that is if the 1950s were sterile and emotionless. The technology is all over the place. People fly prop planes and watch black-and-white TVs with too much sepia. The pilots live in barracks that looks like a Victorian mansion. Yet they have computers and genetic engineering. The film is described as an alternate present, but that’s about the only time period I am certain it doesn’t take place in.

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Battle Royale (2000)

poster01Battle Royale [バトル・ロワイアル] (2000)

Starring Tatsuya Fujiwara, Aki Maeda, Taro Yamamoto, Takeshi Kitano, Chiaki Kuriyama, Sosuke Takaoka, Takashi Tsukamoto, Yukihiro Kotani, Eri Ishikawa, Sayaka Kamiya, Aki Inoue

Directed by Kinji Fukasaku

Expectations: High.

threehalfstar


From the opening moments, Battle Royale grabs you and refuses to let go. It’s not a movie that everyone will be able to stomach, but for those willing to look past the controversial nature of high school kids being forced into a fight to the death, you will find a film that offers much more than simple violence. I had expected it to be hardcore and unflinching — which it definitely is — but I hadn’t expected there to be a touching story underlying the entire film. That’s more my naivety than anything else, although all I’ve ever heard about this movie was how totally awesome it was. I just always assumed that was referring to the kid violence for some reason.

At the dawn of the millennium, the nation collapsed. At 15% unemployment, 10 million were out of work. 800,000 students boycotted school and juvenile crime rates soared. Adults had lost all confidence, and now fearing the youth they eventually passed the Millennium Educational Reform Act. AKA: the BR Act.

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