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DVD Review

DVD cover

The Sinking of Japan


Starring: Kou Shibasaki, Mayuko Fukudo and Tsuyoshi Kusanagi
RRP: £15.99
Certificate: 12
Available 08 March 2010

Following the destruction of the Japanese city of Numazu, scientists discover that the plate which supports the Japanese Islands is slipping beneath the sea and will take the whole of Japan with it. Their initial estimate of thirty or so years turns out to be an incredible blunder when they discover that they have less than four hundred days. As the last days of Japan is played out the Islands are torn asunder from within and without...

Sinking of Japan (Nihon Chinbotsu, 2006 - 2 hrs, 14 min, 31 sec) is a Japanese disaster film directed by former FX director Shinji Higuchi. The film is in fact a remake of the 1973 film, which in turn was based on the novel by Sakyo Komatsu.

The premise, that the whole of Japan will disappear, sets the film apart from other disaster movies. For the most part, unless we're dealing with the end of the world, people can usually get to higher ground, or at least have a chance of rebuilding their civilisation. Not so in this movie. Faced with the total and utter destruction of their culture and way of life, Higuchi chooses to show a country less in panic than in resigned depression.

Like most films of this genre the movie is split into two parts - the inevitable destruction that audience love to watch and the more human stories that try and make us care.

For the destruction this is effective and unnerving. I say unnerving because, although no less effective than its Hollywood cousins, there is an underlying sorrow which pervades these scenes, which is a refreshing change to the ugly body count of 2012. Where many American films glory in their destruction this film looks on with all the sorrow of a real event.

What is less successful about the film is the entangled love stories. Now this might be just a personal choice but when the whole film has built towards Toshio Onodera (Tsuyoshi Kusanagi) going off to certain doom for the love of a good woman (Reiko, played by Kou Shibasaki), when she finally rides through hell on a motorcycle to throw herself into his arms for the last time the last thing you want to hear from the soundtrack is a very cheesy song. This spoils the whole ambience.

This is where the film really falls down with its human element which makes it hard for the audience to care what happens to them. There are a few political undertones to the film, which may mean more to the Japanese. When they discover that the whole nation will disappear, their first thought is of evacuation, only the film gives the impression that the government is finding it very difficult to get other countries to accept refugees. There are also references to America selling stock to make a profit out of the disaster, I’m not sure if this is how they think of themselves or us.

The DVD is a bare bones affair with no extras at all. The film is in Japanese with burned in subtitles. Audio comes in either - why would you bother 2.0 or a pretty effective 5.1 track and the film looks to be in the original 2:35 aspect letter boxed ratio.

So what we have here is some jaw dropping special effects with a so so attempt at a human story. Well that’s pretty much every disaster film I've ever seen.


Charles Packer

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