Midnight Eagle, a Japanese import about two journalists who get caught up in a race to retrieve a nuclear bomb, opens today in New York and later in the year in Los Angeles. Overall, the movie is quite good, albeit with a few plot holes.
After an American Stealth Bomber crashes into a Japanese mountain, two journalists set out to discover exactly what happened. With a blizzard brewing, the journalists make their way up the mountain, only to find that they have walked themselves into the middle of a war between Japanese and North Korean soldiers, who want the bomber's cargo for themselves. All but cut off from the Japanese government, the two men have to face the realization that they may not make it back alive - and that it may be up to them to save millions of Japanese civilians.
Midnight Eagle is a quality adventure-drama. The production values of director Izuru Narushima's film are top notch and rival some American-made films. Technically, the film looks great, with terrific editing and cinematography. Much of the movie takes place at night, and Narushima handles the bleakness of the snowy setting quite well. Most importantly, the movie feels like an American film with Japanese actors.
The story is quite good, though it could have taken a more exciting angle. The movie is more a drama than an action movie, even though there are several action sequences. This is clearly intentional and I don't fault Narushima and the writers for this approach, though it is a bit frustrating to see how with a little more care to the action, they could have made a much more thrilling and ultimately engaging picture. The action scenes come and go without much setup or afterthought, and it doesn't appear that Narushima is very skilled at building suspense. He never really shows or explains how the characters escape each gun battle, and given the fact that the journalists don't have weapons for most of the movie, he doesn't establish plausibility when it comes to their ability to constantly escape North Korean soldiers. The action scenes could have been developed much more, and Narushima could have taken better advantage of the film's setting; the mountain, remoteness and blizzard never seem to play much of a threat; had the characters been forced to struggle against the mountain and North Korean soldiers at the same time, Midnight Eagle really could have been something. Still, while Narushima builds nearly zero tension, the movie is relatively entertaining and easy to watch.
Midnight Eagle does suffer from a few plot points, mostly little things that just nag at you. I won't go into all of them, but again, it's never explained how the journalists avoid the North Koreans when they would be so easy to track. The avalanche sequence is quite absurd. Why don't the Japanese or the Americans just blow up the plane - destroying the nuclear bomb would not cause a nuclear explosion. What happened to the pilots? If the plane is an American plane, how come the Americans don't send anyone immediately to retrieve the bomb - or rescue the pilots? It's little things like these that glare at you while watching an otherwise decent film.
Midnight Eagle could have easily been a lot more exciting, and the screenplay doesn't go as far as it needed to tie up all the loose ends, but the movie is still a moderately good picture. Narushima's direction, at least from a dramatic perspective, is quite good, and I look forward to seeing his future projects.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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