Naruto Shippuden: Bonds is the second Shippuden anime film and the fifth Naruto film in total.
In a rather spectacular homage to the 2001 Pearl Harbour film, Bonds starts with the Hidden Leaf Village coming under attack by Shinobi from Land of the Sky, a country that was thought to have been destroyed by the Leaf during the Second Ninja World War. As bombs rain down upon Konoha and its inhabitants tries in vain to save the village, Naruto encounters the mysterious old doctor Shinn' and his young apprentice, Amaru, who has come to ask for help for his village, which has also come under attack from the Land of Sky. While the Hidden Leaf Village deal with the Land of Sky attackers at sea, Naruto, Sakura and Hinata head of with Amaru and Shinn' to help the village and discover the true plans of the land of Sky. Meanwhile, a sickly Orochimaru gives Sasuke the task of finding this doctor and the secrets that he keeps...
As far as the story goes it is badly executed, with far too much information presented and little detail to go with it. While the overall pace of the film is good, you can't help but to feel like scenes were missing. Many of the characters motivations and reasons for actions are given little explanation, and often fall in to anime cliché territory. The main disappointment however comes with the lack of Sasuke/Naruto interaction. The film is commonly billed as being a reunion of sorts between the two and an interesting look at their troubled `bond'. In reality, Sasuke gets very little screen time and this so-called reunion only truly takes place twenty munities or so before the end of the film. Even then, it has impact is smaller than I would have liked. It is almost as if the writers added this sub-plot late in to production! I understand that this may not be `canon' material, and as such it can't have that much of an impact on the main relationships or the story, but it feels like little effort was made in to even try and explore this side of the plot. The Bleach film, Diamond Dust Rebellion, managed to pull off a great character story without ruining the series plot or direction, so it is possible had it been given more merit and/or time.
With all that being said, there are some good points about the story, as the central theme of `bonds' is well handled and fits perfectly with the show and its core principal of friendship. It even leads to a surprisingly emotion conclusion. It's also nice to learn a bit more about the world of Naruto and its different Lands, something that seems to happen more in the filler series/films then in the central story itself. It is never full stated where in the anime series it takes place, but I would highly recommend that it should be watched after the Sasuke and Sai Arc (Which ends after around episode 53 of Shippuden) as in the film Naruto and Sasuke have obviously already had their first reunion since the original series and Sai appears haveing a small, but cool, part to play in the fight against the Land of Sky.
Naruto makes for an enduring hero as always, while Sasuke steals every scene he is in. Amaru unfortunately is a badly writing character who could have been handled much better. As with many characters who encounter Naruto during the filler-eras and previous films, Amaru ends up being nothing more than a character written specifically with a similar orphan/master-apprentice background for Naruto's benefit and little else. Shinn' is better handled, having an interesting personality and set of powers, but unfortunately his motives become quickly lost and stereotypical of overall role in the film. Sakura also get little to do in the film, as usual, while Hinata (Who acts as this films third Team 7 member) was obviously put in only because she is popular with the fans, given how she also adds very little to the film. It's a shame, because both Sakura and Hinata are great characters and are often overlooked in all Naruto media. A wide array of supporting characters from the series appear with some, like Ch'ji and Yamato, only having brief cameos while others, like Sai and Shikamaru, enjoy more limelight and even some fun battles.
A weakness of the anime series is that the pacing can sometimes become lost or incoherent due to overlong battles, especially when compared to the likes of Bleach. Luckily this isn't something that has not passed on to the film, as the action never feels too long or boring. For the most part they are well choreographed, even if the powers are nothing particularly unique. The animation on Naruto has never been one of its strong points, but the film dose look wonderful, especially on Blu-ray, while the character designs and environments are well created and executed.
The English dub is ok, but as usual I would recommend the original subs as they always feel more authentic and hold more emotion. As per usual with most Naruto releases, the film has little in terms of extras. There is the usual production artwork (Which I do always like), movie/anime trailers and a special opening them. It's always a shame that there is never any behind the scene features, even if it was form the dubbing team it would have at least been something!
Naruto Shippuden: Bonds is a solid and fun addition to the movies, but one that ends up feeling rather disappointing given what it could have been and promised. It could have been a wonderful examination of the bond between Naruto and Sasuke and an interesting look at the Land of Sky, but it ends up being disappointing on both points.