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A hagiography of Yamamoto, painted in pink, sugarcoated and passing under silence all embarassing elements...
on 25 October 2012
This is a very disappointing film about a great and eminent man and leader of men. Life and achievements of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, Commander-in-Chief of the Combined Fleet of Japanese Imperial Navy from August 1939 to April 1943, deserved a much better film than this sugarcoated propaganda.
The film is not entirely without merits. In its first half it shows very accurately Yamamoto, in his quality of Deputy-Minister of Navy and later Commander-in Chief of Combined Fleet, as a very lucid adversary of Japanese imperial expansion. Yamamoto indeed objected both against the war in China in 1937 and the joining of Tripartite Pact, feeling that those developments would cause an unavoidable conflict with United States - a war which he knew pretty well Japan had only limited chances to win. In taking very openly this stance he put his life at great risk, but never changed his mind. His courage and moral integrity were never in doubt and by insisting on this aspect this film does a good job.
Yamamoto as caring husband, loving father and loyal friend is also well shown in the first half of the film. His insistance on modernisation of the fleet and especially its carriers and planes and also his strict refusal of suicidal missions are also truly described. Finally, his correct appreciation of disappointing results of Pear Harbor attack, Nagumo's early retreat and moral effect of declaration of war delivered AFTER the attack took already place, all those elements are true and they are well shown.
If only this film could have kept this quality level for all its duration, it could be an excellent and precious thing. Very SADLY, the second part, beginning as soon as attack against Pearl Harbor ended, has hardly anything to do with history any more and is so abysmally bad, that it ruins the whole film.
It is since a long time an established consensus that past the first stage of conflict (after the triumphant Indian Ocean Raid in March and April 1942, not shown in this film) Yamamoto completely mismanaged the war - but you will not see ANY of those enormous errors in this pretty long film. You will certainly not see anything about the big mistake which was sending of only three carriers, divided in two groups, for operation against Port Moresby, allowing therefore Americans to engage them at battle of Coral Sea which was a bloody and messy draw, particularly costly for the Japanese.
You will not see anything even suggesting how terribly bad was Yamamoto's battle plan for the Midway campaign, which made certain that admiral Nagumo would have to fight Americans with only four carriers out of eight available. In order to absolve Yamamoto of all responsibility, this film prefers to blame some mysterious "secret" orders received by Nagumo from some unidentified official (most probably Admiral Nagano, Chief of Imperial Navy General Staff) before the battle.
Even worse, this film shows Yamamoto as a monument of stoic calm when during the battle of Midway he received news that "Akagi", "Kaga" and "Soryu" were hit and burning - in real life Yamamoto moaned in grief and almost collapsed, before suffering a complete meltdown during which he issued lots of completely absurd orders. Possibly the worst amongst those orders was the one sending four heavy cruisers (Cruiser Division 7) to shell Midway, without any air cover. After a couple of hours Yamamoto finally recovered his sanity and cancelled his orders - but it was already too late... As the result, heavy cruiser "Mikuma" was sunk by American planes with the loss of 700 men from her crew and her twin, "Mogami", was crippled and lost 90 more killed...
Things get even worse for Guadalcanal campaign, which was abysmally mismanaged by Yamamoto. His tendency to divide forces and his refusal to commit most of his battleships (and especially his hoarding of "Yamato", "Musashi", "Nagato" and "Mutsu" for some unspecified future "decisive battle") led to the situation in which Americans, who in autumn 1942 in the Pacific still were weaker than Japanese, could become STRONGER on the Guadalcanal front - and as result they won this long and bloody campaign... But you will not see even a hint at it in this film...
Yamamoto's death on another hand was shown rather skillfully and truthfully. It is also a moving scene, as it should be...
There are other weaknesses in this film. CGI's are not very good and especially "Yamato" is shown in a very disappointing way. Battle scenes are rather pathetic and the way battle of Midway is shown is simply ridiculous. Actor playing admiral Tamon Yamaguchi looks 20 years too young - and definitely nothing like this gifted and brave commander looked in real life. Yamamoto never seems doing any real work or giving any real military orders - he just naps, plays some Japanese board game, eats sweets, jokes with his men and occasionally hugs little girls (I almost expected him to get a puppy or save some kittens from drowning...).
Dialogs in second part of the film make frequently no sense at all, but it may be partly because of weak English subtitles, which are by the way full of errors - at Midway we can hear about fighters being armed with torpedoes(!), we hear names of warships which never existed, etc.
So bottom line, I believe that this film is a failure and is unworthy of such a great man. Because even if admiral Yamamoto proved to be finally a rather poor strategist and an even worse tactician, he certainly was a courageous and noble man and he deserved to be shown in all his human complexity, with his strengths and flaws. Instead, makers of "Admiral" opted mostly for a sugarcoated, worshipping hagiography - and as result they failed to produce a good film.