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I fear all we have done is to awake a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve—Admiral Yamamoto
Tora! Tora! Tora! is a 1970 film telling the story of the attack on Pearl Harbor from both the American and Japanese perspectives. Unusually, the film was made by two almost independent units -- an American unit directed by Richard Fleischer, and a Japanese unit directed by Kinji Fukasaku. This technique would be repeated with its pseudo-sequel Midway. The original idea was to blend the two stories seamlessly, until Fleischer realized it would be better to let the two halves retain contrasting styles.
The film is noted for being remarkably even-handed in an era in which war movies were often gung-ho and treated the Germans/Japanese as disposable Mooks at best and Always Chaotic Evil at worst. It may have helped end that era.
It was filmed before CGI was invented. The scenes of the bombing of Pearl Harbor were among the most complex ever successfully attempted before CGI; specially modified American planes "played" Japanese aircraft, and real explosions were choreographed.
Tora! Tora! Tora! is a member of the "historical" school of war movies, alongside The Longest Day, A Bridge Too Far and The Battle Of Britain. The filmmakers didn't use the bombing of Pearl Harbor as a backdrop to a fictional story; the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the events leading to it, in their full sweep, is the story.
Compare Pearl Harbor.
- Anachronism Stew - Mostly averted, aside from some modern ships in the harbor...but when the Japanese aircraft fly over the island en route to the harbor, they memorably fly over the huge white cross erected at Schofield Barracks to commemorate the people who died in the attack they are supposedly about to make.
- Armchair Military - The US top brass seem very reluctant to act on intelligence.
- Truth in Television. The US military of the time didn't believe the Japanese could actually mount a successful attack on the Pacific Fleet. They even ignored Claire Chennault's good intelligence on the now-infamous A 6 M Zero fighter, saying that an aircraft with such capabilities was impossible. Even directly after the attack, the top brass, soldiers, and even many civilians thought the Japanese only managed to carry out the attack with German help.
- Awakening the Sleeping Giant: Trope Namer, and Admiral Yamamoto's memorable closing lines when he hears that America learned of the attack before they could deliver their official declaration of war.
- Backed by the Pentagon - The armed forces let the filmmakers do extensive location work and numerous large scale action sequences on active military bases, even allowing the producers to build a partial replica of the USS Nevada at Battleship Row. Some scenes even had real-life military personnel in bit parts and as extras.
- Battle Epic
- Beam Me Up, Scotty: It makes for a great movie line but there is no evidence that Admiral Yamamoto ever said the "sleeping giant" quote commonly attributed to him.
- Captain Obvious - Justified. Someone angrily pointed out the window during the attack as proof to one of the Obstructive Bureaucrats there was reason to be concerned about an attack.
- Curb Stomp Cushion - The Japanese achieve total surprise in their attack on the American military installations, and the ensuring fight generally proceeds the way you'd expect it to from there, with some notable exceptions, including planes shot down by anti-aircraft fire, and a small handful of American fighters making it into the air to shoot down some of the attackers.
- Enforced Method Acting - A radio-controlled aircraft was supposed to roll down the runway past a bunch of extras, and then blow up. It went out of control and swerved toward the extras, who then really did start running for their lives.
- Every Bullet Is a Tracer - Inverted, oddly enough. There was tracer fire at Pearl Harbor, but not in this movie.
- Fighter Launching Sequence
- Flat Character - One of the problems pointed out in reviews is that few of the people portrayed in the film get any backstory or character definition. Most of the main protagonists can be described in single words (Admiral Kimmel is worried, Admiral Yamamoto is brooding, and so on). The fact most of them are wearing military uniforms makes it hard to distinguish who's supposed to be who anyway unless you've studied the attack fairly thoroughly.
- Foregone Conclusion - Textbook example.
- Good Smoking, Evil Smoking - Related to Flat Character. You can tell that Admiral Halsey is a no-nonsense badass because he spends a high-level Navy briefing chewing on and waving around a big ol' cigar.
- Hollywood History - Largely averted, as the film attempts to portray real events realistically.
- Imperial Japan - arguably their finest hour, for a given value of "finest",
- Lost in Transmission - Numerous examples, mostly Type 1a.
- One Sided Battle - Except without the heroes showing up to save the day.
- Poor Communication Kills - Admiral Stark dithers instead of informing Kimmel of the Japanese ultimatum.
- Reality Is Unrealistic - the DVD Commentary goes into some detail on a few real events left out of the movie simply because they seemed too over the top to have actually happened.
- This Is Not a Drill - When the news of the attack starts to filter through.
- No surprise at this. The real attack was the Trope Namer.
- This Means War - Obviously.
- Unspoken Plan Guarantee - It seems as though the film averts this, given the apparent success of the plan, but Yamamoto admits they didn't get the key targets, and of course the line about the sleeping giant.
- Admiral Nagumo (as the actual commander of the fleet at the time of the attack) originally admitted that (not the sleeping giant line) and expressed regret at not destroying the military infrastructure in Hawaii along with the battleships and hangars. Somewhat understandable since it was likely the aircraft would be flying back in the dark, and no navy had really developed procedures for nighttime carrier landings at the time.
- It would have made no difference in the long run if he had. Never pick fights with major industrial powers.
- Weapons Understudies - Then-modern (but still 40s or 50s era) missile destroyers and frigates playing smaller ships in the harbor during the attack. Rebuilt American prop trainers as the Japanese aircraft. Late model B-17s portraying earlier models. In a nice touch, however, the destroyer escort playing the USS Ward had her hull number repainted to match Ward's for the film.
- World War II - Of course.
- You Are in Command Now - Happens during the attack, but none of the instances are specifically shown.