Review: ‘Aegis’

Director Junji Sakamoto punches the clock on "Aegis," a lame terrorist drama set on a high-tech Japanese cruiser. Adapted from a 1999 bestseller by Harutoshi Fukui, pic is another covertly militaristic big-budgeter marking the 60th anni of the country's WWII defeat. Skedded for local release July 30, this won't float in non-Japanese waters.

Director Junji Sakamoto (“Face,” “KT”) punches the clock on “Aegis,” a lame terrorist drama set on a high-tech Japanese cruiser. Adapted from a 1999 bestseller by Harutoshi Fukui — a Nipponese Tom Clancy, whose submarine drama “Lorelei” was a celluloid hit this spring — pic is another covertly militaristic big-budgeter marking the 60th anni of the country’s WWII defeat. Skedded for local release July 30, this won’t float in non-Japanese waters.

An unidentified foreign terrorist — North Korean in the novel, but here with the Chinese-sounding name Yeung Fan — has smuggled a U.S. chemical weapon aboard a Maritime Defense Force escort ship equipped with Aegis, the ultimate defense system. A quart of said chemical can wipe out Tokyo, and it’s left to chief petty officer Sengoku (Hiroyuki Sanada, from “Twilight Samurai”) and a humble rating to save the day. Confusingly structured script, laden with laborious dialogue, generates zero tension, and score by Trevor Jones, along with other production values, is utilitarian. Pic’s underlying philosophical question is whether a military unable to defend its country is “a real military.” It also questions Japan’s “floating” status and lack of identity since WWII.

Aegis

Japan

Production

A Shochiku/Nippon Herald Films release of an Aegis Associates production. (International sales: Dentsu Tec, Tokyo.) Produced by Shohei Kotaki. Directed by Junji Sakamoto. Screenplay, Yasuo Hasegawa, Kenzaburo Iida, based on the novel by Harutoshi Fukui.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Norimichi Kasamatsu; editor, William M. Anderson; music, Trevor Jones; art director, Mitsuo Harada. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (market), May 14, 2005. Running time: 126 MIN.

With

Hiroyuki Sanada, Akira Terao, Koichi Sato, Kiichi Nakai.
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