The Nipponese quest for national honor is tinged with doubts about patriotism in WWII submarine drama “Sea Without Exit.” Per template set by aircraft carrier drama “Yamato” and kamikaze movie “For Those We Love,” pic offers thrills and nationalistic fervor without any sense of wartime guilt. Below-water scenes are mildly exciting, but the above-sea-level yarn is sudsy and dull. Film did OK business when it surfaced in Nipponese theaters late last year, but has since submerged without trace.
Pic opens in 1943 as a Japanese sub, armed with new torpedoes, is attacked by a U.S. ship. The silence required to avoid enemy radar creates some tension, and also conveniently allows crew members to flashback to their college years, when a shared passion for baseball between future shipmates Koji Nimiki (Shinosuke Ichikawa) and Katsuya Kita (Yusuke Iseya) raised nationalistic eyebrows. Script subsequently follows up on Nimiki’s family and both guys’ military training, but the plot, co-written by vet director Yoji Yamada, rarely rises above the schematic. Helming and perfs are solid but unremarkable, though tech credits are watertight.