Saturday, September 17, 2011

Lorelei:Witch of the Pacific (2005)

I found out about this film when I stumbled across the trailer. It looked spectacular, and when I finally got to see it, found it was.

(I should probably state that this review has spoilers in it, more than I normally reveal)

The plot of this film changes a few things about the history of the Second World War. Just before the defeat of Germany they gave Japan a prototype submarine with an advanced underwater tracking system called Lorelei. The sub, when used, was known as "the witch" by the Americans because of the eerie singing that was heard after each attack. Just after the first atomic bomb is dropped on Japan the sub is put into the hands of a once renegade captain who refused to go along with the suicide missions that the country had begun to use. Desperate times called for desperate measures and he's pressed into service with a crew of so called misfits. Their job is to try and prevent a second bombing of Japan. Once out at sea it becomes clear that the Lorelei system is based on Nazi genetic experiments and has a human at its heart. Things become complicated when the second bomb is dropped on Japan and through a web of circumstances its believed a third one, aimed at Tokyo, maybe on the way.

This is a rousing submarine tale told from the Japanese point of view. I liked how its not about winning the war rather its about the nobility of surviving and working towards a future. The music is rousing and the action sequences are spectacular. This is a great film to just sit down and immerse yourself in.

As much as I liked it, its not perfect. The problems come in two forms.

First there is a heavy reliance on computer generated effects with many of the surface ship sequences, they look almost unfinished or like something from a computer game. If you accept them for what they are you're golden, if not you may end up driven up the wall.

The second problem is that this film is very convoluted when it comes to the plot. This was based on a novel and I kept feeling like I was missing some of the characters back story. On screen it worked because they knew their background, but in the audience I felt like something was missing. The film also suffers because one of the plot points, concerning one of the characters motivations for setting the story in motion isn't spelled out clearly until its almost in retrospect. Since we're not sure of why this was done, we, or rather I, became confused with what some of the other characters were doing. Its not fatal, but it does lead to several minutes of confusion.

I really like this movie a great deal. There is something wonderful about it that I can't put my finger on. I like that its trying to be a bit more than an action film, that it does have a point of view. I like that it draws you in, shakes up your expectations and makes you care about the characters. (and yea, you can sometimes predict whats going to happen, but so what? rarely can you guess everything, even if you get part of it right.)

I heartily recommend it. If you can take it for what it is, namely a flawed alternate history with uneven visual effects you'll enjoy it. If given the chance give it a try. I don't think you'll hate it, even if you don't love it.

8 out of 10 (purely out of frustration from the sense of missing something)

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