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Archive for October 25th, 2012

Umizaru (2004)

14 men who are the best Coastguard Officers in their region decide to become search and rescue divers – one of the most difficult and dangerous jobs in the world. The training facility has the task to weed out those not deemed good enough for the job as the training is tough and unforgiving. Each of the men has a reason to want to become a diver – if it’s not because its a prestigious position then it’s for other shallow goals such as the divers always gets the nice women! Training Supervisor Taro Minamoto who is battling his own personal demons after losing his diving partner whilst on assignment during his younger days is the man who will sort out the men from the boys. Daisuke Senzaki is a confident man who already holds a diving licence and the training people think he is likely to be a candidate who will pass the training without a problem. Each diver is assigned a “buddy” and in Senzaki’s case he is given a rather weak person in Kudo. Their initial diving training tasks together are fraught with failure as Kudo makes countless mistakes. His peers don’t think he’ll be able to complete the training. This leads to Senzaki and Kudo being humiliated by Minamoto and they have to do pressups etc for failing. It also irks another one of the 14 men – a rather cold guy named Mishima who thinks that Kudo is holding up all of them. However with Senzaki pushing and encouraging Kudo he begins to improve. But tragedy is about to strike the team and Senzaki’s spirit is going to be shaken to the core. Will he carry on with his training or will he quit?

Based on the manga of the same name, Umizaru (Sea Monkeys – a derogotary name for the trainees by people) is what some critics have called the Japanese Coastguard version of Top Gun and with good reason as well. A lot of the plot does mirror that of Tom Cruise’ movie. It’s a good though predictable story behind the training routine of search and rescue divers who have the unenviable task of mostly retrieving dead bodies from capsized ships. It’s also a passage of rite movie and about overcoming the odds both physically and mentally to claim the right to become a rescue diver. The training scenes are pretty interesting to watch and I had no idea before this movie what this entailed. It’s no surprise that it involves a lot of hard work and the failure rate amongst recruits is very high. According to the story, only 1% of all men who apply pass the training to successfully become a rescue diver. The first half of the movie is a mixture of drama and comedy as we follow the recruits who are all a bunch of likeable characters at work and at play but after the tragic event that happens around halfway through the story the mood changes as the men realise what the harsh reality of being a diver is all about especially during the final task they have as trainees when an accident occurs at sea which threatens Senzaki and Mishima’s life. With air running low for the duo and a rescue helicopter arriving too late, it’s up to Minamoto and the recruits to seize the initiative to save their teammates. The movie has a little bit of everything from comedy to drama and some romance. Maybe it’s just me but the whole romance aspect of the movie was unnecessary and only distracted you from the main plot. The whole cast performed admirably and in Hideaki Ito you have a hero you want to succeed and someone for the ladies to swoon over. The bond between the trainees and the ‘team building’ you witness was great. A cheesy tune you’ll hear a couple of times during the movie is Journey’s Open Arms. Why the filmmakers put this cringeworthy song in this movie I’ll never know but it’s inclusion is a mistake.

Umizaru was a huge success on it’s release and to date a TV drama series and 3 movie sequels (the latest one came out in July 2012) means the franchise has become very popular in Japan. It wouldn’t surprise me to see other movies coming out in the years ahead. Having already seen Umizaru 2:Limit of Love many years ago I look forward to watching the third movie soon. Despite some corny scenes which will make you either groan or laugh, it is still a very enjoyable ‘feel good’ movie to watch. Recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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