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  Fukushima 50 It Costs A Bomb
Year: 2020
Director: Setsuro Wakamatsu
Stars: Ken Watanabe, Takumi Saito, Koicho Sato, Mark Chinnery, Tomoro Taguchi, Justin Leeper, Yasuko Tomita, Masane Tsukayama, Masako Hagiwara, Narumi Yasuda, Shiro Sano, Yuri Nakamura, Keisuke Horibe, Riho Yoshioka, Yuta Kanai, Hidetaka Yoshioka
Genre: HistoricalBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: March 2011, and in Japan the nuclear power station at Fukushima appears to be running perfectly until there are tremors and then a full-blown earthquake which cuts power significantly. The head of the plant, Masao Yoshida (Ken Watanabe), thinks he can cope with this upset and starts ordering his staff to limit the damage, but they have reckoned without the second wave of disaster: a literal wave, as a tsunami builds off the coast of the facility. Although the staff manage to escape too much injury, the buildings are not so lucky, and that includes those housing the reactors which are badly damaged when the electricity goes down. Now Yoshida must try to keep the reactors cool despite there being no obvious way to do so - and devastation is looming.

The Fukushima disaster was heard around the world, one which could have been a Japanese Chernobyl had it not been for the quick thinking of the plant's workers who made an already dangerous situation into one that did not escalate into the deaths of the local community, and even further afield. That the world was holding its breath as this went on did not escape the makers of this fictionalisation of the event, which funnily enough did have aspirations to be a Japanese Chernobyl, if you meant that miniseries about the Soviet-era calamity, though Fukushima 50 (named after the workers who saved the day) remained more relevant as a project to play to Japanese audiences rather than an item that would travel successfully around the globe.

Not that it was bad, it was more that its combination of patriotic cheerleading for the ordinary Japanese citizen and the ire it reserved for those in political authority would always be more relevant to the citizens of The Land of the Rising Sun - and true to form, this did end with an actual rising sun under the end credits. It was very broad in its delivery, with little room for subtlety, therefore not as satisfying as, say, The China Syndrome which was an obvious antecedent and was indeed referenced in the dialogue. That said, the media presence was largely ignored with Watanabe in the Jack Lemmon role, though meeting a different fate as we were told with not a shred of irony that his character, and more than that the man he was based upon, was nothing less than a true hero for his management of what could have been far worse.

Not that it was a walk in the park as it was, and there are still stories about the radiation damage emerging from that part of the world to this day. Director Setsuro Wakamatsu conjured up some appropriately harrowing imagery, such as the opening tidal wave, or the snow bringing with it a form of nuclear fallout to land on the town, though at times he was restricted by his budget and some of this was more at home with the sequences of tense conversations in offices and the control room than it was staging spectacle. Most of the blame went on the Government of the day, the unnamed Prime Minister portrayed as a ranting buffoon whose insistence on visiting the disaster area did more harm than good since they could only proceed once he had left for safety. As an account, this was tersely delivered until they could resist sentimentality no more, and with the strains of Danny Boy (?!) on the soundtrack, Wakamatsu aimed for the tear ducts, yet did not really succeed, something off a misstep to close. It was generous to the Americans, however, even with the atomic bomb allusions. Taro Iwashiro provided the music.

[Available on the Altitude.film website. Click here to watch.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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