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Godzilla Minus One (12A)

Cast: Sakura Ando, Minami Hamabe, Ryunosuke Kamiki
Genre: Action
Author(s): Takashi Yamazaki
Director: Takashi Yamazaki
Release Date: 15/12/2023
Running Time: 124mins
Country: Jpn
Year: 2023

Former kamikaze pilot Koichi Shikishima returns to the smouldering ruins of Tokyo where Allied bombs have killed his parents. To numb his survivor's guilt, the pilot clears mines from waters surrounding Japan aboard the Shinsei Maru, captained by Yoji Akitsu. He also provides safe harbour for a homeless woman named Noriko and her adopted daughter. When Godzilla makes land, Koichi vows to avenge the fallen.


LondonNet Film Review

Godzilla Minus One (12A) Film Review from LondonNet

To mark the impending 70th anniversary of Godzilla’s first rampage across the big screen, which lit a fuse on the longest continuously running film franchise in history (as recognised by Guinness World Records), award-winning writer-director Takashi Yamazaki revisits first sightings of the behemoth – or kaiju – in a battle royale on land and sea. Punctuated by visual effects sequences overseen by the filmmaker and Kiyoko Shibuya, Godzilla Minus One pits a ragtag group of former Japanese military men against the might of a dinosaur-like predator empowered with a heat ray following nuclear tests on Bikini Atoll…

Yamazaki wreaks large-scale devastation on a low budget including an attack on the Tokyo district of Ginza, where train passengers tumble to their demise as Godzilla rips carriages from tracks and decimates buildings that survived the air raids with angry swishes of its tail. Nationalistic fervour flows through the veins of an old-fashioned script that manages to be both spectacular and dramatically intimate, witnessing the rise of the hulking beast through the eyes of a chosen family of wartime survivors, who epitomise the resolve of the Japanese people. Inconsistent performances and uneven pacing undermine some of the quieter moments as characters wrestle with post-traumatic stress disorder but the titular terror is majestic throughout, with clear potential for Yamazaki to return to this monster-laden universe.

In 1945, opposing forces of the Second World War play their final hands and kamikaze pilot Koichi Shikishima (Ryunosuke Kamiki) lands on Odo Island off the Japanese mainland, claiming a technical malfunction with his aircraft. Before Koichi can complete his mission and restore his honour, Godzilla rampages across the military base, killing everyone except for the airman and Imperial Japanese Navy mechanic Sosaku Tachibana (Munetaka Aoki). Koichi eventually returns to the smouldering ruins of Tokyo where Allied bombs have killed his parents.

To numb his survivor’s guilt, the pilot clears mines from waters surrounding Japan aboard the Shinsei Maru, captained by Yoji Akitsu (Kuranosuke Sasaki). He also provides safe harbour for a homeless woman named Noriko (Minami Hamabe) and her adopted daughter (Sae Nagatani). “It’s a bit late to play the hero,” angrily remarks neighbour Sumiko (Sakura Ando). Her words rub salt into Koichi’s open wounds and he vows to avenge the fallen as part of a daredevil plan to slay Godzilla conceived by Navy weapons engineer Kenji Noda (Hidetaka Yoshioka).

Godzilla Minus One is an affectionate throwback to the 1954 picture Gojira, which famously used a performer in a suit on miniature sets to depict the creature’s capacity for destruction. Yamazaki’s iteration is more technically polished but still focuses on human stories in the eye of the storm and underlines the title character as a metaphor for the omnipresent threat of nuclear war to a bombastic score from returning composer Akira Ifukube. Some lessons bear repetition.

– Kim Hu


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