Refreshing in its portrayal of the good and evil of Japan’s part in WWII, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s mystery has some decent twists and turns amidst the melodrama.
It feels like the title of the film is a major spoiler as we meet businessman and filmmaker Yusaku (Issey Takahashi) and his wife Satoko (Yû Aoi). It is 1940 and Japan is about to ally with Germany and Italy, heralding major changes. Childhood friend Yasuharu (Masahiro Higashide) has become a squad leader in the army and tries to urge Yusaku and Satoko to be careful – which means avoiding dealing with foreigners and wearing western clothes – to no avail.
The real story is that Yusaku has evidence of atrocities being carried out by the Japanese army in Manchuria and wants to deliver the information to the US. He insists he is not a spy, just someone wanting justice, but we know that this differentiation will mean nothing. The question is whether Satoko will help him or not.
Kurosawa does a good job at keeping us guessing about the loyalties of individuals, turning the tables a few times so that you are never sure what is really true. Unfortunately, there is a lot of focus on the relationship between the couple, along with an emotional score, rather than the real drama of what is happening in Manchuria and closer to home. This blunts the impact somewhat, particularly with an unneeded coda that is, perhaps, to appease a particular audience.
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