Bryant’s review published on Letterboxd:
It’s difficult for me to accept the idea that this is an anti-war movie. At one point, a bunch of former Japanese Navy personnel explain that the problem with World War II was that the Japanese government betrayed the military by failing to provide quality weapons and supplies. These personnel are the good guys. Their complaint is that Japan didn’t finish the job in Manchuria. This isn’t an anti-war movie, it’s an anti-losing the war movie. Once the soldiers take things into their own hands, things go well.
At the same time, it’s a passionate movie about the suffering caused by war. The scenes of Tokyo after the war are not all that different than the scenes of Tokyo after Godzilla. Despite the unfortunate negation of sacrifice at the very end (not that one, the second one), there’s real emotional heft here. While I have all the respect in the world for Scorsese, this movie shows the potential in genre work. It’s a pity it doesn’t walk through the door it opens.
There are some really interesting stylistic choices here. The story is told in shorthand, giving us just enough to move from one scene to another. Quick strokes. That provides a propulsive thrust without ever being bombastic. In a weird way, I was reminded of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. We don’t really get a ton of feel for the characters beyond tropes, but they’re presented with such purity that I didn’t mind.
I think I would have enjoyed this more if I’d gone in without high expectations. 47Ronin100 has a brilliant five star review which helped me understand how I felt. Read hers.