Wednesday, June 25, 2008

10 Seconds Over Tokyo, a movie

You might see a pattern here of WWII movies - PD loves 'em. Loves everything WWII-related. So we watch a lot of them.

10 Seconds Over Tokyo is about Doolittle's Raid - sound familiar? It was a major plot point in the much more recent Pearl Harbor (the movie). In this 1944 movie, Spencer Tracy plays Jimmie Doolittle, the pilot in charge of the raid to bomb Japanese war factories after Pearl Harbor. The planes have a lot of strikes against them: they aren't meant to fly from aircraft carriers, they are too heavy and must be stripped down, they can't carry much fuel. The pilots have some strikes against them too - since they can't carry enough fuel to get back, they must land in China. I believe Doolittle gives them all a phrase in Chinese to memorize, something about being an American...

This particular plot was as much a romance story as Pearl Harbor. The main pilot (after Doolittle) is played by Van Johnson - he's recently married, and his wife is newly-pregnant when he goes on the raid. Although much of the movie focuses on the build-up to the raid and the attempts of Van's crew to get his plane, the Ruptured Duck, working properly, we get a lot of story on Van and his wife (whatever their names were in the movie...). There's also a lot of character actors as the other pilots and crew - one weird tall fellow stood out, making PD and me question his accent. Tall white guy with a vaguely ebonics pattern of speech, who turns out to be from Virginia. I wasn't sure if his speech was meant to be Virginian or he was just a jiveass. I didn't exactly follow any of that, and I admit I tuned out a lot of the scenes with just soldiers yapping it up.

After the Ruptured Duck crashes into China, Van and his crew get found and taken care of by the Chinese. Van loses a leg and has facial scars, and is too embarrassed by this to admit it to his now-getting-big-with-child wife. He wants to delay seeing her until after he's fitted for a prosthetic and has surgery to cover the scars. This will take months, by the way. She is also embarrassed by her size, and afraid he won't recognize her or that he'll reject her because she's fat. Doolittle goes to see Van in the hospital after he finally returns from China, and gives him a sort of pep talk although I wasn't sure exactly what it was he said to turn Van around. Then his wife comes right on in, having been summoned by someone else, and they make up and we are left feeling they got their HEA. End of movie. See how that makes it more a romance than a story about WWII?

There was some good actual WWII footage used in the movie - not sure if it was footage of Doolittle's raid, or just similar footage of big ol' planes taking off from aircraft carriers. Considering the movie was made while the war was still in progress, it's pretty amazing. I felt like the romance story was built into the movie almost as propaganda, telling us our soldiers are all heroes and deserve a hero's welcome.

As usual, I let my mind wander during parts of the movie and didn't give it the attention a good movie deserves. However, I'd call it a 4 star movie just for the sentiments and the realistic depiction of the raid through actual footage. And Van Johnson was a cute young fellow!

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