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Review: Fukushima 50

Updated: Jul 27, 2020

Watched Fukushima 50 on the Japan Cuts website. The trailer for this dramatization of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster makes it look like Japan’s answer to Chernobyl, and while the two productions do traverse similar narrative territory, they are also quite different from a thematic standpoint. While the HBO miniseries explored how egos, political infighting, and dishonesty exacerbated an already unfathomable crisis, the protagonists of this film are commendably swift, efficient, and transparent in their response to the impending meltdown; the only factor that truly hinders their efforts is how egregiously they underestimated the raw power of nature.

Among an ensemble cast populated entirely by big-name stars, Ken Watanabe stands out as particularly captivating. He plays plant manager Masao Yoshida as the modern day equivalent of one of Toshiro Mifune’s heroic samurai: a reasonable authority figure that has absolutely no patience for bureaucratic red tape and never hesitates to challenge the orders of his less competent superiors (in one memorable scene, he even drops his trousers and moons Prime Minister Naoto Kan). His unfailingly charismatic performance elevates the material, adding a much-needed dose of humanity to the otherwise technobabble-heavy story.

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