Hell in the Pacific (1968)

John Boorman’s magnificent follow-up to Point Blank centers on two unnamed WWII soldiers (Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune) stranded on a remote Pacific island who must put aside their nationalistic ideologies to survive. The script, which features contributions by frequent Kurosawa scribe Shinobu Hashimoto, stresses visual expressionism over spoken word, with much of the existing dialogue functioning as minor exposition; Boorman’s decision to leave Toshiro’s dialect unsubtitled allows us to empathize through the character through his actions and suggests that the filmmaker realized he was making a film as much for Japanese audiences as English-speaking ones. The resulting story places Toshiro’s character on equal ground with Marvin’s, with both actors providing thoroughly humanistic performances that rival the best of their work (Boorman’s New Wave-inspired direction and Conrad Hall’s pristine cinematography also deserves much praise as well). The film’s thesis, that racial hatred is born through societal nationalism, is still hauntingly relevant today.

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