It’s been over a decade since I last watched this iconic action film. And while I didn’t remember all of the characters and details of the film I knew it was a kick-ass film and was eager to take a look at it.
Wrapped in blood and violence the film is a harsh coming of age tale, one that comments on social responsibility as well concepts like working together. Using a junior high school class of fifteen-year-olds as a microcosm of society we can see the potential for amazing things and also the petty jealousies and rivalries that keep people apart.
With the adults of society feeling like there is a complete lack of respect and attention given to them and schooling by the younger generation a harsh law is passed. It states that once a year one class selected at random will be transported to a remote island where they will fight to the death until only one survives.
It seems not only brutal but nonsensical but delivers an incredibly enjoyable film as these young teens face off against each other. Friendships and blossoming romances are tossed to the side as they fight. Some can get along while others seem to delight in this new avenue of violence.
The film checks in with several students but we predominantly follow Shuya Nanahara (Tatsuya Fujiwara) and Noriko Nakagawa (Aki Maeda). Through the occasional flashback, the film layers out a few of the characters making their losses the more poignant as wasted life and opportunity is laid out for them and the viewer.
Fukasaku keeps the film racing along with moments of jarring and bloody violence. Each of these moments is well-crafted and has an actual impact on the viewer.
Watching over all of this is the Army and a former teacher, Takano (Takeshi Kitano). They’ve outfitted the students with explosive collars, given them maps, warnings of danger zones, and weapons – from the useful to the seemingly pointless.
To make things extra interesting the conflict has thrown in a pair of wildcards, two transfer students, Kiriyama (Masanobu Ando) and Kawada (Taro Yamamoto). One may have a way off the island and the other may have volunteered to engage in his homicidal tendencies.
The film ends up being two hours of non-stop thrills. It delivers homicide atop homicide as the students fight to survive, struggling against each other. Some forge alliances in an attempt to work for something better but things aren’t going to be so easy and in the end, according to the rules, there can be only one survivor.
Who will it be?
I really enjoyed delving into this one again. I loved the story and I greatly enjoyed how it was executed (pun intended?). Can’t wait to dig into the sequel!