This Means War
In the midst of World War II an American Pilot (Lee Marvin) washes up on a small island inhabited by just one other person, a Japanese Navy Captain (Toshir├┤ Mifune) who has been marooned there. With the war going on these men initially continue that war whilst with the Captain being creative in collecting water and catching fish the Pilot sets about sabotaging his creations. But after a tit for tat battle with neither able to bring themselves to kill the other they end up trying to join forces to build a raft.
Two men, one island and only one speaks American. I wonder if anyone could sell that scenario to a Hollywood studio these days. In truth I don't think they could for the simple reason I don't think directors could make such a picture these days, at least not on the same way the John Boorman did back in 1968 when he gave us the still brilliant "Hell in the Pacific". The thing is that "Hell in the Pacific" is such a simple movie that you even wonder how it can work but yet it does.
Part of that reason is because John Boorman and cinematographer have done a terrific job of capturing the island to make it almost perversely a little bit of paradise in the Pacific. The unadulterated sand and green vegetation surrounded by blue water is so beautiful that you begin to wonder whether you could live there. But Boorman also takes us through the stages of a relationship as first we have war with the men confronting each other, trying to smoke the other out and so on. But we see this evolve to the point they need each other as being an enemy gives their lives purpose and is why despite both having chance they can't bring themselves to kill the other. And of course this evolves to them trying to work together. It is so simple yet so captivating to watch, dare I say it is beautiful.
And to be honest the acting is great from start to finish but that is because Lee Marvin and Toshir├┤ Mifune are so well paired up. There is this sense of two tough guys, two enemies but they share a mutual respect and to get that across in their characters is great. It makes them easy to warm to and more importantly you want to know whether they make it back alive.