Unlike Michael Bay's take on the attack, Tora! Tora! Tora! focuses purely on the mechanics of the attack, spending a lot of time on the politics behind the attack and issues surrounding the attack. Developed as a joint venture between American and Japanese filmmakers, the film doesn't take sides when portraying both sides. Though you'll see plenty of highflying sequences using authentic aircraft, most of the action takes place towards the backend. Instead, a bulk of the movie sticks to war room and political drama. The film alternates between Japan and the US, hashing out the thought processes going on in both countries.
The US side is primarily concerned with the backroom issues going on and the chain of events leading to the December 7th attack. Attention is paid to the back-and-forth between officials as they guess, second-guess and ultimately make a few key wrong decisions. Unlike other war movies, there's very little flag waving on the side of the US, though the film doesn't make any broad political remarks the other way either. Whether it's the grouping off all the fighter planes in one central area (too keep them safe from sabotage) or officials flat out denying an attack could come from the surrounding shallow waters, it offers a slightly (and I mean slightly) more dramatic approach to the events as they happen.
The Japanese perspective, which sometimes goes overlooked when discussing Pearl Harbor, is one of the film's more interesting aspects. Although the US side tends to follow a couple of people, the Japanese story sticks close to Admiral Yamamoto (Soh Yamamura), a tactician who is actually opposed to Japan's aggressive plans. Still, when political tensions come to a boiling point over trade embargos, he reluctantly sees the value in a pre-emptive strike.
The big payoff comes during the actual bombing sequence. It's an amazing visual moment, especially when you consider the lack of high-end CG effects we've come to expect from war movies. There are a few moments where the model work is apparent, but most of the shots are taken using some of the same vintage aircraft involved in the actual attack. The final attack sequence doesn't make up for the film's lack of a well-told story or narrative drama, but it's a great way to end things. Though you probably don't need Tora! Tora! Tora! on Blu-ray for most of the movie, the extra resolution helps make the big explosions and air combat sequences pop off the screen.
The Blu-ray version does come with a couple of really interesting extras. First is commentary from Director Richard Fleisher and Japanese Film Historian Stuart Galbraith IV is also included. If you like the movie, then the commentary is worth listening to, though if the film does nothing for you in the first place, the commentary won't hook you.
Also included is a set of documentaries focusing on the movie. First is "AMC Backstory: Tora! Tora! Tora!," which goes over the making of the film, which in some ways is more interesting than the actual movie. If AMC's coverage isn't enough, there's also "History vs. Hollywood" feature that covers most of the same stuff. The difference here is the entire documentary is narrated by Burt Reynolds.
Finally, there's "Day of Infamy," a documentary that helps set up the historic context of the events. This is best viewed alongside my favorite extra, over thirty minutes of vintage Fox Movietone newsreel footage detailing the attack. Not only does the footage give an accurate look at the nation's in-the-moment reaction, it also offers actual footage of the aftermath and the events that followed.
The entire package comes packed in a 22-page book that includes stills and information about the movie. It's a great collector's pack and, really, that's who this Blu-ray is for. Though war movie fans may enjoy some of what Tora! Tora! Tora! has to offer, film and military buffs will likely enjoy the package just a little more.