9 August 2006 | DICK STEEL
A Nutshell Review: Umizaru 2: Test of Trust
Umizaru belongs to the kind of movies glorifying whichever the uniformed group under their spotlight. Those which I have enjoyed include the obvious US Navy pilots in Top Gun, the firefighters in Backdraft, and the Secret Service in In The Line of Fire. While those are Hollywood movies, Japan also had in 2004 made a movie about a rookie team of Coast Guards in Umizaru, and this follow up sequel brings back search and rescue diver Daisuke Senzaki (Hideaki Ito) and his team into what is probably another Poseidon like adventure.
Titled "Limit of Love", it's a strange moniker for a movie which is high on the action, and soppy on the romance. This movie continues the romantic relations between our hero Senzaki-san and his fiancée Kanna Izawa (Ai Katô), or rather the strained relations between the two after the former rejected the obvious hints of the latter to marry her, because of some strange personal reasons of skeletons from his closet which continued to haunt him. Brooding hero must exorcise these demons before he can commit to settling down, get it?
Therefore perhaps for similar reasons, we had it retitled as Test of Trust instead, as there are plenty of moments with reference to the title. In trusting your buddies to come back for you, in trusting the experts to do a job they are trained for, in trusting your fiancé to take care of himself and come back alive, the list goes on. But fret not even if you haven't watched the first movie, you'll be orientated soon enough to be in the thick of the action.
The filmmakers spared no expense in making this movie big, with planes, helicopters, ships, rafts, and tons of extras to make it a grand spectacle. Water-Underwater sequences are always never easy, and I dare say, given that this premise is similar to an earlier Hollywood stinker bore Poseidon, Umirazu 2 triumphs with its action sequences if they are compared side by side. It's not the special effects or the razzle dazzle (in which Poseidon wins hands down), but it's by its delivery. Keeping the cast and rescuees intimately small also helped in not having too many characters who can be brushed off easily as fodder, making them the regular, though clichéd, folks that you would actually care for.
If there is a gripe however, it'll be at how the melodrama gets drummed up into dizzying heights with plenty of lingering shots coupled with rousing crescendos from the soundtrack. While these are there probably for emphasis and dramatic effect, one can't help forget that in order for it to be a bit more believable, hey, it's a rescue operation! Cut the crap and the ra- ra talk, and just get on with saving lives or getting the hell out of whatever danger zones you are in!
I can't help but smile inside when certain scenes are shot in typical Japanese fashion with characters looking hard at each other and giving constant nods of assurances, especially in the control centre. Some things don't change do they? But all in all, this is a pretty interesting action movie, after a dearth of non-romance or horror movies from the land of the rising sun.