8 May 2011 | DICK STEEL
A Nutshell Review: Umizaru 3: The Last Message
There is an ominous tone to its subtitle The Last Message in this concluding installment of the Umizaru series, centered around the Japan Coast Guards and its hero Daisuke Senzaki (Hideaki Ito) who constantly finds himself at the wrong place at the wrong time, entrusted to take on seemingly impossible odds to rescue sacred human lives at the risk of his own, being the fearless, and incredibly lucky, uniformed man that he is. Director Eiichiro Hasumi continues to direct this film to bring a fitting end, albeit a melodramatic and expected one, to a three film series, although still leaving the door quite open to possibilities of another.
Set into the third wedding anniversary of Daisuke Senzaki and Kanna Senzaki (Ai Kato), the film opens with Daisuke monkeying around recording that titular message, before being whisked away with the rest of his unit to save evacuees off Japan's largest offshore natural gas rig called the Regalia, which we are told costs billions and is a joint venture with the Koreans and Russians, hence having to transport and protect the Regalia's architect Hiroshiichirou Sakuragi (Masaya Kato) to shut the plant down nicely, but like all bureaucrats, has an attitude to boot. To make matters worst, there's an accident involving a repair ship with the Regalia to make it a sitting bomb of oil and gas, and a strong typhoon is making its way directly toward the burning rig. How's that for a man made and natural disaster combined to test the competence of the Coast Guard, led again by Iwao Shimokawa (Saburo Tokito) at the crisis control room.
Expect plenty of action as Daisuke runs around to save the remaining Regalia crew of doctor Natsu Nishizawa (Kazue Fukiishi), worker Hisayoneo Kizima (Gaku Hamada) and Sakuragi, and aided by the rather cowardly Coast Guard peer Takuya Hotori (Shohei Miura) who will of course bond with and has Daisuke to look up to in changing his attitude and perception of his job into what would be a calling instead of a chore. In between running from safe haven to safe haven within the Regalia and encountering set action pieces, there are a number of half baked sub plots thrown in for good measure to bloat the film, such as Natsu's inevitable crush on hero of the moment Daisuke which wasn't quite pronounced and well crafted save for a statement made here and there in haphazard fashion, and Kanna herself being nothing but a pedestrian in the film to pine for the survival of Daisuke in what would be his largest and most dangerous mission yet.
Then there's of course the running theme of the price put on human lives as compared to saving a billion dollar piece of hardware and the natural resources stored within resulting in the terse stand off between Shimokawa and bureaucrat Yoshimori (Shingo Tsurumi). With the recent disasters that struck Japan, this couldn't ring more true to allow one to think about how there are a few good men always ready to make themselves stand up and be counted when faced against adversity, in self sacrificial mode to save their countrymen and to aid in the cause for the greater good. Here we have Daisuke and Hatori in contrast with each other, with the latter there to provide a true world perspective of "why me" situations.
Expect the usual patting on the backs, the reluctant looks of having to leave men behind, and that unmistakable camaraderie as portrayed in any film exalting the brotherhood amongst men in the uniformed services. Eiichiro Hasumi sure knows how to craft such scenes to great effect at making your heart swell, or put that lump in your throat as they either fight for all, or for one. Special visual effects are lavishly applied to vividly paint that doomsday scenario of a typhoon at sea and an ailing gas rig ready to sink, although some eager shots to make a flotilla of ships and choppers racing toward the rig look a little too enthusiastic as far as real world safety distances go.
It's a nice send off to close the film, and stay tuned as the closing credits contain plenty of behind the scenes shots from the very first feature film until this one. I haven't watched the drama series or the first film done in 2004 yet, so hopefully I will get down to do so soon since that will chart the development of Daisuke Senzaki the coast guard proper.