Hot Water

Fukushima 50 isn’t subtle with its critique of Japanese government. At times, the story portrays an outright assault on incompetence and disorganization. That’s best personified when, a few hours after the earthquake, the safety manager doesn’t have a plan because his degree was in economics. It seems satirical, almost pinging the brilliant commentary in Shin Godzilla, yet Fukushima 50’s capable dramatic hand remains focused.

Even during its countless scenes depicting large-scaled rooms, flooded by technicians, experts, and employees, there’s always panic. That’s Fukushima 50’s greatest trait, noting the hours passing, the sacrifices, and outrage as illogical commands keep coming from higher-up in the governmental chain. Early, the Prime Minister visits the site, unaware his presence stalls plans to cool the failing reactor, a situation so absurd, yet plausibly crafted as lead Ken Watanabe erupts at the stupidity.

Imperfect, but captivating; that’s Fukushima 50

There’s need in a movie like this to forcefully deliver audience-favoring dialog. For Fukushima 50, it’s apparent often, as if the workers willing to risk their lives by staying behind don’t know what the changing reactor numbers mean. Or, they need told in direct responses that a meltdown is possible. This isn’t handled with nuance, and neither are flashbacks that depict starry-eyed teens on a field trip, in awe as they consider their future careers in plant management.

Imperfect, but captivating; that’s Fukushima 50. Missteps (atrocious English-speaking actors included) happen, but the disaster itself and resulting catastrophe remain steady dramatic forces. If Fukushima 50 feels tiring, that’s a success. It’s able to relay the strain from character to viewer. Everyone in this movie looks exhausted after repeatedly fighting among themselves or against leadership. Then those who stay behind, willing to die to protect others, showing a heroic poise that doesn’t feel dishonest or nationalistic. Certainly, they convey pride, but not for country, rather for a shared cause.

On reflection from the 2011 nuclear calamity, Fukushima 50 finds the scenario maddening. Even unacceptable. It ends hopefully. Parallel to the credits, flowers bloom and kids play in water. Without subtlety, images of wind turbines and solar panels flash by. This isn’t a story against nuclear power, rather the bloated bureaucracy that attempts to run it from afar. That’s what causes death and unspeakable crisis. Fukushima 50 gives full support to those who gave lives and health to maintain any workable stability. To the politicians, it projects only shame.

Video

Graded to reduce color, the brightest saturation comes from neon vests worn around the meeting rooms. Aside from those, it’s pale, or draped in the usual warm/cool tones. The latter varies scene-to-scene. Mood is maintained though, and the disc represents these creative choices well. Banding stays at a minimum.

By way of the fading, black levels sink to a deep gray. Pure black is an anomaly. Given Fukushima 50 takes place inside buildings sans power quite often, those shadows lessen image density. As needed, overall contrast shines. Head lamps cut through underground darkness nicely.

As a digital production, image clarity is maintained, minor noise the worst of it; that’s hardly a detriment. Routine definition stems from a softer source, some aliasing appearing as a result. That’s primarily reserved for backgrounds, nothing major.

Audio

Immense LFE makes Fukushima 50 a subwoofer test disc. It’s beastly, even too much at times. A helicopter engine matches the opening earthquake and tidal wave. So do certain elements in the score. While this isn’t a DTS-HD track exhibiting nuance, it carries the qualities of the best room shakers from Hollywood or otherwise.

What’s missing is directional support. Cues come from the stereos, dialog from the center, occasional touches reaching into the surrounds. Scenes depicting first-person views inside gas masks stretch breathing and clanking equipment into the back channels. Whirring helicopter blades hit the rears, as does some ambiance. Actual separation doesn’t amount to much though. It sounds like the two rears support the same signal.

Extras

Just trailers.

Fukushima 50
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
4

Movie

Using a heroic story to critique the messy response to the 2011 nuclear disaster, Fukushima 50 is a successful in its message.

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The 15 unaltered images below represent the Blu-ray. For an additional 29 Fukushima 50 screenshots, early access to all screens (plus the 120,000+ already in our library), 120 exclusive 4K UHD reviews, and more, subscribe on Patreon.