prisonersofthesunposter.jpg (15691 bytes)PRISONERS OF THE SUN:
Director: Steven Wallace
Writers: Denis Whitburn and Brian A. Williams
Also stars: Bryan Brown (Captain Cooper), George Takei (Vice-Admiral Baron Takahashi), John Polson (Private Jimmy Fenton), Ray Barrett (President of the Bench), Toshi Shioya (Lt. Tanaka), John Clark (Sheedy)

A few yards ahead of A Thin Red Line, Prisoners of the Sun movingly depicts the savage colors of war, the execution of honor, and the depressingly predictable urge to self-aggrandizement.  The film tells the story of Australian war crime trials after World War II.  The arrogance of the "new world leaders", matched with frantic clutching to tradition among the defeated Japanese leadership, squeezes out any possibility of justice.  The remnants of honor can only be found on the sidelines.  

prisoner11.jpg (17552 bytes)As Bryan Brown's character says, "the future of the world isn't worked out in a grand scale, it's worked out by ordinary people doing their ordinary bloody jobs."  While the old boys network, American and Japanese alike, are "not working out the future of the world... just preventing it from being different to the past,"  small movements from driven individuals shed some light on human potential.  This light is quickly snuffed in the person of a young ambassador between traditions, the Japanese christian Signals Officer leaves a sticky shadow on his superior, the Oxford-tutored Japanese Admiral.  This shadow darkens any glowing ambitions the Allies have for their new world order.

The film is directed with intimacy.   Populated by a marvelous cast, the director (and perhaps cameramen as well?) are devoted to their cast's abilities to tell a story in expression and gesture.  If Crowe didn't have enough lines, his Lt. Jack Corbett made up for it with those little true movements, those tidbits of realism that contribute to the film's uncomfortable closeness .

prisoner20.jpg (20676 bytes)The grisly facts of the case do not leap out at you in the form of blackened corpses.   More imposing are the witnesses, those at the disinterrment, and those in the hospital.  A profoundly disturbing story, the film is nevertheless stout enough to handle the subject matter.

A curious post-script to my viewing of this film: my mother remembered seeing it.   And here I looked and looked for a copy for weeks.  I could have just asked her how it was, since we agreed that it was an unusually memorable film.
Thanks to the Crowe Slide Shows for the two screen captures!

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