No one’s gonna believe me, but the movie Shin Godzilla is actually 9/10s just large rooms of politicians arguing and developing policy with almost no main character. And it’s actually awesome.
— Aaron Moorhead (@AaronMoorhead) December 10, 2017
I would write a full review, but a much better one than I could ever write has been done by fellow WordPress film reviewer Noah Waldman. I’ll just add a few thoughts below.
I watched Shin Godzilla (Shin Gojira / シン・ゴジラ 2016, aka Godzilla: Resurgence) with Chinese subs, and I initially regretted it, because my English is better than my Chinese, and for those of us who don’t know Japanese (and even for those who do), this film requires a lot of reading. It’s dialogue-heavy (as the above tweet suggests), and also has lots of captions listing each speaker’s government position, and I missed about a quarter of those. But then I watched a few minutes of the English-subbed version, which cuts short a number of meetings, meetings that are the point of the film.
This is a film about bureaucratic process, edited extremely tautly for maximum tension, thus putting it in the company of the slower Eye in the Sky (2015), and of Margin Call (2011), which is arguably more tension-filled due to its greater degree of uncertainty. It finds a kindred spirit in Sully (2016), another film about bureaucratic process and the possibility of repeated trauma. Apart from shots of Godzilla (Mansai Nomura in motion-capture), the editing only slows down when the possibility of nuking Tokyo is broached.
The clipped syllables of Japanese fit perfectly with the tension, and also reflect the rigid hierarchical structure and miles of red tape that hinder the main government response. The effective response is led by maverick Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Rando Yaguchi (Hiroki Hasegawa) and his team, later joined by the resources of US Special Envoy Kayoko Anne Patterson (Satomi Ishihara), who wields her (acquired) American accent and gestures with aplomb—maybe too much.
The meetings truly are endless, from the Prime Minister’s office to the cabinet, Self-Defense Forces Command, and forward command center, not counting Yaguchi’s team, with many digs at the belabored deliberation not-so-slyly snuck in. At one point, the Prime Minister says when asked for authorization to deploy missiles, “I already authorized any and all weaponry!” It’s Godzilla versus the paper pushers—and Godzilla doesn’t stand a chance.
Editor’s note: This is an untitled short review, but if it’d been a full review, the title would’ve been “Discuss amongst Yourselves.”