Review by Sean Boelman
The Great War of Archimedes isn’t about the eponymous Greek mathematician, but it’s arguable that his story would have made for a more compelling movie. Dully exploring the numbers that go into supporting a war financially, those who are deeply into history may enjoy this, but most will likely find themselves bored.
The film follows a Japanese naval officer who investigates a conspiracy involving the building of warships for the country’s military during WWII. There have been plenty of successful movies that have been built around the premise of exploring the homefront of the war, but this won’t join them, as it gets far too wrapped up in technicalities.
The first scene kicks the film off with a literal bang, a wonderfully-crafted battle sequence that sets up absolutely epic expectations that the rest of the movie can never manage to reach. After that, it becomes a film about watching people do math problems, and despite the writers’ attempts to the contrary, it’s not that cinematic to watch.
That said, one thing that this film does have working in its favor compared to a majority of other naval movies is that it is not especially jingoistic. The film is actually quite critical of some of the flaws of the Japanese military during that time, and while there are certainly movies that have done the same thing better, this is still mostly effective.
One of the film’s weaknesses is that the characters are all so shallow. All of the classic wartime archetypes make an appearance, from the seasoned general who is dead-set on following the old ways, for better or worse, to the neophyte who challenges the status quo with his unique perception of the world.
The ensemble is much better than the movie they are in. Lead actor Masaki Suda is genuinely charming, bringing a lot to a character that is otherwise pretty bland and unapproachable. Supporting actors Hiroshi Tachi and Jun Kunimura both do a good job in their roles as well, even though they aren’t given a ton to do.
In a visual sense, the movie leaves a lot to be desired. Given that it is based on a manga, one would think that director Takashi Yamazaki would have committed to a more stylistic approach to the film, but a couple of interesting set pieces aside, it’s actually a mostly generic period piece.
The Great War of Archimedes is a really unexceptional entry into a genre that isn’t particularly riveting in the first place. There are a few moments that show the potential of what this could have been, but these only make it even more frustrating.
The Great War of Archimedes hits VOD on June 15.