'The Great War of Archimedes' - Movie Review

Let's start with Wikipedia on the subject of this movie: "... a 2019 Japanese historical film about the building of the battleship Yamato. Based on a manga by Norifusa Mita, the movie is a fictionalized telling of the political maneuvers, specifically around budget and cost issues, that led to the decision to build the Yamato." Note that "historical" only means the setting, not that they retained any accuracy to historical events. The Yamato was built, and General Yamamoto did exist, but I doubt the foresight suggested by the final major twist in the movie actually existed.

The first scene we see is the sinking of the Yamato. The CG is good, but also obvious. And we get five minutes on this event that most of us already knew happened (particularly those in the target Japanese audience). Then we jump back in time, and are given a voice-over about the state of Japan in 1933. Many scenes have a pedantic title card, such as "First New Vessel Construction Conference." A number of characters are introduced in the same way, with title cards like "Yoshio Fujioka - Rear-Admiral." We see a committee proposal for this vast ship: everyone at the conference seems to be a bit of a clown, loud and silly, except for Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto (Hiroshi Tachi) who is practical and sees the future (notably: "if we go to war with the U.S. we'll lose").

At this point I'm going to digress to discuss my own misunderstanding of Japanese history. The revered General's name is "Yamamoto," the name of the doomed but incredibly iconic ship (which was NOT named after him, as I thought) is "Yamato."

Yamamoto doesn't believe that the new battleship can be constructed at the cost that was named to the committee, but he can't see the plans because they're classified and he has only two weeks to make the point with no way to do any research. He finds himself an assistant (finally, the actual protagonist of the film), mathematical genius Tadashi Kai (Masaki Suda), who also qualifies as something of a clown (Wikipedia says he's on the autism spectrum - that wasn't mentioned in the film and the concept didn't even exist at the time? but it may have come from the manga). The majority of the film is spent on Kai's attempts to estimate the cost of the battleship, and the meetings that followed.

Japanese culture and particularly hierarchy (not just in the military) were more on display in this movie than any other I've ever seen. And despite the initial absurdity of most characters, many of them are eventually humanized and the movie is ultimately weirdly charming. But then it does what so many Japanese movies do - throws in a weird and totally off the wall twist ...

SPOILER ALERT: stop reading now etc. the big final twist implies that the designers of the Yamato knew what would happen to the ship and designed it to be destroyed and thus save the country. Which is a very odd claim to make when pretty much any other historical source would tell you that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the events that utterly broke the nation leading to unconditional surrender. The pieces just don't fit together in my mind ...