“Whether we attack or stay, there is only death” – Lt. General Yoshitsugu Saito, commander of the Japanese forces on Saipan. He took his own life during the final battle for control of the island.
What really happened: On July 7, 1944, the Japanese Imperial Army was pinned down on the island of Saipan with nowhere to retreat to. Their response to the predicament was to mount the largest “banzai” charge of World War II. Over 4,000 soldiers charged at the Americans. They inflicted heavy casualties on the American troops. In the end, the Japanese soldiers were wiped out.
Writer/Director Brandon Slagle’s Battle For Saipan examines that large scale charge with one small slice of what happened that day. The setting is an aid station for the care and treatment of wounded U.S. military personnel. The facility is commanded by “General Jake Carroll” (Jeff Fahey, Wyatt Earp, Machete). He runs the station by sitting in his office, listening to music and drinking alcohol; occasionally giving counsel and wisdom to the medical professionals.
“Vic” (Casper van Dien – Starship Troopers, Alita: Battle Angel) is one of the surgeons assigned to the station. When word gets out that the Japanese are approaching en masse and that no help is on the way, Vic connects with “Major William Porter” (Louis Mandylor – Rambo: Last Blood), who is only at the aid station because he carried a wounded soldier there. Major Porter is an expert in killing others with almost any weapon imaginable. They organize the patients, the nurses and the staff to defend the aid station the best that they can.
The rest of the film’s 94 minutes is an almost continuous battle, with only short lulls in the fighting used to explore these men and women who are bonding over their desire to save one another’s lives. It is an intense bond that forms among people engaged in battle against a common foe. We see selflessness and sacrifice as the number of survivors among the people inside the aid station dwindles.
There is heroism to be found among the combatants. The action sequences are taut as well as engrossing. Lighting and editing are first-rate. I suspect there may be some additional footage that we might be able to view once the film is released on DVD/Blu-Ray. I want to see it again, on a big screen with better sound.