Only the Brave (2006)

 

 

 

Director:     Lane Nishikawa.

Starring:     Jennifer Aquino (Grace Nakajo),  James Boss (442 2nd Squad Soldier),  Christina Cellner (Geneveve),  Ehcatl Chvez (French Priest),  Edmond Choi (Soldier),  Kenneth Choi (Dave Fukushima),  Brian Connolly (Factory Manger Connery),  Mark Dacascos (Steve "Zaki" Senzaki),  Mike Dunn (German Soldier),  Brian F. Durkin (Texas Soldier),  Jeff Fahey (Lt. William Terry),  Takayo Fischer (Mother),  Michael Hagiwara (Reverend Inouye),  Dean Hill (Older Man),  Gina Hiraizumi (Eleanor "Ellie" Takase),  John Koyama (Hank Hayashi),  Jason Scott Lee (Glenn "Tak" Takase),  Emily Liu (Nancy Loo),  C. Traci Murase (Frances Nakajo),  Ken Narasaki (Dr.Richard"Doc" Naganuma),  Lane Nishikawa (Jimmy Takata),  Yuji Okumoto (Yukio "Yuk" Nakajo),  Garret Sato (Richard "Hilo" Imamura),  Brandon Schiffman (Barber),  Kipp Shiotani (Johnny Nomura),  Derek Shizuto (442 2nd Squad Soldier),  Michael Sun Lee (Al "Kauai" Nakamura),  Aaron Takahashi (442 2nd Squad Soldier),  Tamlyn Tomita (Mary Takata),  Greg Watanabe (Freddy Watada),  Ryun Yu (Robert Minami).

Japanese Americans of the 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team rescue members of the Texas 141st Regiment known as the "lost Battalion".

 

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie.

"1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.  1942, 1,400 Japanese American men of the Hawaiian Territorial Guard were activated as the 100th Battalion of the U.S. Army.  President Roosevelt ordered the relocation of 120,000 Japanese Americans to ten internment camps in the deserts of California, Utah, Idaho, Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado and Arkansas.  1943, over 10,000 Japanese American men from Hawaii and the internment camps volunteered for the segregated 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service of the U.S. Army."

On December 7, 1941 Jimmy Takata was on weekend maneuvers at Scofield Barracks with the Hawaiian Territorial Guard.  He says they were sitting ducks.  On Monday the FBI came for his father.  His father came to Hawaii in 1905 and started a Buddhist temple.  He and his unit fought the Third Reich in northern Africa, Italy and Germany. 

Wahiawa, Hawaii 1953.  Jimmy is home, but he still suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  His wife sees him just sitting on the couch and staring into the distance.  He sees images of World War II in his head.  She is upset and tells him:  "I know that you're lost and I don't know where to find you.  Tell me what to do."

Flashback to the war.  Jimmy prepares an assault on the train station held by the Germans.   Tack, Yuk, Kasnobu and Zaki are with him.  He gives them directions for the assault.  They head out. 

Flashback to back home.  A Japanese-American, Johnny Nomura, at home before the war plays hide and seek with his two children.   When he catches them, he tells them:  "Always remember that daddy loves you."

Flashback to the war.   Johnny Nomura, goes down to the station to make sure the way is clear for the rest of the squad.  He kills a German soldier by knifing him from behind.  He gives Jimmy the all clear sign, turns and is immediately hit by a bullet and knocked down.  Jimmy reaches him and tells Nomura that Doc is on his way.  Nomura apologizes, saying he thought the way was clear.  He starts to tells Jimmy something, but dies. 

A French priest and a woman come out of hiding and come to the Americans.  The woman tells the priest that they are Americans, but she says in English to the Americans:  "But you don't look Americans (sic)."  Jimmy tells Doc to take the couple to the rear.  The soldiers proceed down an urban street.  They have to clear every building.  Jimmy tells the men around him to watch for snipers.  Jimmy kills a German soldier and finds a cute, young French girl hiding near him. 

The Americans enter a place that may have been a bar.  A German throws a grenade in the middle of them and the Americans have to dive for cover.  When they recover, they kill the Germans in the place.  The Yanks move out back onto the street.  Frank is hit by a sniper and drops in the street.  When Jimmy moves up, the little girl goes with him.  He has to tell her to stay, as he moves farther up the street. 

The sniper is on the third floor.  Three guys go into the building.  Frank is still alive, but gets shot again by the sniper.  One of his buddies, Yuk, goes out to pull his body out of the street.   One of the Americans shoots the sniper.  More Germans arrive and it's a real shoot-out.  Sarge gets hit in the helmet and cut badly around the left eye.  The little French girl tries to run to him,. but another soldier stops her.  But when Sarge is brought to safety, she immediately goes to him. 

After the skirmish is over, the guys are able to take a break.  They are resting close to the temporary hospital.  One of the wounded soldiers thinks back on his life. 

Flashback to home.  Aiea, Hawaii.  Freddy and his girl talk while sitting on the porch.  He tells his girl that he enlisted today in the 100th.  The girl is shocked, but when Freddy asks if she understands why, she nods yes. 

Flashback to the war.  Frank dies next to Freddy.  Jimmy goes over to talk with Freddy.  Freddy shows him a ring he bought in New Jersey for his girl back home.  He says he wishes he could have given it to her before he shipped out.  Jimmy gets up and talks to Doc, who stares at his bloody hands.

Flashback to home.   Manzanar Internment Camp, California.   Doc plays chess with his daughter.  His wife is mad at him because he is going, but did not even talk to her about his decision.  He tells her that the camp is sending 47 volunteers, a lot of them from Seattle.  His wife cries as he hugs her. 

Flashback to the war.  Jimmy tells Doc that he is seeing things.  Doc checks him out.  Some of the guys play poker and tease each other.  Doc tells Jimmy to get some rest.  The Reverend comes over and asks the guys if any of them are ready for confession.  Just kidding!

Flashback to home.  Jimmy is home with his girl, Mary.  He walks through a bamboo grove looking for her.  He finally finds her.  They hug and kiss. 

Back to the war.   Jimmy talks to a fellow named Bull's Eye.  His real name is Dave.  Jimmy tells Dave that his late brother Frank was a good soldier.  Dave says yeah.  His other brother is in the Pacific and Dave just learned his ship sank.  Dave has one more brother, this one at home, thanks to his bad case of asthma. 

A number of Germans are coming forward through the woods toward the Texas Battalion.  The leader of the Texas Battalion Lt. Terry knows he's surrounded by Germans.  A small group of soldiers is annihilated by a German machine gun.  Jimmy rests with the French girl sleeping against him. 

Flashback to home.  Honolulu, 1942.  The guys are in the bar drinking and toasting and teasing each other. 

Flashback to the war.  The Texas commander contacts headquarters.  They still don't have good news for him.  He tells his sergeant that he doesn't think the group they sent out made it.  Jimmy learns that the "Krauts" have cut-off a battalion of the Texan 141st.  They are three miles behind enemy lines and the Japanese-American unit is given the job of rescuing them.  They may be up against one or even two German regiments.  Jimmy is told that the Doc has ordered that he stay behind and get some rest.  His great sergeants will do the job well.  Jimmy doesn't like staying behind. 

Flashback to Mississippi, 1943.  A southern redneck soldier and his buddies are playing pool.  Jimmy and another guy comes in and are rudely told that the place is for whites only.  He calls them Tojo.  Takata tells him it's Takata, not Tojo.  Jimmy leaves.  His buddy was willing to fight the fellows, but he leaves to.  Before he leaves, he tells the rednecks:  "You guy's lucky." 

Back to the war.  A third of the Japanese-American regiment came from the internment camps.  The rest of the fellows came from the islands.  The little French girl still hangs around with Jimmy and the guys.  Finally the Reverend brings a French woman in to take the girl with her.  The girl runs over and gives Jimmy a big hug and tells him thank you in French.  She leaves with the woman. 

The Texans are fending off the Germans.  The Japanese-Americans start taking heavy casualties trying to save the Texans.  There are 7,000 Germans, twice as many men as the Japanese-Americans have.  Jimmy says Hitler wanted to make an example of the Texans for getting too close to the fatherland. 

Flashback to home.  Wahiawa, 1941.  The boss tells Jimmy that the big bosses think that the Japanese-Americans might put poison in everything.  So, they are letting all these workers go.

Back to the war.  The Texans are running out of ammo and supplies.  The commander and the sergeant talk together.   The sarge says he has three beautiful daughters back home.  The doc is working on one of the wounded men.  Jimmy watches the young man in the throes of death.  He holds the man's belly band in his hand. 

Back to home.  The women make belly bands and mother and the two sisters give the young man his band.  He tells his sisters don't worry, because he has a whole regiment to watch his back.  But they demand that he wear it in battle. 

Back to war.  Jimmy has a vision of his father.  Dad tells him not to worry about him.  He says Jimmy must accept his fate in his mind and the rest of him will follow from the heart. 

Freddy has a flashback to his girlfriend, Ellie, who asks him to marry her.  He says they can't, because he doesn't want her waiting for something that might never happen.  Ellie starts taking off her blouse to make love to Freddy.  Jimmy awakens Freddy.  He says he's joining the fight and to tell the doc that, tomorrow.  He figures time is running out for the Texans.  As Jimmy joins the unit he meets up with his guys.  He finds that Freddy beat him to the punch.  He's already with the guys.  And then the doc shows up, further surprising Jimmy.      

The guys have to take out a machine gun nest.  Jimmy issues his instructions and then tells the doc not to move from this site because the German weapon can drop a man at 400 yards.  A grenade tossed into the nest solves the problem. 

Back to home.   Jimmy and Mary talk about their future together.  She asks if he ever has dreams of the future?  He says sometimes he dreams of living far away from here where he could have given her a better life.  Mary tells him that she loves her life.  Crying, she adds:  "Don't you see, you are my life."

Back to war.  One of the Japanese-American soldiers was a journalist and he asks others a lot of questions and takes notes.  Doc tells him that the 100th Battalion took about 900 casualties out of 1,432 men.  Jimmy tried to keep an eye on his younger brother, but the poor guy was killed in his very first battle.   The fellow now goes to speak to Jimmy directly.  Jimmy says his father died.  He was in a federal prison at Terminal Island.  The FBI arrested him after Pearl Harbor because they thought he was a spy.   

The men are now about 500 yards from the ridge where the Texans are.  The commander calls for sarge and gives him some orders.  The Japanese-Americans are stuck for the moment and holding, but they are given orders to advance, so they advance.  Lt. Terry sees the Americans coming up the ridge toward them, so he orders his men to cease fire for fear they might hit the Americans.  The Japanese-Americans are taking heavy casualties.  Doc is hit and killed.  A grenade lands very close to Jimmy and Freddy jumps on it, saving Jimmy's life, but sacrificing his own.  The first Japanese-American reaches the Texas commander.  The Texans can't believe they were saved by Japanese-Americans. 

Back to home.  Waikiki, 1939.  "Ellie" Takase wins the beauty title for Miss Nisei.  She immediately runs to hug her boyfriend Freddy. 

Back to war.  Freddy is dying.  Jimmy comes over to him but can't help him.  Freddy asks Jimmy to make sure that his ashes get back to Ellie. 

The Texas commander, Lt. Terry, comes over to the temporary hospital.  He speaks with Takata telling him:  "I just want to thank you."  He holds out his hand and Jimmy shakes hands with him.  Jimmy asks:  "You would have done the same for us, uh?"  Lt. Terry answers:  "Without hesitation."  He turns and leaves. 

Jimmy the narrator says they saved 211 of the Texas fellows out of the original 275.  The Japanese-Americans had over 800 casualties.  Lt. Terry looks at all the casualties and says:  "God almighty!"

Jimmy tells his buddy.  "Glad you made it!" 

Back to 1953.    Jimmy hears his wife say tell me what to do.  She also tells him to come back to her.  Mary hugs him.  Jimmy sheds a tear while he sees his father and some of the dead soldiers of his old outfit.  His father says"  "Accept your fate.  The rest of you will follow."

Jimmy goes to see Ellie.  She speaks fondly of Freddy and Jimmy sits and listens to her.  She introduces Jimmy to her and Freddy's daughter Joannie.  At this point, Jimmy gives Ellie the ring that Freddy bought to give to her.  Jimmy says to her:  "He wanted to bring it home for you.  Freddy gave his life for me.  The least I could do was deliver it for him."  Ellie cries.    Jimmy tries to be of some comfort to her. 

Mary asks Jimmy if he is okay.  He says:  "Yeah."

 

"The 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team suffered tremendous losses during their fighting in Italy.  They entered the "French Campaign" with 2,943 men.  During the fighting in France the 100th/442nd RCT reported 204 KIA/MIA, over 2,000 wounded, 882 seriously.  Company I, who reached the Texans first, had eight men left standing.  The battle to save the Texans has been listed by the US Army as one of the ten most significant campaigns of World War II.  The 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team remains today as the most highly decorated unit in the history of the US Army. Only the Brave was inspired by real people and true stories."
 

 

Moving story of the most highly decorated unit in the history of the US Army, which was a Japanese-American unit.   To think that the USA threw American citizens in internment camps, including men, women and children in these camps just because of their ethnic background.  Many of the young Japanese men proved their loyalty to their country by giving their lives, being wounded or just by serving in the US Army, (segregated, of course, LOL).   

The movie has a couple of problems.  Most war films introduce the important people to the audience at the first, so that you get to like them.  Then you care about their survival and are hurt when they are killed or badly wounded.  But this movie only introduces a man's story after he is dead, wounded or something else happens to him.  It's more after the fact that we get to know these people.  So that just makes it more difficult for the film to work as effectively on our emotions.  It was hard to follow who was who.  After all, they are mostly Asian and to add to the problem they have helmets on their heads.  It was just a hard film to follow, except for a few characters, such as Jimmy, the Reverend (big cross on him) and Doc (big red cross on him). 

I enjoyed it more when I watched it for the second time, while I typed up the story.  I'm glad they made the movie.  It's important to show that humans are humans in the fight against racism, prejudice and discrimination.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

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