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The Linfield Review

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The Linfield Review

The student news site of Linfield University

The Linfield Review

The Movie of 2023: Godzilla Minus One Review

Julian Ortiz

Independently of Godzilla’s presence, “Godzilla Minus One” delivers a surprisingly emotional and grounded human story. Directed and written by Takashi Yamazaki, there is genuine peril and stakes involved in this film that are not usually present in these stories. While most people will purchase their ticket to see the titular character stomp around Japan, I believe the audience will then stay for an effective narrative that unfolds through the film. Godzilla himself is at his perhaps most imposing, if not downright terrifying incarnation to date, and there is a tremendous amount of care in depicting his power. Yet he is not why I stayed invested in the film. The performances from the intimately sized cast are nothing short of stellar; they feel like real people dealing with a precedent assault on normalcy.
If you have never seen a Godzilla film before that doesn’t matter, you will still be delivered a complete and memorable movie-going experience. Of the 38 films in the franchise I have seen, “Godzilla Minus One” ranks easily in the top three and is by far the best movie I have seen this year. Before the limited North American release is through, I encourage all movie-goers to watch this film. Both long time fans and newcomers will not be disappointed.

Back of the DVD Summary: Former Kamikaze pilot and Veteran of WWII, Kōichi Shikishima, played by Kamiki Ryunosuke, must deal with the heavy burden of survivor’s guilt and PTSD following both the end of the war and a sudden attack from Godzilla. Shikishima upon his return from the war is haunted by Godzilla and inherits a makeshift family he now must take care of. Following the years after WWII, he and his partner Noriko Ōishi, played by Minami Hamabe, begin to build a life for their adopted child; and while Shikishima is unable to at times distinguish his nightmares from reality, they build a life together. However, nuclear testing in Bikini Atoll, reawakens Godzilla from the depths and brings forth a furious onslaught towards Japan. Shikishima and his new comrades band together to save Japan and avenge fallen comrades.
Often one of the most prominent complaints about giant monster films is the attention placed on the human characters rather than the monsters themselves. The solution to this issue most often proposed is to dispose of the human characters entirely, but this misses the intention of what a monster’s purpose is in the story itself — monsters are meant to represent an idea or theme physically. “Godzilla Minus One” circumvents that complaint by getting the audience invested in the characters and their stories. If we care about the characters, then the threat the monster poses is real and the carnage caused isn’t just loud noise.
Godzilla in this film represents war’s destructive havoc on a survivor’s psyche. Godzilla is the embodiment of Japan’s collective trauma following WWII and stands as a physical hurdle for Shikishima to overcome and begin to heal. Rather than being the standout force in the film, Godzilla is a participant in the plot, and does not overshadow the heartbreaking performance Ryunosuke gives. Every element of this film sings and is incredibly thoughtful in its construction. From the acting, writing, cinematography, directing, special effects, and of course, Godzilla himself there is no aspect that falters.
There is no shortage of positive things I have to say about “Godzilla Minus One”, so I would say if you go watch any film this year, make it this one. It is in no exaggerated terms a remarkable film that deserves to be enjoyed by all. Give the 69-year-old monster a chance, you will not regret it.

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About the Contributor
Julian Ortiz, Staff Writer
Julian Ortiz is a staff writer with a particular focus on writing movie reviews. He is a JAMS major, creative writing minor. Coming out of Keizer Oregon, Julian loves to write, and to create. In his free-time he enjoys watching video essays on Youtube, going to the movies, writing, and talking way too much about storytelling.

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  • S

    Scott NelsonJan 31, 2024 at 12:59 pm

    I saw a long list of good movies last year: American Fiction, The Holdovers, Oppenheimer, Past Lives, Barbie… Given that competition, I’d hesitate to call Godzilla Minus One the year’s best film. BUT I agree with Julian 100% that this is a great movie and it deserves your time and attention. The symbolism of the monster is important, and the action scenes are critical, but the movie lives and dies on its human-level story. In that regard, Godzilla Minus One gets two thumbs up. If you don’t end up at least a little teary-eyed, then you weren’t paying attention. And that’s saying something for a monster movie.

  • B

    BaZzaJan 8, 2024 at 6:31 pm

    What a beautiful review. Having seen it at the BFI IMAX London Waterloo UK, I agree it it is an amazing film! The subtitles are not that off putting and you are drawn into the characters. onscreen. Godzilla himself however was quite the menacing and scary Kaiju and one is blown away by the way he is portrayed. The sound was unbelievable and the music score fitted perfectly. I saw it at a full capacity showing and everyone clapped at the end of the film! Its so unbelievable that it cost less than $15 million dollars to make. A very polished production in every way. I do agree it is the best film of the year by far!