Battle Royale (2001) NR

Director: Kinji Fukasaku

“At the dawn of the millenium the nation collapsed. At 15% unemployment, 10 million were out of work. 800,000 students boycotted school. The adults lost confidence, and fearing the youth, eventually passed the Millennium Educational Reform Act.”

Hollywood offers many versions of the future. Robots or aliens will enslave us. A plague will wipe out the planet’s human population. Japanese filmmakers tend to look at the world through a slightly different lens.

Battle Royale depicts a future just around the corner where unruly teens undermine the moral core of society. In an effort to combat the teen rebellion, one 9th grade class is selected each year to engage in a Battle Royale on a deserted island. The remaining living student gets to go home, in theory to tell their tale to other students to deter future anarchy.

Obviously, this is a controversial idea, easily dismissed as some crazed director’s sick version of the future. Symbolism heavily scattered throughout the story line suggests something more complex. Each of the teens represents a human reaction to an overwhelmingly futile situation, demonstrating the versatility of humanity when faced with obstacles. The movie is both an intriguing study of human behavior and a unique look a tragic story rivaling Shakespeare in scope. Battle Royale is probably the closest thing to live-action anime ever filmed.

The movie is entirely Japanese, with either Korean or English subtitles. The soundtrack is available in both DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround. Tons of extras, including commentaries, behind the scenes footage, photo montages, and several other things I couldn’t really identify (special features are only available with Korean subtitles). And if you saw Kill Bill, you will recognize Chiaki Kuriyama, the ball and chain wielding Gogo Yubari.