FUKUSHIMA 50 (12)
Directed by: Setsurô Wakamatsu
Starring: Ken Watanabe, Kôichi Satô, Hidetaka Yoshioka, Naoto Ogata, Shôhei Hino, Masato Hagiwara, Mitsuru Hirata, Keisuke Horibe, Hisahiro Ogura, Masato Wada
11 March 2011. When a 9.0 magnitude earthquake causes a colossal Tsunami, workers at the Fukushima Nuclear facility in Japan risk their lives and stay at the power plant to prevent total destruction. Plant manager Yoshida and his team try everything to contain the leak.
Nearly an hour after the quake, the plant suffers a power outage, causing the power-operated cooling systems to fail. Although the workers initially try to run the plant on car batteries, they eventually risk their lives to get closer to the reactors and work manually to prevent the plant from overheating. This is their incredible tale.
This is a gripping account of the 2011 Japanese earthquake and nuclear disaster coinciding with the tenth anniversary and based on the book by Ryusho Kadota, On the Brink: The Inside Story of Fukushima Daiichi. The film, directed by Setsurô Wakamatsu [Whiteout (2000)], is a moving and extremely timely human drama about people pulling together in a time of unprecedented crisis and is the first Japanese film to directly depict the disaster.
It is a harrowing, and tense experience, featuring fantastic performances from the redoubtable Ken Watanabe [Inception (2010), Godzila (2014, 2019)] who stars as Yoshida the head of the power plant and Kôichi Satô [Mishima (1985)] who plays shift supervisor Izaki.
Both act fast to prevent total destruction, rallying workers to action while the bureaucrats in authority fail to grasp the enormity of the situation.
Yoshida risks everything, staying put to handle the impending disaster once a reactor begins to leak. He is in contact with the parent utility TEPCO. The Japanese army moves in, and the Americans also show up, aiming to command the situation. The plant employees fight on.
Fukushima 50 drives home the staggering impact of the incident on Japan, still being felt a decade later, but is also a stark reminder of how the bravery and resourcefulness of the titular 50 managed to avert a Chernobyl-scale catastrophe.
Ten years ago, in Japan’s Tohoku Region, at a magnitude of 9.0, the strongest earthquake in the country’s history struck, triggering a huge tsunami and carnage that would end up killing thousands of people and displacing many more. It mercilessly engulfed the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture, causing a crippling station blackout. Unable to be cooled, the nuclear reactors quickly turned into hydrogen bombs on the brink of explosion. If the power plant was abandoned, Japan’s destruction was assured. Facing a life-or-death situation, the power plant workers known as the “Fukushima 50”, including shift supervisor Izaki and plant manager Yoshida, remained on the site until the bitter end. As the world held its breath, the Fukushima 50 fought for their hometown, their families, and the future of Japan.
“We believed we controlled nature. It was human ego,” Izaki says at the end of the film, reflecting how the heroes stayed at the plant to the bitter end to prevent total destruction of the region.
Yoshida died in 2013.
FUKUSHIMA 50 is streaming on Altitude Film and digital platforms across the UK and Ireland.
Images courtesy of Altitude