"If more than one child is left alive after 72 hours, everyone remaining will see their throat explode."
In the near future, a ninth grade class and their teacher, who believe they are going on a field trip, are victims of sleeping gas. They wake up in a closed room, surrounded by armed soldiers. The victims discover they have locked magnetic collars around their necks. Then, a commandant gives them an explanation that will plunge them into terror: this class has been chosen to answer to a sadistic Japanese law named Battle Royale. This law states that a group of adolescents, chosen randomly, is to be abandoned on a deserted island, armed with only their personal belongings, provisions, a map, a compass and a randomly chosen weapon. The goal of the game: kill each other until only one is left alive.
Another rule is that if three days pass and more than one adolescent has survived, all the collars explode. To prove that all of this is not a joke, the general does not hesitate sacrificing Shuya’s best friend by making his collar explode and by piercing some other girl’s skull with the throw of a knife. As all the students have his attention, the battle begins.
The 37 remaining students and their teacher are thrown into the woods, followed by two other mysterious combatants that were not part of the class. Immediately, the only adult in the group shoots down two of his students with a bow. This is how the massacre begins.
A few are offered knives, others discover guns and the rest must content themselves with non-lethal gadgets. Whether it is because of the circumstances, because of their natural behavior, to obtain revenge or just because of panic, a few of the students attack their weaker classmates.
The more ferocious collect weapons, the desperate take their lives, the thinkers hide themselves: a few in groups, others on their own. Once in a while, the general amuses himself by announcing the recently deceased to demoralize those in grief and to make them realize the importance of the situation.
The gravity of the events unites two characters secretly in love: Shuya and Noriko. They choose to hide instead of fighting. They cannot hide for too long though: another rule is that a few specific zones on the island are designated during the morning, by the general, to be danger zones. These zones are dangerous for those who adventure in them. No one dares, but they guess that the collar has something to do with it.
While fleeing, Shuya and Noriko meet the enemy but are saved by Kawada, one of the two mysterious combatants. Whatever may this action means, the three adolescents become accomplices and hide together. Kawada reveals his dark past which made him step foot on the island and pretends to know a way to flee.
Fighting to survive, these three combatants will see the others eliminate themselves for a justice that they have not chosen and, regardless of their ability to hide themselves, will have to make the ultimate choice when these three days will be over.
Battle Royale has been much talked about. It is more an action movie than a war-drama or a horror film and, even with the macabre context, is a good pretext for a role-playing game.
If the combatants would have been adults, this movie would have been just like any other (No Escape, Running Man, Cube). It is the fact that adolescents are the targets that makes it very interesting. It is probably why it will attract horror fans, cult film fans and by no one else. I strongly suggest that you not watch this movie if society controls you. The historical context where the army amuses itself with total useless games is unrealistic but what follows it totally credible.
Children that kill each other like animals is certainly not an amazing image but it is one thing that will not be found in American movies any time soon. I will never hate enough those horror-style movies featuring a fifteen-year-old hero. It is practically a promise that the hero will survive.
For the Japanese, at least in Battle Royale, around forty children are slaughtered. Furthermore, many clichés are broken here. Many will be surprised to learn that the hero is not who they imagined, that those who loved each other don’t love each other as much as they pretend and that half a dozen bullets are sometimes not enough to finish someone off. I have never personally taken a bullet nor have I been stabbed in the back. However, what Battle Royale offers us, which is different to what we normally see, is characters who continue to try to live even after being severely wounded: they round-up all the strength they have left to fight until they die.
It is easy to compare our own adolescence with those of the characters because each of them comes from a different context and each of them reacts in their own way to different situations. The most interesting characters are without a doubt the false players: the two secret characters that do not come from the same school. One of them, Kawada, is friendly. We learn that he other one, Kiriyama, joined the group voluntarily, probably because of a thirst for blood. He is probably the most interesting because he is the only one in the group that considers this to be a game. He kills without discrimination just like a troubled psychopath.
A few scenes saddened me but, each time, someone came to put a stop to my sympathy: sometimes a bad actor, sometimes an awful dialogue. It is hard to become intimate with a subtitled movie but the situations are still touching.
I have a negative comment for all of the agonizing characters that have the time to say five phrases before suddenly dying. Even worse, one of them succeeds in talking, walking, driving a boat, talking even more, sleeping and trying to sadden us before passing away. Also, the last five minutes are totally ridiculous. Nevertheless, the conclusion is interesting but a bit confusing.
- A student’s throat explodes due to the magnetic collar.
- A student tries to understand what just happened to her after an arrow has gone through her throat.
- A student drinks poison and spits blood.
- Two students wanting peace are gunned down in a cloud of blood and stepped on by their murderer.
- A student walks around in circles with an axe in her head.
- The general pierces a student’s skull by throwing her a knife.
- A student, thinking that he has successfully ran away from Kiriyama laughs a little but notices him on the roof, brandishing a Japanese sword. After decapitation, Kiriyama uses his mouth as a grenade holder to explode a building.
- Kiriyama (Masanobu Ando)
- Kawada (Taro Yamamoto)
Released in: 2000
Horror - Gore - Action - War - Drama - Love - Tragedy - Taboos
Films in similar category:
I Spit on Your Grave
If I Die Before I Wake
Scream For Me
( 2002-02-10 )
Read this article in French