Prisoners of the Sun (also known as Blood Oath) is the story of the aftermath of World War II on a remote Indonesian island known as Ambon, located north of Australia. With the war over Australian soldiers are left to man a small prisoner of war camp, as they put on trial Japanese soldiers who have allegedly taken uncivilized actions against captured Australian soldiers. Before the Japanese surrendered at the end of the war, Ambon had been an island occupied by the Japanese where 1100 captured Australian soldiers were kept, by the end of the war that number had dropped to under 300, a result of the torture and mass murders committed by the Japanese on their POW's.
Captain Cooper (Byran Brown) of the Australian army is sent to act as the army's prosecutor in the crimes against the two highest profile Japanese officers, Vice-Admiral Baron Takahashi (George Takei) and Captain Ikeuchi. Though it's quickly clear neither man will admit to any knowledge of mistreatment of their prisoners, even though the recent discovery of a massive grave of 300 bodies is blatant evidence against them. Also it appears prosecuting Takahashi will be near impossible as the US Army sends one of their men, Major Beckett (Terry O'Quinn), to make sure Takahashi is acquitted since it is the opinon of the United States that Takahashi is more useful alive in seeking justice for the world than dead for the treatment of Australian POW's. Cooper must now try to mount an insurmountable case against Takahashi and Ikeuchi to have some justice rewarded in the name of the hundreds of tortured and executed Australian soldiers, unfortunately Cooper will soon realize sometimes justice is bittersweet.
Prisoners of the Sun is, as most historical based films are, loosely based on actual events. From what little I have read of the actual events Baron Takahashi was never present at the trials held on Ambon, so that lends oneself to question what else in the film is not necessarily accurate. At any rate the acts of the Japanese during WWII are certainly well known and this film clearly represents the shear brutality and merciless nature shown by their army and leaders. Prisoners of the Sun boasts the talent of many recognizable actors; mainly starring Bryan Brown (a well recognized Australian actor), and small roles by George Takei (of Star Trek fame), Terry O'Quinn (John Locke from LOST) and of course Russell Crowe, who is presumably the number one reason most people would watch this film.
Crowe plays Lt. Corbett, the right hand man of Captain Cooper, but his screen time throughout the film is sporadic and brief. In regards to Russell's role I really can't comment on much more than that, it's a decent part for his first film endeavor and what little a role he has, he gives a solid performance. But if you're interest in watching this film purely for the sake of Russell Crowe, you'll probably be disappointed. Prisoners of the Sun is really a film for hardcore history buffs and courtroom drama fans. If you spend your week nights watching the barrage of Law & Order shows you'll probably enjoy this, it's Law & Order military style. I've never been a fan of the courtroom dramas, they tend to seem to be uneventful, slow moving, and solely focus on progressing through the motions of a trial.
Still the film discusses some interesting subject matter and enlightened me with some facts I did not know, such as Japanese soldiers being ordered to execute prisoners of their same rank, which also ended up being sort of a scapegoat for their superiors who ordered them to if ever brought to trial. Aside from those moments I ultimately found the story uneventful, twenty minutes into the film you know those on trial are guilty, as do the characters in the film, it's all simply a presentation of how screwed up the justice system can be in order to give blood thirsty animals a fair trial, which some can rightfully argue they don't deserve. The final half of the film then portrays how higher officers in the enemy army end up getting away with war crimes and having lower officers pay the price for them.
Overall, I don't regret watching Prisoners of the Sun, although I doubt I'll ever revisit it again. Crowe's appearance alone simply doesn't warrant a viewing and there are so many better war and post war films out there that I'd be hard pressed to recommend running out and renting this. But again, if you're a fan of war trials and courtroom dramas you might get a little bit of enjoyment out of this, or at least find it interesting, still don't expect a masterfully told story. With that said I still feel this film deserves some credit, the acting is well done, and while the story isn't as engrossing as I would have liked I was able to sit through it and not feel overwhelmingly bored. In the end, Prisoners of the Sun shouldn't be a film you'll regret watching if you do decide to give it a shot, although it's probably a film you'll quickly forget soon after.