Godzilla Minus One

It's been almost seventy years since Japanese studio Toho launched what is now the longest-running movie franchise in history by releasing their 1954 epic, Godzilla. Over the years, the monstrous, iconic, nuclear-powered dinosaur has undergone a multitude of reinventions — from the schlocky, low-budget ‘guy in a rubber suit’ kaiju movies of the 1960s, to the kids' cartoons released by Hanna-Barbera in the late 1970s, to his contemporary role as a member of Legendary Pictures' ‘Monster Avengers’, Godzilla has morphed from his origins as an unstoppable force of destruction in post-war Japan into a sort of irascible reptilian superhero in modern-day Hollywood.

Now, with the release of Toho's latest picture, Godzilla Minus One, the terrible lizard has returned to his roots. Echoing the themes of the original 1954 film, where Godzilla's destructive rampage stood as a metaphor for the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, here he represents Japan's collective trauma and shame in the aftermath of World War II. At its core, this film sets out with modest ambitions, telling an intimate, poignant story of everyday people broken by the horrors of war. 

Kōichi Shikishima is a young Japanese kamikaze pilot, racked by guilt when his fear causes him to abandon his mission in the dying days of the war. Seeking shelter at a Japanese base on Odo Island, he fails once again when the base is attacked by a dinosaur-like monster, Godzilla, and he freezes when ordered to turn the guns of his plane on the creature. Returning to a bombed-out Tokyo, he learns his parents have been killed and receives a hostile reception from his neighbor when she learns of his failure to complete his mission. In the depths of his despair, however, he finds a glimmer of hope in the form of a young woman, Noriko, and a baby girl, Akiko. Having also lost their relatives in the bombing, they begin a moving journey to build a family.

Meanwhile, American nuclear tests on Bikini Atoll mutate the creature Godzilla to gargantuan size. Godzilla destroys several U.S. warships before turning his attention to the islands of Japan, where he makes landfall in a Tokyo suburb and wreaks destruction on the city. Believing that Noriko has been killed in the attack, Shikishima joins a civilian-led effort to kill the monster, hoping that by giving his life to save Japan from a rampaging Godzilla, he can atone for his failure during the war and finally achieve redemption.

The brilliance of this film — and it is brilliant — is that, fundamentally, it isn't a monster movie. It's a movie about the monsters that live inside traumatized people. Writer and director Takashi Yamazaki has succeeded in both returning the Godzilla franchise to its origins and subtly updating its anti-war themes to resonate with modern audiences. Godzilla Minus One is a moving, life-affirming story of broken people finding hope in each other and, arguably, the best Godzilla film ever made. Highly recommended.


In the history of motor racing, few figures loom larger than that of the pioneering Italian auteur Enzo Ferrari. From his base in the city of Modena, ‘Il Commendatore’ (as he was known to his contemporaries) built an empire which endures to this day as one of the biggest names in Formula One racing, as well as being the makers of the last word in luxury sports cars. Ferrari himself remains an enigmatic character; an intensely private man, he rarely gave interviews despite his success, and devoted all his energies to his work.

Veteran director Michael Mann's long-held fascination with this elusive character has finally come to fruition with the release of Ferrari, a passion-project of Mann's which has finally reached the big screen after a long and difficult gestation. Working from a script he developed in the 2000s with screenwriter Troy Kennedy Martin, the project survived over a decade in development hell before finally entering production in 2022, starring Adam Driver as Enzo Ferrari and Penélope Cruz as his wife Laura.

The year is 1957, and Ferrari is in crisis. Still mourning his son Dino, who died from muscular dystrophy the previous year, his marriage is buckling under the combined pressures of grief and the increasingly erratic behavior of his wife. Meanwhile, his mistress, Lina, frustrated after years of being the ‘other woman’, pushes Ferrari to publicly recognise their illegitimate son and grant him the family name.

The Ferrari company, too, is under strain. On the brink of bankruptcy due to the huge costs of Enzo's beloved racing team and an underperforming manufacturing division, Ferrari is forced to enter merger negotiations with a partner company or risk losing his business altogether. Before he can begin, however, he must persuade Laura to sign over her half-share in the company to him to allow him to negotiate freely. A disillusioned and resentful Laura presents Ferrari with some tough choices before he can proceed.

Wisely eschewing the typical ‘cradle to grave’ biopic format, Michael Mann chose to create a vivid snapshot of Ferrari against the events of one turbulent summer, with a few carefully-placed flashbacks to provide context as the story progresses. Adam Driver is a brooding and intense presence throughout, but the film's highest-octane sequences are the tempestuous interactions between Enzo and his wife. Penélope Cruz plays Laura with the intensity of an unexploded bomb, with Enzo permanently on the brink of cutting the wrong wire. Far from being an ancillary character (as the wife so often is in biopics), Mann has clearly made the decision to flip that tired trope on its head by putting Laura front and center, and giving her full agency over Ferrari's fate.

Featuring ravishing location photography in and around the city of Modena, this intimate character study of a driven man (pun intended) feels authentically Italian, despite being written by an Englishman and directed by an American. More Fellini than Fast & Furious, anyone expecting two hours of Formula One action is likely to be disappointed by this movie… but that's no bad thing.

Recently arrived in the Tri-Cities from Scotland, I'm a former freelancer who wrote movie and music reviews for UK websites.