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The Independent Critic

Rila Fukushima, Beulah Koale, Joseph Naufahu, Kazuma Sano, Chika Kanamoto, Takashi Yamaguchi, Takuma Anzai
Gabriel Robertson
109 Mins.
Laemmle Theatres

 "Enemy Within" Released on Amazon Prime  
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The tiny remote Hawaiian island of Ni'ihau is the kind of place where traditional Hawaiian hospitality is the rule and generous kindness toward's neighbors and strangers like can be expected. 

This was true even in 1941, a time when Hawaii itself was still a U.S. territory and the world itself was in the early throes of a global war. So, when an unconscious pilot, Shigenori Nishikaichi (Kazuma Sano), is rescued by the island's leaders, Ben Kanahele (Joseph Naufahu), the islanders don't think twice about treating the injured pilot's wounds and welcoming him into their village. 

Of course, there is a tiny little twist. 

Unbeknownst to the islanders, but soon to be discovered, Nishikaichi's injuries have been suffered from his participation in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and soon the islanders, including three of Japanese descent - Irene and Yoshio Harada (Chika Kanamoto, Takashi Yamaguchi) and Matsu (Takuma Anzai) - have their lives thrown into disarray as loyalties are questioned, the village is divided, and one young pilot becomes determined to return to his homeland. 

Written and directed by BAFTA Scotland nominee Gabriel Robertson, Enemy Within was released briefly into theaters this past April and now arrives for an exclusive engagement on Amazon Prime Video. Pristinely shot by noted Breaking Bad cinematographer Peter Reniers, Enemy Within was screened for and received the blessing of those involved in what is now known as the Ni'ihau Incident and would be a perfectly appropriate view for audiences seeking an appropriate historical drama for this Memorial Day weekend. 

Enemy Within has a definite retro vibe to it, a historical drama that feels like the kind of historical drama that Hollywood used to create before CGI took over and blood n' guts became the name of the game. Robertson, instead, has crafted a valuable film about the characters involved in the story and this is a film where the story itself truly matters. Naufahu truly shines here alongside Maria Walker as his wife. They embody the physical and emotional struggles of a couple desiring of doing the the right thing yet morally conflict about what the right thing really is. Among the key supporting players, Kazuma Sano and Kanoa Goo, in a lesser yet necessary and impactful role, also have significant moments to shine. 

It's more than a little jarring how applicable the themes that unfold in Enemy Within remain today; it's also admirable how Robertson handles these themes and brings them to life within their historical context without feeling the need to add in some pop culture or politicization. Enemy Within is a pure historical drama and the story is strong enough to hold its own here. 

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic