Eureka (2001)



Critic Consensus: With its subtitles and a running time nearing four hours, Eureka certainly places demands upon its viewers. For those with the patience, however, this visually lovely film builds to an emotionally resonant vision of transcendence.

Eureka Photos

Movie Info

One of the leading voices in the new Japanese cinema, Shinji Aoyama directs this spare, emotionally rich saga about memory, grief, and redemption, recalling such films as The Sweet Hereafter and Fearless (1993). Shot in stark black and white, the film opens midway through a bloody hijacking of a bus in rural Japan. The crazed terrorist (Riju Go) shoots and kills two hostages before the police even arrive and start to negotiate by phone. Stepping out of the bus, the hijacker drags bus driver Makoto (Koji Yakusho) along for cover, but when the driver faints and falls to the ground, the terrorist gets shot by police snipers. In his last dying effort, the hijacker stumbles back on board the bus and murders another passenger in front of a pair of shocked schoolchildren, Naoki (Masaru Miyazaki) and Kozue (Aoi Miyazaki). Two years later, Makoto's weird habit of wandering off unannounced for days at a time finally takes its toll on his marriage. Meanwhile, Naoki and Kozue are left mute from the experience, though they can communicate with each other without words. The silent siblings' mother soon walks out of her marriage and their father dies, leaving them alone in a large house with a substantial insurance check. Though Makoto continues to work at a construction company, he utterly ignores the advances of a comely office worker, and his strange behavior starts to raise a few eyebrows. When the bodies of murdered women begin washing up on a nearby river bank, Makoto's brother suspects him and asks him to leave their family house. Makoto shows up on Naoki and Kozue's doorstep, and soon the trio form a family of sorts. Their relative peace and order is upset by Akihiko (Yohichiroh Saitoh), the bumptious cousin from the city who is insensitive to the trauma that the trio have endured and who is increasingly suspicious of the kids' ersatz guardian. His disapproval of Makoto grows further when a clerk at his construction company turns up dead and Makoto is the prime suspect. He is ultimately released, due to a lack of evidence. For most movies, the events so far would be plenty grist for the mill, but for this film, which clocks in just shy of four hours, it functions merely as a set-up for the poignant emotional journey at the center of Eureka. Looking to break out of their routine, Makoto purchases a minivan, converts it into a camper, and takes his three housemates on an odyssey that begins at the site of the hijacking and ends at the sea. Eureka won the prestigious FIPRESCI Award at 2000 Cannes Film Festival.
Art House & International , Drama , Mystery & Suspense
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Critic Reviews for Eureka

All Critics (42) | Top Critics (19)

Aoyama needs to put the editing into other hands.

May 11, 2001
Hollywood Reporter
Top Critic

This is a film to visually savor.

Full Review… | May 4, 2001
Washington Post
Top Critic

You feel time slipping through your fingers, but, gorgeous and studied to a fault, the film doesn't give you time to look down at your hands.

Full Review… | May 4, 2001
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

Its rewards are greater than any bright-and-tight Hollywood movie you've seen so far this year.

Full Review… | May 4, 2001
Top Critic

Don't let the running time scare you away from the exceptional bit of filmmaking.

May 4, 2001
New York Post
Top Critic

To watch this film, in short, can be a transforming experience.

Full Review… | May 4, 2001
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Eureka

I don't even remember how I heard of this film's existence, or even why I was particularly curious to watch it - maybe due to my love of many Asian films and its premise, perhaps. But even so, this is a largely obscure drama, even for people who seek out Asian films, which is a shame, because Eureka is probably among the most outstanding, touching, heartbreaking, affecting, and hands down, one of the twenty greatest films I've ever watched. It's certainly not for everyone, as it is a foreign film and also its LONG running time which clocks in at over 3.5-hours in length. Not only that, but it demands every ounce of your patience and for you to pay attention to even the smallest of details. It's truly a film that tests the mettle of anyone who claims to enjoy art house films, or hell, anyone who claims to love films. It's a very demanding and meticulous film, but one that is worth the time as it rewards your patience by giving you an absorbing and complex drama that not only makes you think, but also makes you feel on a genuine level. The story begins with siblings, Naoki and Kozue, getting on a bus to go to school like every other day and with few other people on board - just a normal, everyday routine. That is, until things suddenly turn terrifying. After some footage of driving, the next shot is of a man running for his life in a parking lot before being gunned down. One of the passengers has taken over control and is holding everyone in the bus hostage, while the police attempt to negotiate with the hijacker. Things do not go well and in the end, six people - including the hijacker and a cop are left dead. Three on the bus are spared: Naoki and Kozue, and the driver, Makoto. Though they survived the incident, their lives are no longer the same. Naoki and Kozue withdraw from the outside world by leaving school, never leaving the house, and even become estranged from their parents. Things only get worse when their mother leaves and their father dies unexpectedly in a mysterious car accident, leaving them alone in the house and distant from the outside world. Meanwhile, Makoto's life has also fallen apart. He quit as a bus driver and became estranged from his wife and family, choosing to travel around to try and figure things out to no avail before returning to his family who seem to want nothing to do with him. Though he tries to make amends with them, it is in vain. He manages to find work as a day laborer thanks to an old school friend, which helps to keep his days occupied, but he is still struggling with his day-to-day existence and feels restless. Upon hearing about Naoki and Kozue, he decides to leave his family home and goes to live with the siblings by helping to maintain the house and prepare meals for them as they aren't able to properly care for themselves. He becomes a surrogate parent to them, trying to get them to emerge from their reclusive natures and manages to get Kozue to start speaking a little, while Naoki remains silent and enigmatic in what she's thinking. During this time, a murder of a woman occurs in town, and Makoto becomes a suspect in the case and is investigated by a cop that was there the day of the bus hijacking, but there is no real evidence against him. Things get strange again when the siblings' cousin, Akihiko comes to live with them at the behest of their relatives who are worried about their current living situation and are naturally suspicious of the motives of Makoto. Despite things starting off rather thorny between them, they become a makeshift family of sorts living day-to-day and trying to rebuild their lives. During this time, Makoto meets with his estranged wife and they end their marriage officially, expressing their regrets over how things ended and how Makoto dealt with the tragedy. But things get worse for Makoto when he is suspected yet again when another murder occurs - this time his friend and co-worker - and is arrested, but is released for a lack of evidence. Seeing how their lives are going, on a whim, Makoto buys an old bus with the intent to renovate it into an RV and take it on a road trip with the siblings and Akihiko as a way to get out and see the sights and escape their troubles. Akihiko finds it to be a stupid idea, but the group eventually goes along with the plan thanks to Naoki who is the first to get on the bus for a little test drive - officially deciding that the road trip is necessary for all of them. The resulting road trip will prove to be deciding factor for how their lives will turn out and showing how the tragedy truly affected them - redemption, bitterness, and shocking revelations. I may have told a great deal of the plot, but there are so many details that it's hard to not talk about all that goes on because well, there's A LOT that goes on in this film's ambitious, meticulous storytelling. However, there is a lot to be found in this story that my words will never express in a way that does Eureka the justice it deserves in its brave, harsh, and uncompromising storytelling. Among many things that makes its story so fascinating to follow is in how detailed the four main characters are and how it dissects them, but also keeps a great deal hidden away from the viewer before either revealing, or letting the viewer make their own interpretations. There are many layers to these characters and even with its long running time, there's still a great deal to discover and figure out for yourself. If only more dramas had such fascinating and developed characters. Another aspect is how it explores the nature of tragedy and how those affected deal with it in various ways. While the rest of us offer our condolences and prayers to the affected, we never truly know what they go through, especially if they go through something so horrific and traumatizing, and how the tragedy can deeply affect and even destroy those around them. It offers no easy answers to dealing with tragedy, whether it be overcoming it, remaining cynical over it, or succumbing to deep, dark depths, there are many variables and unpredictable elements that take hold as the victims try to put their lives back together or give up altogether as they are swallowed by the darkness. But in short, it's about the people caught up in the events of a tragedy and how they deal with it. It's a mixture of sorrow, shock, tragedy, but also in overcoming tragedy and starting anew. It's deeply affecting storytelling and not one page of the script, not one bit of the direction, not one shot, or anything for that matter, wastes. Everything is important in this story and it wants to lay it all out bare. The acting is superb across the board. In fact, it's hard to nail down a "best" performance so to speak, as each performance is unique and each is completely brilliant and believable. Koji Yakusho as Makoto is a man trying to rebuild his life and start anew, making the best of whatever situation he finds himself in and seeing the positivity. He's a man who refuses to surrender to the darkness of tragedy and instead wants to go forward. Aoi Miyazaki as Kozue is a troubled kid and one who struggles to cope with the tragedy. Though he speaks somewhat, unlike his sister, he struggles to see the good in situations and remains almost zombie-like, frozen in time from the events of that horrific day. Masaru Miyazaki is the most enigmatic of the four - never speaking and never really showing emotion (Or at least strong emotions). The viewer remains unsure of how the tragedy has affected her, having to rely on subtle expressions and actions to interpret before it is revealed at the end of the film. Yoichiro Saito as Akihiko is basically like a representation of the rest of us - those who observe tragedy from the outside and never really understanding of what the victims go through. His intentions are noble, and he helps as best he can, but also remains cynical about things, like Makoto's road trip plans, as well as other things revealed later in the story. He, too, is also ignorant - like the rest of us. We do the best we can to support and offer condolences, but we just don't get it. As far as entertainment goes, that really depends on how much you enjoy very talkative, very long, and very meticulous films with a lot going on. It's not something you can just pick up and watch any day, you have to make time for it and be alert and ready for all that it throws at you - it holds back nothing. If you dislike films because they have "too much talking" this is not for you. It has no patience or time for you, if you fall under this woeful category. But, if you're up for watching a complex, thought-provoking film that really demands every ounce of both your patience and thought processes, I'd definitely say to give this a shot. It's well worth it to watch it. Eureka is a brilliant, complex, emotionally-devastating, and also uplifting film that sadly few people have ever seen and few people will give a chance because of its running time (And also the fact that you need to read subtitles. No dubbing. Thank God). If you enjoy dramas, particularly art house dramas, Eureka is one you need to track down immediately. You won't regret it.

Keenan Sullivan
Keenan Sullivan

I would say something like, "Euleka", but Engrish does not necessarily replace "r" with "l", only "l" with "r"... I think, so to replace the r in "Eureka" with an l would just be offensive. Oh yes, because joking about Engrish speech probrems in the first prace is in no way offensive to Japanese peopre. Hey, you can say what you wirr-I mean, will, but this film is so Japanese that it's live-action and still looks like a manga, and plus, it's way too long. ...I don't know how the final product's length necessarily distinguishes it as extremely Japanese, but as Bollywood, Hong Kong and Chinese actions films have taught us throughout the years, the Asians are really into long movies. Hey, you can call me racist, but at least I was able to distinguish Hong Kong and China from Japan, though that might just be because after watching this three-and-a-half-hour-long drama that I'm pretty sure is Japanese, I feel as though I better be able to distinguish Asian nations. You know, come to think of it, I doubt that this film is Japanese, because even though this film is shot in sepia tone, to where I can't really notice brownish skin, all I saw were a bunch of people with slanted eyes, no jobs at a tech support service, or signs that they practice Hinduism. Tastelessly offensive jokes about just how different Asian races really can get if you look through the continent rong-I mean, long enough, whichever type of people behind this film seriously needed an editor, or at least knowledge of how to make a good drama, even though this film isn't exactly bad, largely because it's, well, too bland to be bad, and partially because of some undeniable strengths. Seeing as how it is so very often quiet, and much more so than it should be, the film plays up its musical aspects on only a handful of occasions, but once those occasions come, well, they're not necessarily worth the wait, - because we're still talking about a three-and-a-half-hour-long snoozefest here - but they are worthy of compliments, as Isao Yamada's and director-writer-"editor" Shinji Aoyama's score boasts a very Japanese elegance that is lovely and a touch entertaining, as well as a degree of dynamicity that adds to the color of the score and, by extension, the film itself. The film has a fine, if seriously underused score, and they back relative heights in entertainment value, as well as artistic value that never drifts too far away from the final product, thanks to Masaki Tamura's uniquely fine cinematography, whose sepia tone gives the film a look of some kind of moving oil painting that is not only strikingly tasteful, but complimentary to a dry tone that reflects the film's themes of finding only color within the world during a period of trauma. If nothing else can be said about the film, it is darn good-looking, with a unique visual style that may not come close to compensating for the questionability within the stylistic touches in storytelling, but is nonetheless worthy of praise as an inspired aspect that a story concept like the one betrayed in this film deserves. There's nothing especially engaging about this film's story concept, having a kind of minimalism that makes the astonishingly gratuitous 218-minute runtime all the more glaring, and yet, with that said, when you step back and take what is on paper, rather than what is in the final product, this story that dramatically studies upon the layered affects of trauma on individuals, and how the individuals interpret such trauma in different ways, is very promising, and reminders of this rest within anything from the occasional effective beat in Aoyama's directorial storytelling to consistently strong performances. I wouldn't so much say that acting material is limited as much as I would say this film is so long that the moments in which our leads have something to do feel few and far between, but rest assured that when the performers deliver, they really deliver, powered by a rich and convincing emotional range that effectively sells you on the depths of the leads in this conceptually highly emotional character drama. The performers give more than this film deserves, and that, of course, adds to the final product, which may primarily owe its being saved as merely mediocre to its simply being too bland to be bad, but is still with some undeniable strengths that, when really played up, give you an all too brief glimpse at what could have been: a compelling exploration of worthy themes. Of course, on the whole, this film is by no means that, or at least not effective as that, being too bland to be bad, but seriously bland nevertheless, to where it's hard to stay invested in a film that takes enough damage from, of all things, aspects that it doesn't take enough time meditating upon. The film is a sprawling, three-and-a-half-hour-long meditation upon people going around and letting their emotions bleed out, so it should pretty much go without saying that this film isn't exactly devoid of expository depth, but it's hard to not be at least a little bit thrown off right out of the gate by lapses in immediate development, whose compensation during the film's body is hardly as strong as it should be, for although you practically consequently get some insight into the characters because of all of these sprawling periods of pure meditation and emotionally charged acting, the film's expository build is too steady for its own good, giving you time to meditate upon what natural shortcomings within a generally promising story concept, if you're not entirely disengaged that is. As if it's not enough that this film is oh so very overlong, director Shinji Aoyama has the audacity to keep the atmosphere dry and many a scene about as quiet as he can, and that slows down, often to a screeching halt, so fast that you just can't believe it. It may seem a bit too early to start evoking the biggest problems, but I'm going to tell you right now that the biggest mark against this film is it's being just so blasted dull, with a cold atmosphere that I can see being heated up a bit in a film that isn't nearly as overdrawn as this one. I've referenced its length time and again, and I shall do so once again, because it should be brutally asserted that this film runs a staggeringly immense [u][b]three hours and eighteen minutes[/b][/u], which excited me a little at first by giving me the idea that the film would backed by a meatier and more well-rounded dramatic story, but ends up being near-punishing, as this a, say, two-hour film jam-packed with almost an hour-and-a-half's worth of, not necessarily excess material, but numbing, meandering filler that is so prominent that it ends up driving the final product's narrative. The film is aimless, with little in the way of a real focused sense of progression for a quarter of about fourteen-and-a-half hours (I say it like that so it will sound longer), and with such aimlessness going backed by the aforementioned consistent dryness, you end up with a film that leaves you feeling every one of its 218 minutes, and while such dullness actually saves the final product as too bland to be bad, it still stands and bores, which is frustrating enough the pretense. Aoyama is no so intensely demanding of your respect that he repels you and leaves the final product to collapse through its mediocrity and into contempt, but he is still self-congratulatory, backing his questionable vision with some kind of feeling of celebration that may breathe life into inspiration that gives this film the occasional high point, but mainly annoys you time and again, and makes the shortcomings behind the execution of this overambitious project all the more grating. Were the film even more flawed, or at least less well-done in some spots, it probably would have been bad, but as things stand, this film is still a frustrating betrayal of a worthy story concept that may be "saved" as too bland to be bad, but still proves to be a messily misguided, undercooked and overblown misfire unworthy of an investment of three-and-a-half hours of your time. In the long overdue end, the underused score is lovely, as is the unique and much more prominent photographic artistry that helps in adding light compliments to what engagement value there is to the final product, which is further powered by worthy subject matter and strong performances that, when played up, give you a glimpse of the rewarding drama that this film is ultimately not, for although the final product isn't so frustrating that I found myself truly disliking it, limited expository depth in the midst of a startlingly overdrawn runtime that is achieved through meandering filler behind an aimless narrative, - and made all the more glaring by way too much dull quietness and atmospheric dryness - as well as some pretense, make Shinji Aoyama's "Eureka" a boringly overblown betrayal of a promising story concept for the sake of questionable storytelling experimentation. 2/5 - Weak

Cameron Johnson
Cameron Johnson

Super Reviewer

Astonishing drama about a bus driver and two children who survive a deadly busjacking, and reunite two years later, and take a cross country journey of redemption to put the past behind them, even in the shadow of an insidious new string of murders. A masterful tale, gorgeously shot in washed out sepia tones, "Eureka" never wastes a minute of its 3 1/2 hour running time, and delivers a powerful punch.

Matthew Lucas
Matthew Lucas

Super Reviewer

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