War comes with many issues ranging to destruction and death, and Wife of a Spy thrillingly understands that reality with a judicious direction.
Perhaps what makes Japanese cinema so astonishing is its ability to reflect Western ideals and their downfall post-WW2. Akira Kurosawa, Yasujiro Ozu, Masaki Kobayashi, and more back then employed the themes of Westernization and the demise of Japanese traditions. Kiyoshi Kurosawa (not related to Akira Kurosawa) takes a radical approach in his latest work, settling on how Japanese politics will become influenced by the brink of war with the United States.
The story follows Yusaku (Issey Takahashi) and his wife Satoko (Yu Aoi), where the former runs an international business in Kobe. His liberal politics, Western clothing, and interaction foreigner makes him become frowned upon in Japan traditionalism. He becomes visited by a friend, Taiji (Masahiro Higashide), who is now integrated with fascism but still has a crush on Satoko. When Yasuku comes back from a business trip, he is horrified by the war crimes carried out by Japan’s Kwantung army (historically, this army sponsored Unit 731, which performed experiments on humans and prisoners of war). Upset, he passes on the information of the barbaric acts to the Americans and other foreigners, and when Satoko finds out, she realizes she is the “wife of a spy.”
It is a crafty story led by Kurosawa, and the aspect of loyalty and love reoccur tremendously. Yu Aoi’s acting is superb as she clings to her husband, who wishes to travel to his other businesses and keeps his mouth shut in her presence. Thus, it is a movie that belongs to her. Takahashi’s Yusaka is more practical than partisan, but his marriage is rigid and untried. The tension that unfolds is palpable and shadowy, like Satoko’s nightmares. The film almost approaches a Hitchcockian atmosphere, reveling in some suspenseful and shocking twists.
Even if some of the storytelling becomes murky in the second and third acts, it still retains a strong war message and excellent sequences (ex. Satoko stealing from a safe but on a production set).
War brings about treason, and Wife of a Spy brings out a well-grounded reason for it to become seen.