During World War II, Japanese naval officer Captain Tsuruhiko Kuroda (Mifune) is stranded on a remote island in the Pacific Ocean. He soon discovers a loudmouthed American pilot (Marvin) who has crashed his plane. Unable to communicate verbally, the two enemies initially taunt each other and refuse to cooperate. But when they begin to face starvation, dehydration and exhaustion, they are forced to put aside their differences and rely on one another for survival.
The film contains these tropes:
- Blood from the Mouth: Happens to Kuroda after the American stabs him from behind in an Indulgent Fantasy Segue.
- Clothing Damage: Both men have several articles of clothing ruined during the film, with the American having a pair of khakis reduced to a loincloth.
- Deserted Island: The majority of the film is set on an uninhabited island, and the final act takes place on another island with a bombed-out Japanese medical base.
- Enemy Mine: The American and Kuroda are enemies of war. But when it comes to surviving on an island? Teamwork!
- Excrement Statement: At one point, the American disdainfully urinates on Kuroda.
- Indulgent Fantasy Segue: Upon meeting, each man imagines being killed by the other before deciding against fighting at all.
- Kill 'Em All: At the end of the movie, the American soldier and the Japanese soldier seem to be about to turn on each other - and then a bomb kills them.
- Language Barrier: The American and Kuroda manage to overcome this to build and operate a raft together.
- Minimalist Cast: The film only stars 2 actors. What did you expect?
- No Name Given: The American pilot's name is never stated in the movie or the ending credits.
- Rated M for Manly: As a war film, 2 men surviving on an island and fighting each other is just too manly!
- Reality Has No Subtitles: Kuroda's dialogue goes untranslated in the film (unless you manually activate the subtitles on the Blu-Ray).
- Robinsonade: The two leads are marooned on an island in World War II. Neither understand the other's language, and after a period of hostility, work together to survive and escape the island.
- Translation by Volume: The American gets increasingly agitated during his final conversation with Kuroda, and attempts translation via yelling, spelling and repetition.