On March 11, 2011, the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant faced a nuclear disaster due to the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. This accident caused so much damage that it continues to be a problem in Japan. The Days, a new eight-hour-ish-long Netflix series, attempts to dispense details regarding this nuclear tragedy. I am not well-versed with this event, but The Days comes across as a well-researched series (it's based on Ryusho Kadota's On the Brink: The Inside Story of Fukushima Daiichi and The Yoshida Testimony, Fukushima Nuclear Accident Analysis Report). However, accuracy itself isn't enough for merit. The Days is not a documentary. It's, in the end, a dramatized version of real-life events. In other words, it's a fiction. And while the series is good at educating the audience, it significantly fails to exist as a gripping cinematic narration.
This is a story where the characters, under stress, come up with solutions to tackle rising radiation levels. It's a race against time, but the scenes have no tension. The images appear static. They merely depict the ongoing situation to the audience. Some moments are so dark they make everything indiscernible. A character gets surprised after suddenly seeing a dead fish, and the series could have allowed us to share his experience by making us jump from our seats. However, we struggle to figure out what's happening on the screen. Perhaps, the directors - Hideo Nakata and Masaki Nishiura - wanted us to feel as "lost" as the characters in the series. But it's impossible to express any other feeling apart from confusion because the frames are poorly lit.
The directors also use slow motion occasionally to highlight a dramatic point. The problem is that this style merely looks "cool" and distracting. The Days indicates that the people in power during the tragedy were incompetent old fools. Whenever the Prime Minister asks the experts for their suggestions, they all just read lines from some document or remain silent. This strategy works initially, though when we watch the same thing for the tenth time, it starts to look funny, and I am not sure if the makers want us to laugh at these scenes. After going through a disturbing report, a man recalls a 1999 tragedy, and this flashback moves so slowly it halts the whole series. Moreover, when the characters pause before saying something, they seem to freeze for eternity.
That's because the actors are restricted within the screenplay's boundaries. They are only able to express whatever's written in the script, which is why they come across more as mouthpieces and less as fully fleshed-out individuals. However, the performances range from serviceable to solid and, to an extent, save this whole production from collapsing. There are some other moments that are worth admiring. The scene where a worker - trapped within a small space - notices a huge wave of water rushing towards him and the one concerning manhole covers are mini horror movies in themselves. I also liked that scene where the Prime Minister goes silent after learning how difficult it is to open a valve for ventilation purposes. It's easy to scream at someone from a comfortable position. You understand the complexity of a situation only when you put your feet in the dirt.
The Days tries to mine emotions from the plight of the workers, but what they, as well as the viewers, end up having in common is a sense of exhaustion. The nuclear plant workers get tired while dealing with a disaster, and we become weary because of the runtime of this show. The Days excessively derives fear from continuous beeps and inflated numbers. It all works well during the first few episodes. However, once we are filled with fatigue, both the sounds and the figures fail to shake us. Only the character of a mother manages to make us somewhat emotional. Look at her when she finds out that her son's body has been discovered. You can notice a smile on her face as the burden of uncertainty is finally removed from her shoulders. And let's not forget that moment when the characters learn that their venting mission worked. What do they do? They just smile because they are too exhausted to utter, "Woo-hoo!" This scene emanates slight warmth amid extreme coldness.
Because The Days mostly unfolds like a Wikipedia entry. It's so preoccupied with details it forgets to immerse us in the story. You will come out with some knowledge regarding the incident, though you won't think about many of the characters.
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