Director: Aya Matsuki
Cast: Ryohei Suzuki, Kento Kaku, Ayami Nakajo, Jun Kaname, Shinya Kote, Hayato Sano, Jesse Lewis, Anne Watanabe, Nanao, Riisa Naka, Yuriko Ishida
Runtime: 2 hr 8 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Disturbing Scenes)
Released By: Golden Village Pictures and Encore Films
Opening Day: 2 November 2023
Synopsis: The 70th floor of a Yokohama skyscraper is ablaze with 193 lives trapped inside. MER rolls into action determined to save everyone. The protagonist is MER ("Mobile Emergency Room"), a team of emergency professionals on wheels formed by the Tokyo governor with one mission only: to prevent a single death. Tasked with rushing to the scene of major accidents, disasters, and crimes, MER is armed with state-of-the-art medical equipment, a mobile operating room, and an elite staff ready to risk all to save lives.
When a TV series becomes a hit in Japan, it will spin off either into a movie or a TV special and so on and so forth. The 2021 TBS drama, Tokyo MER: Mobile Emergency Room was such a hit with the Japanese that it has its own feature length movie starring the original cast members and backed by Aya Matsuki and Tsutomu Kuroiwa, veterans of the TV show.
The movie feature opens with an exhilarating rescue mission at the airport whereby an airplane is on fire and trapped, possibly injured passengers are in desperate need of an excavation. In comes Kota Kitami (Ryohei Suzuki), the chief doctor of the MER, a gigantic medically-equipped mobile truck that looks it can be transformed to an Autobot any minute. Buff, gung-ho and a heavy disregard for the authorities, Kitami is in control of the situation and his insistence to carry on an operation in the disaster scene sets the tone of the movie. This man or doctor is unstoppable when it comes to the sick, injured and helpless.
Before long, the team is sent on a mission to Yokohama whereby a burning 70th storey tower with over hundred visitors including Kitami’s heavily pregnant wife, Chiaki (Riisa Naka) who is having a lunch date with a MER nurse are trapped on the top floor. And besides Tokyo MER being deployed, their new opponent and competitor, the newly formed Yokohama MER is also on the scene led by rising star, Dr Kamoi (Anne Watanabe).
Expectedly, Tokyo MER: Mobile Emergency Room the Movie is filled with many faces and story points that referenced back to the original TV series. One in particular happens to be the late sister of Kitami and the love interest of the current Ministry commander and also ex-MER member, Otowa (Kento Kaku). Fortunately, there’s no need to search the internet for the TV program and watch it before this movie event as the pacing is like a wild horse galloping through a raging fire. The energy is crazy and first time viewers will likely be caught in the developing crisis to care about the characters sad to say.
While there’s enough medical jargons and technology to speak of, there’s also a generous amount of political talking heads and backstabbing happening in the background. Even the finale boasts a steady amount of melodramatic and cheese with Kitami and his wife trapped and the former pondering if he should go ahead with the caesarean at his wife’s behest. Kento Kaku has his fair share of screen time as Dr Kamoi happens to be his ex-girlfriend although the stoic, always motionless Otowa seems to be a less interesting character compared to the chirpy Kitami.
With an obvious higher budget, the visual effects and production values are at least decent. The burning tower looks somewhat convincing from certain angles. If there’s a big complaint, it goes to the poorly done prosthetic effects that looks embarrassingly bad. Aiming for a zero-death casualty rate might be unrealistic in real-life and that includes Kitami’s unorthodox methods as well. For a medical drama and disaster movie, Tokyo MER: Mobile Emergency Room the Movie remains a compelling watch throughout despite a few missteps.
(For MER fans and those who wish for an adrenalin rush in the theatres)
Review by Linus Tee