Rinko Kikuchi on how trauma forms character in ‘Pacific Rim’

Rinko Kikuchi has now been directed by two of the Three Amigos, and both times, she’s done wonderful work.

Innaritu’s “Babel” is one of those films where, even if you don’t love every part of it, there are so many things going on in it that it’s worth your attention. In particular, the work of Rinko Kikuchi in the film is so raw, so real, so exposed and vulnerable, that it transcends language. You can watch her work in the movie without subtitles and even if you don’t speak a single word of Japanese, her entire performance comes through, loud and clear.

In Guillermo Del Toro’s “Pacific Rim,” Rinko is once again a key piece of the puzzle, and once again, her ability to open up a character and lay their most private thoughts bare is essential for making something work. Del Toro makes full and canny use of her as a visual element and also as an emotional heavyweight. When she has to land the movie’s biggest punches, she does, and she makes you believe that Mako could indeed by the thing that would bring Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam) back to life enough to step back into the fray.

I have a feeling that the way people react to “Pacific Rim” as a whole will depend on how they react to The Drift, the film’s most eccentric idea. I assume most people have heard about it, but I’m starting to realize that the general public still knows net to nothing about the film. The giant robots you see in the ads aren’t robots. They are called Jaegers, and they are giant weapon systems that are piloted by a team of people. Those people are locked together in what is called a “neural handshake,” sharing a single brain in a way that allows them to carry the load required to make the Jaegers work as actual combatants. They have to be willing to throw everything they have into their encounters with the kaiju, and the only way they’ll win is if they can work together in perfect synchronicity.

As a result, the film is ultimately about this relationship between Raleigh and Mako. It is not a love story in a conventional sense. It is about a relationship of perfect trust, where you are united in something bigger. I love that about “The Conjuring” as well, where Ed and Lorraine Warren are bound together not only by their loving marriage but by what they see as a calling, dedicated to ending evil’s hold on Earth. Raleigh sees in Mako a strength and a fury that should serve her perfectly against the kaiju, but Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) is afraid to use her. Part of that is an almost fatherly bond, but he also knows that inside, Mako is still fighting down the terror of her childhood every single day.

I’m excited to start finally talking about “Pacific Rim” in earnest, and looking forward to it opening next week so all of you can jump in as well. I think it’s going to be a blast to discuss everything this movie does, and I certainly enjoyed chatting with Kikuchi about what i hope is a major moment for her.

“Pacific Rim” rumbles into theaters July 12, 2013.