232 of 250 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stories From The Other Side--Strong Characterizations Humanize "Letters From Iwo Jima"
Being a big Clint Eastwood fan, I attended "Flags of our Fathers" earlier this year expecting a monumental experience. Nothing could have surprised me more, however, with how disconnected I felt from that picture. It was a fascinating story and a nice tribute, but its awkward narrative framing and (more importantly) lack of genuine character development disappointed me...
Published on January 28, 2007 by K. Harris
45 of 52 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excise the PC section...
And you would have had a decent picture of the Japanese side of Iwo Jima. But, a thoroughly unneccesary section of the film where first a captured Marine is treated humanely by Baron Nishi, and then shortly thereafter, surrendered Japanese prisoners are executed by another Marine, sits in politically correct smugness smack in the middle of an otherwise decent film. It...
Published on July 6, 2007 by Archmaker
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232 of 250 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stories From The Other Side--Strong Characterizations Humanize "Letters From Iwo Jima",
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Being a big Clint Eastwood fan, I attended "Flags of our Fathers" earlier this year expecting a monumental experience. Nothing could have surprised me more, however, with how disconnected I felt from that picture. It was a fascinating story and a nice tribute, but its awkward narrative framing and (more importantly) lack of genuine character development disappointed me. All I felt left with was a heavy-handed message with no real dramatic weight. I still looked forward to "Letters From Iwo Jima," however, intrigued by Eastwood's ambitions of portraying a Japanese perspective centered on the same event. Such a bold move makes me respect Eastwood even more. The film was rushed into release for the 2006 awards season when "Flags" failed to become a critical front-runner, and that decision seems to have paid off for the studio. Recognized by several major critic's groups, "Letters" also stands as a Best Picture candidate at the Academy awards.
Ironically, the aspect that left me unmoved with "Flags" is the strongest asset of "Letters"--and that is character development. Spending time with a handful of major characters, the film does a nice job fleshing them out in a real three-dimensional way. The film intimately examines their situation on Iwo Jima, the hopelessness, the strategizing. The interactions between the soldiers is well developed and genuine, and the incorporation of writing letters as a narrative device provides even more insight. We get to "hear" their thoughts and to explore their backstory. The moments that we step away from Iwo Jima in flashbacks are well integrated and provide a greater emotional context for their current situation.
As for plot, the film explores the American invasion of Iwo Jima. Near the end of the war, the Japanese soldiers left to maintain this stronghold have become increasingly isolated and unsupported from the mainland. With a new, somewhat controversial, General in command--it quickly becomes clear that this is a mission of holding on until death. American victory seems assured--so with honor, dignity and sacrifice, all the remaining soldiers are being asked to die in the name of duty. Building a complex system of bunkers within the mountain, they are (in essence) constructing their own graves. When the invasion actually begins, the battle scenes are harrowing and believable--and the awesome underground cavern system is a claustrophobic and memorable set piece.
One of the main popular criticisms of "Letters" comes from a perceived revisionist approach. By viewing the film's characters as protagonists with humanity, is it glossing over the atrocities committed in a wartime situation? And obviously, a legitimate movie could have been made to depict this too--but this isn't that movie. This is a film that examines a few individuals struggling with a moral code which is at odds with a desire to live. Not every Japanese soldier was a monster, nor was every German or Italian--but neither is every American soldier a saint. What the film has endeavored to impart is that, most importantly, we're all human. The average Japanese soldier had a lot in common with the average American soldier. The film is a tad heavy-handed in those connections, on occasion, but I personally had no problem seeing the characters in "Letters" as sympathetic and real.
The performances in "Letters" are uniformly excellent. The script is tight and logical, the color palette refreshingly bleak, and the staging impressive. There is a certain dignity and honor in the film--a certain respectful sense of dread as we are led to the inevitable conclusion. A truly memorable and compassionate piece, I recommend "Letters" without reservation. KGHarris, 01/07.
185 of 210 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An anti-bushido movie, and an honest tribute to the Japanese who suffered under it.,
This is a great movie, and a truly original one, although not for the reasons that have been previously offered up by movie critics and fans.
First off, although this movie does portray the Japanese side of the story of the Battle of Iwo Jima, it does not glorify their role in this movie, nor does it ignore the lessons of history served up by this battle. For the few critics of this movie who say that the Japanese soldiers got what they deserved, that the Japanese started WWII, and that this movie only brings in undeserved sympathy for those soldiers, I say, as an American and a reader of military history, perhaps, but look deeper into what this movie is REALLY saying.
Although American film critics have almost universally hailed this movie as an anti-war movie, this movie is in reality only an anti-bushido movie. The movie has been extremely popular in Japan, and I cannot but help think that its underlying messages serve only to work against the cause of the resurgent and revisionist right-wing nationalist elements in Japan today. As the samurai coda of bushido itself is also in resurgence in Japan today, this movie comes none too soon as an antidote.
The movie has two centers - one is on the fictional and very hapless ex-baker Saigo, who has been drafted into the Japanese Army as a common foot soldier; the other is the real-life portrayal of General Kuribayashi, the Japanese commander at Iwo Jima.
The movie makes clear how the rigid military discipline and samurai coda of bushido worked against the Japanese throughout the fight for Iwo Jima. For although this rigid discipline helped to prevent mass desertions and surrenders, thus enforcing the will of the military elite for these soldiers to fight to the death, it also resulted in stupidly ceremonial suicides when the soldiers were clearly defeated.
The samurai coda of bushido also led to an unwillingness to adapt and learn from previous mistakes. Kuribayashi, who had studied in America, and had studied previous Japanese island defeats against the Americans, actually had to fight his own fellow commanders to implement his defensive tactic of building caves and fortresses inland. Brief mention is made in this movie of how he was urged to not give up the beach entirely - and so the Japanese did put in some pillboxes overlooking the beach landing sites. The only result was that three months of hard work building the beach defenses would all be blown away in the first few hours of the preliminary American naval bombardment.
Above all else, the portrayal of Saigo, and of the failed Kempetai (Japanese secret police) soldier Shimizu show how brutal the Japanese military system was at the time to its own people. Both suffer harshly from the military system - Saigo's bakery is regularly looted by the Kempetai and then finally ruined by the war, and his pregnant wife is left in tears when he is drafted into the war ("none of the men ever return", she cries). Saigo's clumsy efforts at soldiering and general cynicism about the course of the war lead to beatings and near-death episodes at the hands of his officers. In a flashback during the movie, Shimizu's failure to brutalize a Japanese family by killing their pet dog at his commander's order is met with a beating from his superior (Japanese commanders were authorized to physically beat their soldiers and underlings) and ejection from the Kempetai.
Most moving of all, the mass suicide with grenades, after Mount Suribachi had been taken by the Americans, is portrayed as a direct disobeyal of an order from General Kuribayashi to retreat, regroup, and fight again. The group suicide is demanded by one of the most fanatically bushido-driven of the officers. What a stupid man and stupid concept! To kill yourself when you can still fight.
The one false note in the whole movie was the scene where the character of Lieutenant Colonel Baron Takeichi Nishi talks to a captured American soldier. That this ever happened is highly dubious (I mean, this American soldier was carrying a flamethrower when he was shot - such soldiers were universally targeted for instant death whenever possible). It seems to only have been thrown in for two reasons - to balance out an earlier scene where a captured American soldier was beaten and bayoneted to death, and as an opportunity for the Nishi character to engage in some exposition about himself. OK, Baron Nishi was a very colorful historical character, winner of the Gold Medal in the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics in Equestrian show jumping and friend to many Hollywood stars. But this whole scene just rang false, and people in the theater audience snickered when the Nishi character started speaking Engrish.
All in all, this is a truly original work, exploring themes of the Japanese side of WWII that have never been explored before, either by Americans or the Japanese themselves.
Japanese works regarding WWII have invariably portrayed the Japanese characters, whether civilian ("Grave of the Fireflies") or military (the recent movie "Otoko-tachi no Yamato" and the book "Requiem for Battleship Yamato", both about the last suicidal mission of the battleship) as tragic but heroic victims of overwhelming American might, and about the biggest Deep Thought that one ever gets out of these Japanese works has been some sort of a vague admission that "all war is bad"; there is never any exploration of the possibility that something in Japanese society itself at that time might have been terribly, stupidly evil.
Yes, it was the brutal military rulers of Japan who stupidly threw the Japanese people into a war that they could not hope to win, and then stupidly demanded mass suicide when their decisions failed. Bushido was the underlying principle that led to all of that. And "Letters from Iwo Jima" is the first movie ever to bring out these concepts, while showing at the same time its greatest respect for the Japanese soldiers forced to endure under the harsh rule of that military elite.
35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It Comes in Three's,
Letters From Iwo Jima depicts the Japanese side of the battle on Mount Suribachi. The film is an attempt to portray the humanistic qualities of Japanese soldier, and not so much focus on the ravage combat scenes that occurred on the island but rather the activities inside the crevasses of the caves that the soldiers occupied at an attempt to maintain Japanese possession of Mount Suribachi. There are similar battle scenes that were shown during Flags of Our Fathers, but the emphasis is the soldiers.
Eastwood focuses on two of the characters, General Tadamichi Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe) and a baker and young soldier, Saigo (Kaizunari Ninomayi), and parallels their lives and to the war experience. Through short conversations and long silences and interactions between Japanese soldiers and American soldiers, Eastwood is effective in conveying the Japanese perspective. Certain scenes may shock and disturb viewers who are not familiar with the events that coincided with what occurred during the Pacific War - a war heavily fought with psychological warfare and propaganda in mind. For example, as Japanese soldiers talk about American soldiers they too describe them as savage and inhumane. Where have we heard that before? They were depicted in propaganda cartoons, which spread racist and jingoist fervor within the minds of those who believed it. But what is interesting about this film as well as Flags of Our Fathers is that both raises questions about morality, sacrifice, and brutality among enemy combatants as well as concerns of human rights during times of war.
Bottom line, Letters From Iwo Jima is revisionist history, which revises one's perception of Japanese and American soldiers during World War II. Eastwood emphasizes the humanistic qualities of each soldier portrayed in the movie including the commanding officer of the Japanese army, which show that they too were human; they too left family behind and hastily wrote letters home to loved ones. There are subtle scenes of humor in the film, but with a tinge of irony, such as when a few soldiers suffer extreme cases of dysentery, but are able to laugh about it. And another is with Baron Nishi (Tsuyoshi Ihara), a debonair and "playboy-like" officer, who oddly enough lands on the island with his prized horse. Scenes involving Nishi is a short respite from the battle front, and this is displayed as he comforts a wounded American soldier from Oklahoma, Sam, that he takes in as a prisoner of war and nurses the soldier's wounds despite the dismay from Japanese soldiers. In the little time that he spends with Sam, he shares with him a little piece of information about his own life when he was an Olympic athlete during the 1932 Olympics in California, possibly an equestrian, who happened to know two Hollywood actors of the day, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks. What is ironic about this scene is a preceding scene in which another American soldier was dragged into the Japanese army's cave, but suffered a much greater consequence.
Letter From Iwo Jima is an intense film filled with unanswered inquiries, which opens the door for discussion. Undeniably, the film raises the controversial issue of revisionist history within the context of American and Japanese history, and uncovers stereotypes and misconceptions. This film is recommended viewing for anyone interested in having a better understanding of the Pacific War and history in general.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sincerely an Incredible Film,
Clint Eastwood's "Letters from Iwo Jima" is the perfect counterpoint to "Flags of Our Fathers": the latter, like so many other war movies, focuses solely on the American characters; the former, on the other hand, gives the audience a first hand look into the lives of Japanese soldiers. Rarely do we get to watch a war story from the opposite side. It was quite a refreshing and eye opening experience, especially since it didn't dehumanize a single character. I say this in spite of the fact that many gruesome death and destruction scenes are featured, each side fighting for what they believe to be right. This film depicts war from the "enemy's" point of view; it's an experience I recommend to everyone, especially to those who have only seen one-sided commentaries.
As the title suggests, characters frequently write letters to loved ones back on the Japanese mainland. Mostly taking place in 1944, we hear the thoughts and feelings of two soldiers--General Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe) and Saigo (Kazunari Ninomiya)--as they write, bringing to the story an emotional depth that's incredibly compelling. Saigo writes to his wife, Hanako (Nae Yuuki), who was pregnant when he was called to duty by the Japanese government. He understandably wants to return home, not only to reunite with his wife, but also to meet his baby daughter for the first time. Such things are repeatedly said in his letters, as are general complaints about their hardships and their grueling daily activities.
While stationed on the island of Iwo Jima, the soldiers prepare for America's inevitable attack. They must do a multitude of tasks: digging trenches, hollowing out caves, arming weapons, etc. But what makes their situation even more difficult is the fairly low morale among the soldiers; despite their service to their country, despite believing that they will die honorably, many seem to know that they're fighting a losing battle; most of their forces have been destroyed, and they're clearly not ready to do battle on the island. It doesn't help that the soldiers are being served tainted water, causing widespread dysentery. After weeks of such conditions, many are willing to surrender the island to American forces. Saigo makes the mistake of suggesting this out loud as their hotheaded captain, Tanida (Takumi Bando), passes by. Apparently, saying such things is unpatriotic and disgraceful; he certainly makes this clear as he beats Saigo with a whip.
Then enters Kuribayashi, a levelheaded man of surprising emotional strength (as shown during scenes of letter writing to his unseen daughter). He notices Tanida's outburst and immediately points out that a good captain uses his brain, not just his whip. Already, this puts him at odds with other military officers, who begin to feel that he's better off behind a desk than commanding an army. They also grow increasingly suspicious of his proposed strategies; he believes that digging a trench along the beach is a waste of time, and that the soldiers should focus their attention on caves underneath the mountains. As the film progresses, feelings against the general rise, especially when they learn that he had spent some time in America.
Indeed, his feelings for the Americans are not as clear-cut as most of the other soldiers'. They were raised to believe that Americans were a weak, inferior people, easily succumbing to emotional impulses when out on the battlefield. By the time combat begins on the island, many Japanese soldiers realize that what they were taught to believe was wrong. There's an especially powerful scene in which the Japanese takes in a wounded American soldier. The superior officer orders that he be treated, not killed. His reasoning is simple: any one of his soldiers would do the same for him. "An American would never treat a Japanese soldier!" protests a young officer. "Have you ever met one?" is the commander's reply, which was a profound thing to say. The complex relationship between the opposing armies grows deeper after the wounded soldier awakens; he and a Japanese soldier engage in a very cordial conversation.
If only the world's problems could be fixed that easily. Unfortunately, a war is raging, and not everyone is ready to put all differences aside. The Japanese know this all too well: their ammunition is rapidly dwindling, as is their food and water supply; reinforcements will not be sent; soldiers are dying left and right. Some soldiers resort to suicide, believing that they should die honorably as opposed to fighting a losing battle. A very graphic yet important scene shows a number of soldiers with hand grenades, activating them while holding them tightly to their chests. One can't help but question the mentality of anyone willing to die so needlessly, especially since they had the chance (albeit an incredibly slim one) of surviving the war and returning home.
At a certain point in the film, Saigo buries a sack full of unsent letters, none of which would be found until 2005, when a research team discovers them. A shot of the letters falling from the open sack is extremely poignant, with the voices of the soldiers overlapping one another. That scene in particular shows the greatest amount of humanity, and I thank the filmmakers for including it. Much like "Flags of Our Fathers," "Letters from Iwo Jima" is not a film that glorifies war in any way; rather, it gives a face to the violence and bloodshed that was World War II, a face that we have rarely been given the chance to see. It was both brave and necessary for a war film to show America's "enemies" as human beings, with hopes, fears, and loves. For that reason alone, this film needs to be seen.
45 of 52 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excise the PC section...,
And you would have had a decent picture of the Japanese side of Iwo Jima. But, a thoroughly unneccesary section of the film where first a captured Marine is treated humanely by Baron Nishi, and then shortly thereafter, surrendered Japanese prisoners are executed by another Marine, sits in politically correct smugness smack in the middle of an otherwise decent film. It may make the "anti-war" message, but it rang false, and at that point the film faltered. True, earlier a Marine captive was shown beaten and bayoneted, but this was juxtaposed with another Japanese being burned to death, as if the Marine captive was being punished for that death. The reality of these battles was something else.
The historian William Manchester was a young Marine in the Pacific and in his book Goodbye Darkness, about his experiences, said that there was a tacit understanding between the Marines and Japanese in the island campaigns: neither side took many prisoners. At least while the battle was raging. That was just the way it was. Each campaign was a fight to the death. He also pointed out that the Marines always had help from native islanders against the Japanese, not because the islanders loved Marines or even knew what an American was, but because they hated the Japanese because of their brutality toward these conquered peoples.
Too bad, because otherwise this was a fine film pretty fairly showing the view from the other side of the cultural divide. It demonstrates the crazy waste and harshness of the Bushido code, most especially as it is sternly and unthinkingly applied to the average drafted Japanese soldier. It illustrates how these unyielding notions caused the needless sacrifice of their own troops in forced personal suicide and suicidal frontal assaults on fixed positions. It also showed the human dimension of these men left to do nothing else but die on that sulfurous rock. I had no problems with those elements of the film that depicted the common humanity of men with families and love of their country.
I liked the view of the unconventional General Kuribayashi's strategy, often undone by the willfully obtuse views of his own officers, and the equally effective view of life as lived by the common soldier, often starved and beaten by these same latter day samurai. The action scenes, as in Flags of Our Fathers, were well done and the production design I so admired in that film is, of course, still present here.
I liked the actors and the interplay between them. I admire the production values and this is often a quiet and interesting film. I certainly have no problem with seeing the flip side of the battle depicted in Flags of Our Fathers. I think the film was doing quite well in depicting the humanity of soldiers who, by and large, would rather be home or anywhere else. It didn't need any extra "message" slipped in, and while it might not bother others, I found it an unneccessary excess plea, and a bit disingenuous. At any rate, the film is worth seeing.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Human Hearts Beat on Suribachi,
In order to appreciate my review of this film, I want you to picture the conditions in which I saw it: I was late to the theater, and the place was packed (6:30 showing on a Saturday night at a popular mall). My fiancee and I were relegated to the very, very front seats--the ones no one sits in--to the far right of the auditorium. We were probably less than ten feet from the screen. It was then that we discovered that the entire film was in subtitles; my fiancee later commented that we had to create our own "Pan and Scan" to watch the film. Consider also: 2 and a half hours long. My neck was aching from about minute 10.
I really enjoyed the movie. At 2 1/2 hours, it never felt long. I didn't regret being so close, usually enough to make any movie unbearably awkward. This is a smart, powerful film, engrossing from start to finish, and it made me lose myself to my surroundings, to join with the soldiers striving to defend their homes on a poor island in the Pacific.
Specifically, it's the story of the battle of Iwo Jima from the point of view of the Japanese, and of the commander who had to wage an impossible battle. Against the American forces? Perhaps, but really the impossible battle was against his own troops and culture, which were of a tradition-bound mentality that severely tied his hands.
Beyond war, it's also a human story, as the "letters" give us background on several of the players, and show us how the Japanese soldiers in that army were every bit as individualistic as anyone else, despite serving a society that strove to deny the individual.
In many ways, this is a bleak film, served up in a suiting palette of muted greys and browns (the movie almost appears black and white, at times). It is sad, because we know ahead of time what the result will be for the Japanese that we grow to like over the course of the tale, but within it are moments of bravery, heroism and friendship.
I'm glad for movies like this--to show us the humanity of other peoples, times and cultures, and even ones that were, once, our "enemies." Clint Eastwood handles this difficult subject with style and respect, and delivers an emotional, enveloping tale of men pushed to their brink.
Wonderful movie. Five stars.
58 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Japanese perspective of this decisive battle blows away all stereotypes. A masterpiece!,
This film blows away all the stereotypes that Americans have been fed over the last half-century about the Japanese. Yes, Clint Eastwood is an American director. But the film "feels" Japanese, and it's not only because, with the exception of just a scene or two, it is entirely in the Japanese language. It's because the Japanese deeply-held tradition of dying with honor is so clearly depicted, so much so that it was easy for me to understand and identify where they were coming from.
The film opens in the present day, as a cache of letters is discovered and carefully dug up. I understand that some of these letters really do exist and had been published recently in Japan. These letters form the narrative structure of the film. It works very well.
The rest of the film takes place in 1944, and here we get to meet a full spectrum of Japanese soldiers. We identify with them. We feel their suffering as they all realize that this is truly their last stand and that are all going to die. There is hunger, there is fear, there is discipline. And, most clearly, there are their individual reactions to what is going on around them. Ken Watanabe is cast as the General. Kazara Ninomiya is cast as a young soldier who yearns to return to his wife and baby daughter. And then there are all the other men -- the officer who was once an Olympic equestrian and had visited America, the young man who was sent to the front because he was too softhearted to be in an elite troop, and all of those who chose suicide missions or death by their own hands over surrender. It is a huge and sad story. I am glad it has been finally told in its entirety.
The battle of Iwo Jima was a decisive one. The Americans sent 100,000 men to rout out the Japanese soldiers who saw Iwo Jima as a part of Japan and were defending the Island. Seven thousand Americans died, 20,000 were wounded. And of the 20,000 Japanese defending the Island, only about 1,000 of them survived. The film seems to be shot in black and white and so, in a way, it seems like a film that might have been made during those early war days. However, this is the year 2007 and graphic artists have mastered the techniques of working with colors. And so, the color saturation varies scene by scene. Some of the scenes inside the caves seem to have a warm red glow. And during the battle scenes, the flames erupt in bright yellows and orange. Other times, the faces of the men are in shadow or half shadow. All of this certainly enhanced the realism and the mood.
"Letters from Iwo Jima" is a masterpiece. And yet, it is not for everybody. The subtitles alone might dissuade some. And inevitable sad ending will keep others away. But students of history and human nature will applaud the genius of it all. And a story that needed to be told is now available for world-wide audiences.
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Letters From Iwo Jima,
This film was superbly done and I agree that it was much better than 'Flags of Our Fathers.' It flowed much better and you actually get to know some of the characters. It's definitely a just tribute to those Japanese soldiers who defended that doomed island and did their duty just like our boys did theirs. Sure there's the significant cultural differences, and you can argue that they started the war, but once those bullets start flying, we all feel the same fear and bleed the same blood. Foot soldiers don't start wars, and only the hardest of hearts could watch this and not feel sympathy for these young men. Another reviewer called this an "anti-bushido" movie and I think there is some truth to that. One of the recurring themes seems to be the contrast between the common soldier who just wants to survive, and the hardcore bushido officers who believe in nothing less than death before dishonor. Personally, there's a part of me that sympathizes with the whole honor-driven samurai tradition, but I can see how many regard it as primitive and senseless. The cave scene with the grenades comes to mind. I also have to say that the score is one of the most touching I've heard in awhile also. The main theme is one of those pieces that tears at your heart. All in all, this will go down as one of Clint Eastwood's finest achievements.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The horrors of war on display,
This really is a phenomenal achievement by Eastwood, presenting an objective look at the Battle of Iwo Jima from the Japanese perspective.
Ken Watanabe once again has such a commanding presence, like he did in The Last Samurai. Here he plays General Kuribayashi, a wise commander whose unconventional methods causes much dissension down throughout the ranks.
What I found stunning with this character was his past relationship with America. He had lived in America, had many close American friends, and had a genuine respect and admiration for the country he was forced to fight against. He also knew the insurmountable odds stacked against him in this battle but was ready to die with honor for his country.
Letters from Iwo Jima really depicts the emotional hardships that come with any war. Plus it has wonderful character development that really gives you no choice but to connect with soldiers on both sides. It also spends the vast majority of time focusing on the war itself, which is another reason why I found this movie much more profound and enjoyable than Flags of our Fathers.
Eastwood explicitly demonstrates that when it comes to war, there is no right or wrong, good or bad, fair or unfair...
There is only death.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Touching Moving And Emotional - One Of Eastwood's Finest,
A simply stunning and moving motion picture. This is not a movie to be enjoyed, but rather one to be experienced. This movie is wonderfully done, and although I do like the movies Clint Eastwood directs, I really do think he has surpassed himself.
"Letters From Iwo Jima" basically revolves around a "grunt" soldier named Saigo, a Japanese soldier who has found himself stationed on the remote island of Iwo Jima. Saigo was a baker in Japan and left behind a pregnant wife, and is a much happier baker than soldier, but is resigned to doing his duty. Through Saigo the audience is to experience the battle of Iwo Jima from the Japanese perspective.
I have watched other WWII movies from the Japanese side, but none seemed to truly capture the essence and spirit so fully as this film has. There are no stereotypes here. While there is brutality, the audience is also shown the fact that there was humanity, too. I had expected to see a film that gave a sympathetic view to the Japanese ("hate America, love the enemy"). Instead, I felt I saw a movie that was balanced with good and bad of equal measure - and on both sides. In battle, with those fighting at ground zero, it's hard to say who is right and wrong. This movie expounds on that.
Also, this movie shows clearly how the Japanese war machine worked and how different it was from the Americans. The Americans hoped to return and suicide was never encouraged. The Japanese were told they were not going to return and that suicide was the only honorable "out" if one stood in jeopardy of being taken captive.
Even though the film is in Japanese and subtitled in English, it only intensifies the emotions one goes though while watching it. This is an intense, emotional and moving film. Clint Eastwood has truly outdone himself.
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Letters from Iwo Jima (Combo HD DVD and Standard DVD) by Clint Eastwood (HD DVD - 2007)