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Letters from Iwo Jima (Two-Disc Special Edition) (2007)

Ken Watanabe , Kazunari Ninomiya , Clint Eastwood  |  R |  DVD
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (299 customer reviews)

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Letters from Iwo Jima (Two-Disc Special Edition) + Flags of Our Fathers (Widescreen Edition) + The Pacific
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Product Details

  • Actors: Ken Watanabe, Kazunari Ninomiya, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Ryo Kase, Shido Nakamura
  • Directors: Clint Eastwood
  • Writers: Iris Yamashita
  • Producers: Paul Haggis, Steven Spielberg
  • Format: Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: Japanese (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Dubbed: Japanese
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Warner Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: May 22, 2007
  • Run Time: 140 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (299 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005JPKE
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #17,589 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Letters from Iwo Jima (Two-Disc Special Edition)" on IMDb

Special Features

  • "Red Sun, Black Sand: The Making of Letters from Iwo Jima": Led by Clint Eastwood, take an inside look at the creation of the film with many of the key players involved who brought this epic film together
  • "The Faces of War: The Cast of Letters from Iwo Jima": Cast members introduce the characters they portray in the film
  • Images from the Frontlines: The Photography of Letters from Iwo Jima
  • November 2006 world premiere at Budo-kan in Tokyo
  • November 2006 press conference

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

Critically hailed as an instant classic, Clint Eastwood's Letters from Iwo Jima is a masterwork of uncommon humanity and a harrowing, unforgettable indictment of the horrors of war. In an unprecedented demonstration of worldly citizenship, Eastwood (from a spare, tightly focused screenplay by first-time screenwriter Iris Yamashita) has crafted a truly Japanese film, with Japanese dialogue (with subtitles) and filmed in a contemplative Japanese style, serving as both complement and counterpoint to Eastwood's previously released companion film Flags of Our Fathers. Where the earlier film employed a complex non-linear structure and epic-scale production values to dramatize one of the bloodiest battles of World War II and its traumatic impact on American soldiers, Letters reveals the battle of Iwo Jima from the tunnel- and cave-dwelling perspective of the Japanese, hopelessly outnumbered, deprived of reinforcements, and doomed to die in inevitable defeat. While maintaining many of the traditions of the conventional war drama, Eastwood extends his sympathetic touch to humanize "the enemy," revealing the internal and external conflicts of soldiers and officers alike, forced by circumstance to sacrifice themselves or defend their honor against insurmountable odds. From the weary reluctance of a young recruit named Saigo (Kazunari Ninomiya) to the dignified yet desperately anguished strategy of Japanese commander Tadamichi Kuribayashi (played by Oscar-nominated The Last Samurai costar Ken Watanabe), whose letters home inspired the film's title and present-day framing device, Letters from Iwo Jima (which conveys the bleakness of battle through a near-total absence of color) steadfastly avoids the glorification of war while paying honorable tribute to ill-fated men who can only dream of the comforts of home. --Jeff Shannon

On the DVDs
Like the film itself, the two-disc special edition of Letters from Iwo Jima is predominantly Japanese in content, and that's as it should be. Disc 1 presents the film in a flawless widescreen transfer, with a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround soundtrack that perfectly captures the film's wide dynamic range. The optional subtitles can be turned off for those wishing to immerse themselves in a completely Japanese viewing experience. Disc 2 opens with "Red Sun, Black Sand: The Making of Letters from Iwo Jima," a 20-minute behind-the-scenes documentary that concisely covers all aspects of production, from director Clint Eastwood's initial decision to create a companion piece to Flags of Our Fathers, to interview comments from principal cast and crew, the latter including Flags screenwriters Paul Haggis and Letters screenwriter Iris Yamashita, costume designer Deborah Hopper, editor Joel Cox, cinematographer Tom Stern, production designer James Murakami (taking over for the ailing Henry Bumstead), and coproducer Rob Lorenz. "The Faces of Combat" is an 18-minute featurette about selecting the Japanese (and Japanese-American) cast of Letters, and how they were chosen through the international collaboration of Eastwood's long-time casting director Phyllis Huffman (who turned over some of her duties to her son while struggling with terminal illness) and Japanese casting associate Yumi Takada, who filled important roles with Japanese celebrities (like pop star Kazunari Ninomiya, who plays "Saigo") and unknown actors alike.

"Images from the Frontlines" is a 3.5-minute montage of images from the film and behind-the-scenes, set to the sparse piano theme of Eastwood's original score. The remaining bonus features chronicle the world premiere of Letters in Tokyo on November 15, 2006. The premiere itself is covered in a 16-minute featurette taped at the famous Budokan arena, where we see the red-carpet procession, a full-capacity audience despite cold November weather, and introductory comments from the film's primary cast and crew, many of them quite moving with regard to the satisfaction of working on a film that helps Japanese viewers come to terms with a painful chapter of their history. The following day's press conference (at the Grand Hyatt Tokyo hotel) is a 24-minute Q&A session covering much of the same territory, with additional testimony from principal cast & crew. Throughout this two-day event, it's clear that Eastwood (referring to himself as "a Japanese director who doesn't speak the Japanese language") was warmly embraced by the Japanese, and that Letters from Iwo Jima had served its intended purpose, reminding us of the horrors of war while uniting both Japanese and Americans in somber reflection, 61 years after the battle of Iwo Jima. --Jeff Shannon

Product Description

Nominated for 4 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Clint Eastwood's Letters from Iwo Jima tells the untold story of the Japanese soldiers who defended their homeland against invading American forces during World War II. With little defense other than sheer will and the volcanic rock of Iwo Jima itself, the unprecedented tactics of General Tadamichi Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe, The Last Samurai) and his men transform what was predicted to be a swift defeat into nearly 40 days of heroic and resourceful combat. Their sacrifices, struggles, courage and compassion live on in the taut, gripping film Rolling Stone calls "unique and unforgettable." It is the powerful companion piece to Flags of Our Fathers.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
231 of 249 people found the following review helpful
Verified Purchase
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.
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183 of 208 people found the following review helpful
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.
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It Comes in Three's March 12, 2007
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.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent.
Recommended for anyone interested in history, or who has a relative or acquaintance who fought in WWII. Very interesting perspective from the Japanese side.
Published 13 days ago by Jann Kempton
5.0 out of 5 stars Required For Any War History Buff
It's an amazing account of an unbelievable story. It should be required reading by all high school students. It makes one think about the true cost of war.
Published 29 days ago by john gary wilkinson
5.0 out of 5 stars surprisingly good
Very surprised, this is an excellent film, if you look at the names of the produces, you'll understand why it was done so well.... Read more
Published 1 month ago by M. Nugent
5.0 out of 5 stars A view of the battle for Iwo Jima from a Japanese perspective
A terrific film directed by Clint Eastwood. A totally different view of the battle for Iwo Jima as seen by Japanese soldiers. Read more
Published 1 month ago by johnny mac
5.0 out of 5 stars U.S. History
For my juniors in United States history, the film provides a great counter perspective and transition during the second World War into the Japanese internment.
Published 1 month ago by Sam Thorng-Heang
4.0 out of 5 stars As Usual Good Eastwood Film
This is a very good story line of the Japanese side of WWII. I did enjoy it. I usually do not like foreign language films where your eyes are on demand to read subtitles. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Sarah Hale
5.0 out of 5 stars Humanizing factor
Besides the perspective from the opponent's view, various and ever-expanding as that view is, it provides a window into one side of this pivotal battle of WWII. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Michael J. Ryan
4.0 out of 5 stars Great movie!
This movie came out after Flags of our Fathers, I thought it was a better war movie than Flags of our Fathers!
Published 2 months ago by Hogbiker
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent.
My Son In Law, who is a WWII History hobbyist enjoyed this mirror image of the US PoV on this campaign.
Published 2 months ago by Sir Kevin
5.0 out of 5 stars Moving, challenging, courageous
This is a life-changing series. What respect I have for these warriors. It's worth having for your own home DVD library.
Published 2 months ago by Teacher mom
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well, at least he was right on the part "the Japanese at that time was merciless, cruel, inhuman and unremorseful". Just like the Nazi. It is a good thing that we won the war.
Nov 14, 2010 by James C |  See all 2 posts
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