Letters from Iwo Jima [HD DVD]
• IMPORTANT NOTICE: This high-definition disc will only play in an HD DVD player. It will not play in a standard-definition DVD player, Blu-ray player, or PS3.
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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.
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
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Top Customer Reviews
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.