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Letters from Iwo Jima (Two-Disc Special Edition)

4.4 out of 5 stars 455 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Letters From Iwo Jima: Special Edition (Dbl DVD) (WS)

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.

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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


Special Features

Documentaries: Red Sun, Black Sand: The Making of Letters from Iwo Jima The Faces of War: The Cast of Letters from Iwo Jima Images from the Frontlines: The Photography of Letters from Iwo Jima Documentaries: Red Sun, Black Sand: The Making of Letters from Iwo Jima The Faces of War: The Cast of Letters from Iwo Jima Images from the Frontlines: The Photography of Letters from Iwo Jima Documentaries: Red Sun, Black Sand: The Making of Letters from Iwo Jima The Faces of War: The Cast of Letters from Iwo Jima Images from the Frontlines: The Photography of Letters from Iwo Jima Documentaries: Red Sun, Black Sand: The Making of Letters from Iwo Jima The Faces of War: The Cast of Letters from Iwo Jima Images from the Frontlines: The Photography of Letters from Iwo Jima

Product Details

  • Actors: Ken Watanabe, Kazunari Ninomiya, Shido Nakamura, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Ryo Kase
  • Directors: Clint Eastwood
  • Producers: Clint Eastwood, Paul Haggis, Robert Lorenz, Steven Spielberg
  • Format: Multiple Formats, 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: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (455 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005JPKE
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,503 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Letters from Iwo Jima (Two-Disc Special Edition)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By K. Harris HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on January 28, 2007
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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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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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.
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