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Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)



Average Rating: 8.2/10
Reviews Counted: 198
Fresh: 180 | Rotten: 18

A powerfully humanistic portrayal of the perils of war, this companion piece to Flags of our Fathers is potent and thought-provoking, and it demonstrates Clint Eastwood's maturity as a director.


Average Rating: 8.4/10
Critic Reviews: 47
Fresh: 44 | Rotten: 3

A powerfully humanistic portrayal of the perils of war, this companion piece to Flags of our Fathers is potent and thought-provoking, and it demonstrates Clint Eastwood's maturity as a director.



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Average Rating: 3.8/5
User Ratings: 339,535

My Rating

Movie Info

After bringing the story of the American soldiers who fought in the battle of Iwo Jima to the screen in his film Flags of Our Fathers, Clint Eastwood offers an equally thoughtful portrait of the Japanese forces who held the island for 36 days in this military drama. In 1945, World War II was in its last stages, and U.S. forces were planning to take on the Japanese on a small island known as Iwo Jima. While the island was mostly rock and volcanoes, it was of key strategic value and Japan's



May 22, 2007


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All Critics (198) | Top Critics (47) | Fresh (180) | Rotten (18) | DVD (30)

An even more sombre affair, as beautifully restrained as the earlier film but also, despite its scenes of battle, death, suicide and suffering, shockingly intimate.

February 22, 2007 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
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The movie's sense of doom is powerfully conveyed; one graphic scene has weeping soldiers blowing themselves up with grenades.

February 3, 2007 Full Review Source: Time Out New York
Time Out New York
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Indirectly but cogently comment on our experiences of other movies. Having Japanese soldiers as heroes allows us to reconsider the didacticism we've been handed in the past.

January 27, 2007 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader | Comments (2)
Chicago Reader
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The proper way to appreciate Letters and Flags is to treat them as complimentary halves of the same epic movie, a Godfather war epic. One half is plainly more ambitious than the other, but both have virtues that distinguish them.

January 19, 2007 Full Review Source: Orlando Sentinel
Orlando Sentinel
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By placing us on the opposite side of the battlefield, the movie forces us to approach it from a fresh perspective. The technique also lends Letters an uncommon timelessness.

January 19, 2007 Full Review Source: Miami Herald
Miami Herald
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Where Flags heaved its characters through war and psychic trauma without first allowing us all to get acquainted, Letters takes such care with its protagonists that they awaken and descend from the screen.

January 19, 2007 Full Review Source: Houston Chronicle | Comment (1)
Houston Chronicle
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Modern-day echoes of being snookered into a bad war aren't lost on Clint Eastwood, and "Letters from Iwo Jima" delivers an overwhelmingly powerful eulogy for the death of righteousness in combat on either side of the line.

September 19, 2010 Full Review Source:

Not an anti-war tract or a glorification but, rather, a fair consideration of humanity that exists within the inhumanity of armed conflict.

October 23, 2009 Full Review Source: ReelTalk Movie Reviews
ReelTalk Movie Reviews

Eastwood's cinema is one of resolutely moral images

August 28, 2009 Full Review Source: CinePassion

Eastwood is a master of the extended look (this comes from the two directors he acknowledges as his own masters, Sergio Leone and Don Siegel), the look that stretches time and that is blinded by what it sees.

April 23, 2009 Full Review Source: Boston Phoenix
Boston Phoenix

The most important film of 2006 was Clint Eastwood's Letters from Iwo Jima. In 20 years Letters from Iwo Jima will be a classic.

February 2, 2009 Full Review Source: Fayetteville Free Weekly
Fayetteville Free Weekly

War is hell, always has been, and movies will continue to confirm it for anyone who might doubt. In this case, though, Letters only shows that for all the different perspective the other side of a war could have, it's the same old movie clichés.

November 20, 2008 Full Review Source: | Comment (1)

Eastwood's direction is a thing of beauty, blending unblinking ferocity with fragile delicacy.

February 28, 2008 Full Review Source:

Both technical grace and an efficient ensemble smooth over some...clunky plotting.

December 1, 2007 Full Review Source: Stylus Magazine

A fine, textured study of war, one that considers the strategic side as well as the human side without sacrificing either.

September 24, 2007 Full Review Source:

Watching the film, I had admiration for what Eastwood and his writers were attempting, but I remained at arm's length. I'm not entirely sure why I could not buy into the film.

July 14, 2007 Full Review Source: Murphy's Movie Reviews
Murphy's Movie Reviews

Much as already been made about the pride and honor of the Japanese, but as a people they have rarely, if ever, been depicted as fully human characters in American war movies. It's amazing to think what Clint Eastwood has done here.

July 14, 2007 Full Review Source: Big Picture Big Sound
Big Picture Big Sound

... Eastwood takes this film out of the realm of a typical war picture to illuminate the boundless nature of the human spirit, which extends far beyond race and nationality.

July 11, 2007 Full Review Source: DVD Review
DVD Review

In Letters, the glossy romanticism of history crumbles before our very eyes.

July 3, 2007 Full Review Source: House Next Door
House Next Door

Eastwood has made a film that is thoughtful, poignant, touching, and philosophical. It stands as one of the best works in his long, illustrious career.

May 23, 2007 Full Review Source: Aisle Seat
Aisle Seat

A Japanese war flick comprised of contrasting character portraits of soldiers torn between dying with honor and the very human instinct of self-preservation.

May 22, 2007 Full Review Source: NewsBlaze

...a sad, lonely, melancholic film, for all its brutal action and bloodshed, with moments of sheer poetry and others of heartbreaking grief.

May 14, 2007 Full Review Source: Movie Metropolis
Movie Metropolis

Instead of showing us the differences between the three men, Eastwood chooses to illustrate how much they were alike and, more importantly, how much they resemble you and me.

March 24, 2007 Full Review Source: UGO

Letters From Iwo Jima is less interesting as the counter-perspective to last year's Flags of Our Fathers than it is as Clint Eastwood's effort to stake his own Japanese movie epic.

March 15, 2007 Full Review

Some will make compelling arguments that Eastwood doesn't give us a complete picture of the Japanese or their atrocities, but the director still is betting that right now, perhaps the world could benefit from another perspective.

March 5, 2007 Full Review Source: Bangor Daily News (Maine)
Bangor Daily News (Maine)

Por su humanidad y fuera desmitificadora, además de su rigurosa ejecución cinematográfica, se suma con honores a lo mejor de la filmografía de un gran director.

February 28, 2007 Full Review Source: Uruguay Total
Uruguay Total

Audience Reviews for Letters from Iwo Jima

Uh oh. I don't think I dug this nearly as much as everyone else. Clint went to great lengths to humanize the Japanese soldiers - almost to the point of neglecting to show the scale and ferocity of the actual conflict.

Tell you what, I'm gonna go watch the companion piece Flags of Our Fathers and see it that changes things for me.
August 10, 2007

Super Reviewer

The story centres on Saigo, a young baker who is conscripted into defending the island of Iwo Jima as the last line of defence against the advancing American forces. The Japanese "forces" are shown as a dishevelled, barely equipped and starving rag tag collection of survivors huddled in underground caves, overwhelmed by the collective might of the US navy and suffering at the hands of fanatical commanding officers who are all too willing to commit "honourable" suicide. In a brave move, Clint Eastwood chooses to show the invasion of Japan from their perspective and not only that but actually uses Japanese actors speaking in Japanese; the entire film is subtitled which I'm sure went down a treat in Hicksville, USA. This is a very human war story, centering far more on the beautifully written and totally believable characters than individual politics. It's a wonderfully understated film, the performances first rate, the cinematography a stunning blend of documentary and artful visuals and it's accompanied by a haunting but subtle soundtrack. It's a million miles from the button pushing contrivances of most war films; probably because it was made by a member of the "enemy" nation and that's what makes it work so well as a very personal story. Saigo is shown as just another human being, just as the American troops are; some are murderous and selfish, others kind-hearted humanitarians. Which side they were on is irrelevant. But the main thought it raised with me was this; if this was the best "resistance" the Japanese had to offer, it seriously calls into question the strategic value of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
October 26, 2012
xGary Xx

Super Reviewer

For a movie that has had an amazing word of mouth, "Letters from Iwo Jima" surprisingly is not quite the punch that I'd thought it would be. That isn't to say, "Letters" was a bad movie -- just thought the film did very little to distinguish itself from the rest of the movies within the war genre.

Compared to your average war-movie, "Letters" has a bit more depth to it. Yes, visually, you're not gonna find much difference contrary to watching "Saving Private Ryan". The color palette, the shaky-cam, death and blood between quick-cuts, and dirt flinging up from ricocheting bullets are all done via "Saving Private Ryan"'s style except with a considerably lacking production value. Thus, the film seems to be another emulation of the visually and the viscerally spectacular, "Saving Private Ryan". But what "Letters from Iwo Jima" does differently compared to ANY war movie (from what I've seen) is the depiction of themes and struggles that have scarcely been covered in any type of American storytelling. This scarcity, much like how scarcely an American studio would humanize and show the perspective of America's opposing forces during WWII, is present because these themes and struggles are direct challenges of Japanese culture. Like a boss, Eastwood doesn't just leave these heavy themes on the eastern side of the world; he challenges both American and Japanese cultures, almost as if he speaks out to bring both parties at a healthy medium. The heavy and emotional narrative alone, gives "Letters from Iwo Jima" a distinctive identity of its own. The narrative does come heavy-handed though. Many movies that delve into traumatizing events like "The Pianist" or "The Pursuit of Happyness" always seem to fall into the same storytelling detriments: They focus on repetitively piling more and more saddening events without involving viewers emotionally with any of the characters and without introducing any new developments in the narrative. By the end, it just leaves you feeling numbed and saddened, wondering when the climax hit. "Letters from Iwo Jima" ALMOST falls into the same pit, but luckily, manages to pull out of this path and inject an emotional and immersive storyline that gives enough hope and enough characterization to pull out and see that this isn't a bash-fest of sorrow upon the audience.

The film isn't without its share of problems though. Editing can be sloppy, cinematography goes from down-right-gorgeous to muddy, and the direction for certain sequences is lazy. It's a shame because under all this mess lies an emotional core with extravagantly fantastic performances and screenplay that accentuate the multi-layered narrative to flying colors. This is hardly Clint Eastwood's best film, and "Letters", though has dynamic themes and challenges, isn't much more different than your typical war-movie, but this film as a whole, gives a true salute to the people that mustered up courage to put on a soldier's uniform, regardless of whether they were American or Japanese.
July 31, 2012
Albert Kim

Super Reviewer

Note: Letters from Iwo Jima has been billed and released as a motion picture of its own, but it essentially works in a one-film companionship with Flags of Our Fathers. Therefore, you may notice quite a few comparisons between the films in this review, but hopefully nothing that processes over-the-top.

I'd like to consider FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS and LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA as one cinematic fortification. I understand quite well that that combined piece would run longer than four and a half hours; that's why it works better as two, separate, more explained films. Clint Eastwood is an intelligent filmmaker. That's not to say he doesn't have a few flops on his record, but his decision to make both films was ingenious. Rarely do we see films that depict the journey taken by the defeated side of a war. It's clear that Clint Eastwood recognizes this. He shot FLAGS and LETTERS back-to-back in 2006, depicting both the victorious (U.S. Marines) and the defeated (Imperial Japan). It's easy to say neither one could work without the other as its companion piece.

Let me be clear that FLAGS was a very moving, well accomplished film. I actually opened up my review with the word "poignant" and awarded it an A-. LETTERS, however, is a greater achievement to its preceding work. Eastwood, as in that other film, uses mostly unknown names to make the film feel authentic. These Japanese actors and their performances-most pertinently Ken Watanabe as General Kuribayashi-blow those Americans in FLAGS away by a long shot. Another achievement that makes this film so great is the musical score by Michael Stevens and Kyle Eastwood. The simplistic theme played on the piano and trumpet, alternately, is so beautiful, yet it itself could narrate the story without the use of any dialogue (all of which is in Japanese) whatsoever.

Read the rest of the review at
June 12, 2012

Super Reviewer

    1. General Kuribayashi: Everything happens in three's.
    – Submitted by Nicolo P (2 years ago)
    1. Saigo: I....digging my own grave?
    – Submitted by Kent H (2 years ago)
    1. Nishi Baron: Do what is right, because it is right.
    – Submitted by Steve C (3 years ago)
    1. Saigo: He studied the Americans. So he knows how to beat them.
    – Submitted by TaysiaIrok T (3 years ago)
    1. General Kuribayashi: The United States is the last country in the world that Japan should fight.
    – Submitted by TaysiaIrok T (3 years ago)
    1. General Kuribayashi: A day will come when they will weep and pray for your souls.
    – Submitted by Chris P (3 years ago)
View all quotes (7)

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