Letters from Iwo Jima (2006) - Rotten Tomatoes

Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)



Critic Consensus: 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.

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 leaders saw the island as the final opportunity to prevent an Allied invasion. Lt. General Tadamichi Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe) was put in charge of the forces on Iwo Jima; Kuribayashi had spent time in the United States and was not eager to take on the American army, but he also understood his opponents in a way his superiors did not, and devised an unusual strategy of digging tunnels and deep foxholes that allowed his troops a tactical advantage over the invading soldiers. While Kuribayashi's strategy alienated some older officers, it impressed Baron Nishi (Tsuyoshi Ihara), the son of a wealthy family who had also studied America firsthand as an athlete at the 1932 Olympics. As Kuribayashi and his men dig in for a battle they are not certain they can win -- and most have been told they will not survive -- their story is told both by watching their actions and through the letters they write home to their loved ones, letters that in many cases would not be delivered until long after they were dead. Among the soldiers manning Japan's last line of defense are Saigo (Kazunari Ninomiya), a baker sent to Iwo Jima only days before his wife was to give birth; Shimizu (Ryo Kase), who was sent to Iwo Jima after washing out in the military police; and Lieutenant Ito (Shidou Nakamura), who has embraced the notion of "Death Before Surrender" with particular ferocity. Filmed in Japanese with a primarily Japanese cast, Letters From Iwo Jima was shot in tandem with Flags of Our Fathers, and the two films were released within two months of one another. ~ Mark Deming, Rovimore
Rating: R (for graphic war violence)
Genre: Drama
Directed By:
Written By: Iris Yamashita
In Theaters:
On DVD: May 22, 2007
Box Office: $13.7M
Warner Bros. Pictures - Official Site


Ken Watanabe
as Gen. Tadamichi Kurib...
Tsuyoshi Ihara
as Baron Nishi
Nae Yuuki
as Hanako Saigo
Shidou Nakamura
as Lieutenant Ito
Ryo Kase
as Shimizu
Hiroshi Watanabe
as Lt. Fujita
Takumi Bando
as Capt. Tanida
Eijiro Ozaki
as Lt. Okubo
Nobumasa Sakagami
as Admiral Ohsugi
Sonny Saito
as Medic Endo
Hiro Abe
as Lt. Colonel Oiso
Toshiya Agata
as Captain Iwasaki
Yoshi Ishii
as Private Yamazaki
Toshi Toda
as Colonel Adachi
Ken Kensei
as Maj. General Hayashi
Akiko Shima
as Lead Woman
Masashi Nagadoi
as Admiral Ichimaru
Mark Moses
as American Officer
Roxanne Hart
as Officer's Wife
Yoshio Iizuka
as Tired Soldier
Mitsu Kurokawa
as Suicide Soldier
Koji Wada
as Hashimoto
Akira Kaneda
as Japanese Soldier No....
Shoji Hattori
as Japanese Soldier No....
Mark Tadashi Takahas...
as Japanese Soldier No....
Mitsuyuki Oishi
as Japanese Soldier No....
Evan Ellingson
as Kid Marine
Kazuyuki Morosawa
as Ito's Guard
Masayuki Yonezawa
as Ito's Soldier
Hiroshi Tom Tanaka
as Hopeless Soldier
Mathew Botuchis
as American Marine
Kirk Enochs
as Marine Officer
Ryan Kelley
as Marine No. 2
Michael Lawson
as Marine No. 4
Taishi Mizuno
as Cave Soldier No. 1
Daisuke Tsuji
as Cave Soldier No. 2
Yoshi Ando
as Excavator No. 1
Yutaka Takeuchi
as Excavator No. 2
Tsuguo Mizuno
as Lead Excavator
Mark Ofuji
as Kuribayashi's Guard
Hallock Beals
as Marine at Clearing
Ryan Carnes
as Marine at Clearing
Jeremy Glazer
as Marine Lieutenant
London Kim
as Okubo's Soldier
Skip Evans
as Pilot No. 1
Shidou Nakamura
as Lieutenant Ito
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Letters from Iwo Jima

Critic Reviews for Letters from Iwo Jima

All Critics (198) | Top Critics (47)

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.

Full Review… | September 19, 2010

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

Full Review… | October 23, 2009
ReelTalk Movie Reviews

Eastwood's cinema is one of resolutely moral images

Full Review… | August 28, 2009

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.

Full Review… | April 23, 2009
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.

Full Review… | February 2, 2009
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.

Full Review… | November 20, 2008

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.

Bob Stinson

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.

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.

Albert Kim
Albert Kim

Super Reviewer

Letters from Iwo Jima Quotes

General Kuribayashi: Everything happens in three's.
– Submitted by Nicolo P (4 years ago)
Saigo: Hanako...am I....digging my own grave?
– Submitted by Kent H (4 years ago)
Nishi Baron: Do what is right, because it is right.
– Submitted by Steve C (4 years ago)
Saigo: He studied the Americans. So he knows how to beat them.
– Submitted by TaysiaIrok T (4 years ago)

Discussion Forum

Discuss Letters from Iwo Jima on our Movie forum!