Letters from Iwo Jima Reviews
Tell you what, I'm gonna go watch the companion piece Flags of Our Fathers and see it that changes things for me.
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.
The cinematography was something that really stood out to me. With the gray colors, dark setting, war torn scenes, gloomy horizons, a tone is established without even knowing the story. It shows the desperation of the Japanese. As the story begins to unfold, the emotions become present in the characters, emphasizing the tone and beautiful cinematography.
The story itself was absolutely fascinating. I love history and I've seen alot of war films, but this story was completely foreign to me. My perception of the opposing side was completely different than the story of the film. Eastwood brilliantly taps into the other side of the story, and magnificently captures it in this film. I felt touched, emotional, amazed, and educated while watching this film. Yes, it is only a film, but I believe much can be learned from the stories and emotions that come from film.
Ken Watanabe delivers an unmissable performance. He is fantastic here, as is the rest of the cast.
Although this film is very very slow, it is a fantastic film. One of the best war films, and also one of the best of 2006. See this film not only because it's good, but because of the story that it tells. It opened my mind to a whole nother point of view, and that's got to count for something. Letters of Iwo Jima is a brilliant masterpiece by Clint Eastwood. See this film! I recommend it! (Basically a 6 Star film but ......really, really slow.)
"I miss new wave, and movies about losing." --Matthew Good
"In the Soviet army it takes more courage to retreat than advance."--Joseph Stalin
A great film about losing that tells the story of what it's like to be expected - not just asked, like Americans, but EXPECTED - to die for your country, and how it feels to see yourself losing. Eastwood does a wonderful job of humanizing the "enemy", and delivers a film that despite being slow-moving, is one in which every shot, every line, every scene counts. Not ground-breaking, but definitely another capable film from a more than capable director. Best of all, it leaves me with a feeling of hope. Films of the 2000s will forever be associated with the Iraq (and Afghanistan) war(s). Will American cinema be humanizing those victims on celluloid in 50 years? Less? If future directors do it as well as Eastwood, all I can say is "I hope so!"
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.
The one thing that stood out to me about this movie was the way that it was nearly shot in black in white given the dullness of the color. The setting was an island in the Pacific, yet the only time that only vibrant or dazzling color is present is during the battle scenes. This was useful because it intensified the violence of the air raids and made the moment more spectacular in terms of the fear it was able to create. The sheer power of the bombs was done in a realistic manner that reflected American military dominance without glorifying them into a fictional state.
In terms of the dullness of the colors throughout the movie, I feel that they more powerfully control the interpretations that the audience gets from the movie itself. The despair and hopelessness of the Japanese on that island was brilliantly displayed with the lack of warm and comforting vibrant colors. The only time that the audience really gets a beautifully use of color is at the end when they show the sunset in the background of the dark island. The symbolism here is powerful and inspiring as it leaves the audience with a sense of hope in the possibilities available, yet with a real depiction of the reality of the situation represented by the dark and dreary island. All in all I felt the cinematography really made this movie a lot more powerful than it would have been with another cinematographer.