Letters from Iwo Jima Reviews

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Super Reviewer
April 12, 2007
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.
Super Reviewer
½ March 18, 2007
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.
Super Reviewer
July 30, 2012
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.
Super Reviewer
July 22, 2007
Eastwood's sensitive and unique portrait of the defending forces on the island of Iwo Jima during the American attack there of WWll. Its especially notable for the time taken to draw out the likable humanity of the particular personalities showcased. A very compassionate take on the fruits of conflict from a surprising source.
Super Reviewer
February 26, 2011
Letters to Iwo Jima is the Japanese version of what happened at the battle, and its as great as it is realistic. The story is a work of pure genius and just proves that Clint Eastwood is one of the greatest actor/directors in history, if not THE best of all time, and I just completely loved the story,. Ken Watanabe is one of the greatest asian actors of all time, and this and Inception may be his two greatest roles ever, and the rest of the cast was great as well. The war scenes are realistic and incredible, it really is the highlight of the film. This and Flags of Our Fathers are two different viewpoints on of the most famous battles of all time, and both are just pure works of genius and I loved them both.
Super Reviewer
½ August 18, 2010
Clint Eastwood....he is such a brilliant director. He dared to take Hollywood where it had never gone before, the heart and mind of the enemy. With this film, he told a story that few have ever heard. Letters from Iwo Jima is yet another masterpiece by Eastwood and is a film that will proudly be among the best of his films.

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.)
Super Reviewer
½ October 9, 2010
Clint Eastwood's masterful war epic of the battle of Iwo Jima. The film is viewed by the Japanese point of view of the battle. This is the second half of Eastwood's Iwo Jima tale, the first being Flags Of Our Fathers. Flags Of Our Fathers was a good film, telling the story from the American point of view of the battle. and focusing on the six men who raised the flag on Mount Suribachi. However Letters From Iwo Jima is different film and is an incredible one at that. The cast is well picked.and they deliver masterful performances. Ken Watanabe excels in his acting in the role as General Kuribayashi. He usually delivers strong performances as tragic characters, and in Letters From Iwo Jima, he delivers his best performance. Letters from Iwo Jima is one of the best war films since Black Hawk Down and Saving Private Ryan. Clint Eastwood delivers not only a powerful war film, but he also delivers a film with great drama. Thats one thing I admire about this film, that it shows the hesitation of a few Japanese soldiers willing to fight, and does show the human side of those soldiers. The film has a poetic feel to it because of the way the story is told. The film is simply beautiful, epic, poignant and extraordinary. Those are just some of the few words I can use to describe this picture. Clint Eastwood delivers a masterful film, a film thats almost flawless in it's execution. The story, acting and pacing of the film are terrific. Letters From Iwo Jima is one of the best war films to come out recently. Clint Eastwood has delivered a film that will definitely be remembered in time as one of the best war films about the battle of Iwo Jima. Thew thing that it's got going for it, is the fact that it tells the story from the Japanese side of the battle. Letters From iwo Jima is a masterful film that conveys emotion, the feel of combat and in the end; the doubt of surviving the battle. Letters From Iwo Jima is an amazing film and is the better half of Flags Of Our Fathers.
Super Reviewer
September 5, 2010
Clint Eastwood directed. Do I need to say more? Exceptional Japanese war movie.
Super Reviewer
July 29, 2010
Super Reviewer
April 16, 2007
Poetic, pretty and powerful. Classic Eastwood. It was strange to see some of the footage (not a ton, just some) from Flags of Our Fathers recycled in this one, but to see the same invasion from the other side was fabuolous. Two quotes this movie made me think of:

"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!"
Super Reviewer
½ January 31, 2007
A spectacular, powerful and extraordinary movie. A tour de force. A brilliant, gripping, epic, compelling, deeply moving and mesmerizing war drama. It's truly magnificent and stunning in every way. It's a classic that cant be ignored. A masterpiece. Director, Clint Eastwood has crafted another breathtaking and remarkable point of view of the Iwo Jima battle. It's astonishing in every way as the equal of Flag's of our fathers. This is a truly riveting, amazing and unforgettable film. It's simply fascinating and exhilarating. Awesome and well-crafted battle scenes, they are graphic, haunting and tremendous. One of the greatest war movies ever made. It's sweeping and enormously entertaining. Ken Watanabe gives an intelligent, fearless, truly dedicated and unforgettable performance. He was perfect in this compelling and outstanding role. Also including an impressive cast of Japanese talents.
Super Reviewer
December 20, 2006
Amongst the greatest war films of all time. One of the best films of 2006. Going where no hollywood film as ever dared to go, war from the viewpoint of the enemy of the United States. Told with beautifully honesty it is suprisingly moving. Clint Eastwood has created a masterpeice of recent cinema.
Super Reviewer
½ December 28, 2008
Now two years after it's initial release, a rewatch does nothing to lessen my admiration and respect for this film. Inspired by actual events, Letters from Iwo Jima is an emotionally powerful epic from a unique perspective.
Super Reviewer
½ December 26, 2008
"The battle of Iwo Jima seen through the eyes of the Japanese soldiers."

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.
Super Reviewer
½ December 29, 2006
Another masterpiece World War II from Clint Eastwood. I should have wished to see Eastwood's two World War II films of 2006 including Flags of Our Feathers crossover between American and Japanese soldiers in war like hell. Ken Watanabe does an amazing performance as a good Japanese general who did the right thing to request his own soldiers than other generals and captains.
Super Reviewer
½ December 14, 2006
A very dramatic movie from Clint Eastwood, he did a very great job on this movie.. The battle between Japan and America in the island named Iwo Jima was great.. It's great to see that Eastwood didn't make a single movie for the battle of Iwo Jima, but he make two movies... Flags of Our Fathers from the American sides, and this movie, Letters From Iwo Jima, from the Japanese sides.... I don't know if this movie based on a true story or not, but at least it was a great one... Knowing how great the spirit of the Japanese people that they want to fight until they die, but the spirit isn't just the tactic to win... You need a strategy too, but in this movie the Japanese people were imagined as a bunch of brave people without brains, just spirit until they die... But i don't know if that's all true, because the one who make this movie is an American right?? But one thing for sure that if it's true that the letters written by the soldiers who are fighting in Iwo Jima aren't make even a single one to their family, that was a non humanity... They just don't know anything about this war, and they just want to go home to go back to their family, the one they should belong to.. I think it's just unfair on them.. Ken Watanabe did a great job in this movie, but I think he's too far to go for the Oscar... But the movie surely can make it, it's a great movie anyway.. I wonder if Flags Of Our Fathers was better than this movie..... For me, this movie should won Best Picture... But maybe the Academy wants to repay something wrong that they made before... Making Million Dollar Baby won Best Picture and beat The Aviator, that's insane! Not even a chance!!
Super Reviewer
July 5, 2007
The movie was better than I was lead to believe -- ALL the performances were stunning -- You really got into the emotions felt on both sides -- Clint at his best
Super Reviewer
May 24, 2007
The companion piece to Flags Of Our Fathers, Letters From Iwo Jima tells the story of the American invasion of the Japanese island during WWII from the Japanese side of the conflict. For the first time that I can remember in an American film, the American soldiers are the "others" and our focus point is the side generally considering the enemy. This alone makes it one of the most ballsy films ever, and in its execution, its plain that it's also one of the best war films ever. Under Clint Eastwood's focused direction not only do we get a beautiful looking and exceptionally made film, but also one that finally allows one to feel compassion for the other side of the Great War. The film also, very wisely, is in the Japanese language; as such, taking another bold step away from the typical Hollywood war-film fare which often magically had German and Japanese people speaking English on their home soil for the benefit of the audience. The market for films in subtitles definitely seems more open for mass audiences since the massive success of Pan's Labyrinth, and this is definitely a great step forward. Anyway, for the film itself, the acting is phenomenal. Ken Watanabe leads a stellar cast of Japanese actors, all of which do swell work. The film is narrated sporadically in the form of letters written by the soldiers to their homes, a great device which, along with several flashbacks related to the 3 or 4 main characters, lends the necessary pathos to make the film work to maximum effect. The war scenes are absolutely great, as well. If you're going to see just one of Clint Eastwood's Iwo Jima pieces, then see this one - it is superior to its companion in every way, and is an extremely important film in its very nature.
Super Reviewer
½ March 2, 2007
Slightly better than Eastwood's FLAGS.
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