Letters from Iwo Jima

2006

Letters from Iwo Jima

Critics 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.

91%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 201

86%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 341,026
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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, Rovi

Cast

Ken Watanabe
as Gen. Tadamichi Kuribayashi
Tsuyoshi Ihara
as Baron Nishi
Nae Yuuki
as Hanako Saigo
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. 1
Shoji Hattori
as Japanese Soldier No. 2
Mark Tadashi Takahashi
as Japanese Soldier No. 3
Mitsuyuki Oishi
as Japanese Soldier No. 4
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
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Critic Reviews for Letters from Iwo Jima

All Critics (201) | Top Critics (51) | Fresh (183) | Rotten (18)

  • The whole is a more satisfactory entity than Flags of Our Fathers - and the final scene, which has veterans and relatives scouring the tunnels and caves for the buried letters, is a suitably moving coda.

    Feb 23, 2007 | Rating: 4/5
  • High-minded and generous, but lacking in real passion and flair.

    Feb 23, 2007 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • The moral is hardly original. The scale certainly is. Only a director of Eastwood's standing could possibly terrify enough producers into financing this decidedly foreign, but impressively chunky, white elephant.

    Feb 23, 2007 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • Even by [Eastwood's] own high standards, Letters is an extraordinary achievement.

    Feb 23, 2007 | Rating: 4.5/5 | Full Review…
  • 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.

    Feb 22, 2007 | Full Review…

    Wally Hammond

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • Eastwood directs his performers with great skill, and brings a weary, astringent eye to the carnage that unfolds on Iwo Jima's blackened sands.

    Feb 18, 2007 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

    Paul Arendt

    BBC.com
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Letters from Iwo Jima

  • Nov 20, 2016
    Filmed back to back with Flags of Our Fathers, Letters From Iwo Jima is told from the Japanese soldier's POV, which makes it a fascinating film right from the start. General Kuribayashi, played by Ken Watanabe, makes for one of the most interesting characters in all of war films. A man who used to be close friends with the Americans is now using their weapon gifted to him right back on their own soldiers. It provides serious perspective and gives you a newfound understanding that war isn't always good vs. evil. There are good and bad people on both sides, but the treacheries of war don't discriminate.
    Kevin M Super Reviewer
  • Apr 25, 2014
    Being the companion piece to Eastwood's previous Flags of Our Fathers, this WW2 epic tells a different perspective being that with good and evil on both sides, the only enemy is war itself. Very thought provoking and unlike other war movies that portray any side as strictly heroes.
    Max G Super Reviewer
  • Oct 22, 2013
    Another poignant and powerful WWII film. Truly brilliant.
    Maymay A Super Reviewer
  • Jul 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.
    Albert K Super Reviewer

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