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Tuesday, March 6, 2007

LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA (2006) - Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood delivers the second part of his Iwo Jima saga, after Flags of our Fathers, with Letters From Iwo Jima. This time, the film centers on the struggle of the Japanese soldiers who struggle to hold the island with little in the way of supplies, and struggling to avoid catching dysentery. The film is anchored by a fantastic performance by Ken Watanabe (Batman Begins, The Last Samurai). Watanabe plays General Tadamichi Kuribayashi, a man transferred to Iwo Jima to over see the Japenese forces shortly before the American landings. His unorthodox approach of commanding his troops causes descent among his staff. Among the soldiers is Saigo, a poor young baker drafted into the army who questions the purpose of holding the island while suffering the rigid discipline of the Japanese army.

There is a sombre and sad tone that runs through Letters From Iwo Jima. As well as the soldiers, we know what is coming. There is to be no heroic sacrifice. There is no way out of the impending doom. The soldiers are locked in a bitter conflict amongst themselves between modern warfare and the ideology of honorable sacrifice by dying in battle. The traditionalists will die no matter at whose hands it is, their enemies' or their own. But many young soldiers just want to go home to their families.

Eastwood is an excellent director as is evident here. By showing us insights into the central characters' pasts, we are connect with the soldiers more. Only one of their stories is out of place and unnecessary amongst the others. The acting is excellent from all involved. But while Iwo Jima was one of the longest battles of the Second World War, focus is shifted away from the actual fighting and focuses on the men involved. And in that sense, we don't get a feeling for the scope of the battle. The actual raising of the American flag on Iwo Jima is relegated to the background of one short scene. However, this is an excellent film and one that should rightly take it's place amongst the great war epics.

Letters From Iwo Jima @ IMDB

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