Release Date: December 20th, 2006 by Warner Brothers Pictures.
The Cast: Ken Watanabe, Kazunari Ninomiya, Shido Nakamura, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Ryo Kase, Yuki Matsuzaki, Hiroshi Watanabe, Takumi Bando, Nobumasa Sakagami, Takashi Yamaguchi, Nae Yuuki.
Directed by Clint Eastwood.
In English and Japanese with subtitles.
BASIC PREMISE: Japanese General Tadamichi Kuribayashi (Watanabe) leads his soldiers to defend themselves against American soldiers during the Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Letters from Iwo Jima depicts the Battle of Iwo Jima from the perspective of Japanese soldiers. It’s easy to care about some of these soldiers because they’re not just fighting in battles. Saigo (Ninomiya), for example, was once a baker and misses his young daughter back at home. Then there’s Shimizu (Kase), a young soldier who has trouble following orders, such as in a flashback scene when he refuses to obey commands to shoot a family’s dog. Ken Watanabe gives a very strong performance as General Kuribayashi who sips a drink while conversing with Baron Nichi (Ihara), a former Olympic horse rider. Unlike the plot of Flags of Our Fathers, this plot feels much easier to follow given attention to character development and less distracting gyrations between the past and the present. Just as expected, there’s some graphic violence during the riveting action scenes, but director Clint Eastwood wisely doesn’t go overboard with it to make it difficult to watch. The cinematography looks quite exceptional with appropriately washed-out colors to give the sensation that you’re watching a black-and-white film—it also makes the red of the blood stand out from the rest of the visuals. After the confusing and dull war film Flags of Our Fathers, Eastwood redeems himself with this thoroughly compelling and absorbing film that never overstays its welcome despite its running time of 2 hours and 20 minutes.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: The scenes when the Japanese soldiers show mercy for American soldiers who they capture feel quite moving to watch. Not surprisingly, the brutal nature of the war and how it affects the soldiers' mind is profoundly sad.
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: None.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 0
IN A NUTSHELL: Compelling, moving and haunting. One of Clint Eastwood’s finest films.
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)
The "L" Menu