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  Publicity Stills of "Letters from Iwo Jima"
(Courtesy from Warner Bros)

Genre: War/Drama
Director: Clint Eastwood
Cast: Ken Watanabe, Kazunari Ninomiya, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Ryo Kase, Shido Nakamura, Yuki Matsuzaki, Hiroshi Watanabe, Takumi Bando, Nobumasa Sakagami, Takashi Yamaguchi, Nae Yuuki
RunTime: 2 hrs 21 mins
Released By: Warner Bros
Rating: NC-16 (War Violence)

Opening Day: 22 February 2007

Synopsis :

Sixty-one years ago, U.S. and Japanese armies met on Iwo Jima. Decades later, several hundred letters are unearthed from that stark island’s soils. The letters give faces and voices to the men who fought there, as well as the extraordinary general who led them, Tadamichi Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe). With little defense other than sheer will and the volcanic rock of the island itself, Gen. Kuribayashi’s unprecedented tactics transform what was predicted to be a quick and bloody defeat into nearly 40 days of heroic and resourceful combat. In an effort to explore an event that continues to resonate with both cultures, Clint Eastwood was haunted by the sense that making only one film, Flags of Our Fathers, would be telling only half the story. With this unprecedented dual film project, shot back-to-back to be released in sequence, Eastwood seeks to reveal the battle of Iwo Jima – and, by implication, the war in the Pacific – as a clash not only of arms but of cultures.

Movie Review:

For their role in the World War 2, the Japanese armies have always been seen as cruel and brutal devils that are capable of inhumane acts to mankind. In Clint Eastwood’s Flags of our Fathers, this scheming and relentless group gave the US armies a tough 40 days of warfare at Iwo Jima.

Now was the island really so precious to all the Japanese soldiers and are they that scheming and relentless in protecting this island. Letters from Iwo Jima, the companion movie to Flags of our Fathers, will bring viewers to the other side of the historic battle, to see thru the eyes of the “enemy”, giving a more balanced view of that one battle than any other war movies had ever managed to achieve.

Letters from Iwo Jima touches on the different behavior of the Japanese military personal involved in defending Iwo Jima and their correspondence with their family sharing their inmost thoughts and fears. Though the letters, it revealed another side of the Japanese armies that most of us would probably not have expected it. Lacking resources and the will to battle, the Japanese soldiers endured and pressed on for the sake of their honors and beliefs that borderline between admiration and absurdities.

Ken Watanabe, the current Hollywood “Go To Guy” in the Japanese talent pool is proving once again why he is worth his weight in Gold. Once again he display charm almost effortlessly as General Tadamichi Kuribayashi and if you are preparing for a doomed battle, it’s not too bad to have Ken Watanabe as your leader.

On the lesser known actor aspect, Kazunari Ninomiya who played Saigo, the baker forced to become a solider stood out as the most touching and heart breaking tale. His tale represents the group of soldiers who didn’t want to fight the war but circumstances robbed him of everything and placed him in the frontline of a war that he didn’t want to fight. Fighting on a side that seems destined to lose, hopes of him going back to see his wife and unborn daughter were seemly bleak. It’s hard not to be emoted by his desire to return to his family and that really engages the audience to root for him to survive this horrific war.

What made Letters from Iwo Jima a slightly stronger film than Flags of our Fathers would have to be end results of the war. While the US soldiers in Flags had to deal with the horror of war in the midst of celebration and being an unwilling celebrity, the Japanese soldiers only had the defeat to face and survival isn’t an option in the proud Japanese warrior tradition. This made it a darker and stronger film about self preservation and a great study of honor in the Japanese tradition.

War is the most absurd thing. I suspect these two movies are Clint Eastwood’s stance on wars, both past and present. Why are citizens from both side of the war suffering for the views of a group of despot who hunger for more power and wealth? Though the battle at Iwo Jima had passed for 50 years, the director still managed to bring out the same question that is relevant today. Even if the war is paved with good intention, there will always be innocent suffering and is it really worth going to war for?

Movie Rating:

(A worthy contender for Oscar Best Picture in 2007)

Review by Richard Lim Jr


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