Letters From Iwo Jima (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner21/02/2007

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 141 mins

Impressively directed, engaging and frequently moving drama, although it's a shame that there isn't a little more crossover with its companion piece.

What's it all about?
Clint Eastwood's Oscar-nominated companion piece to Flags of our Fathers tells the story of Iwo Jima from the point of view of the Japanese, beginning with a team of archaeologists on present day Iwo Jima unearthing hundreds of letters, written by the Japanese soldiers but never sent home. The letters give voice to two men in particular: troop commander General Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe), whose travels have given him insight into the American forces, and lowly serviceman Saigo (Kazunari Ninomiya), who dreams of making it home to see his newborn daughter.

Kuribayashi knows that defeat is inevitable but he orders his men to dig a network of underground tunnels so that they can hold out for as long as possible. Meanwhile, Saigo clashes with a bullying officer (Shido Nakamura) and decides that surrender might be preferable to suicide.

The Good
The performances are excellent and the device of the soldiers' letters allows Eastwood to dispense with the clumsy interview structure that marred Flags of our Fathers. It's also refreshingly free of the first film's sentimentality and gung-ho Jingoism, presenting a balanced view of the Japanese.

Tom Stern's starkly muted cinematography is excellent, starving you for colour and giving the inevitable dashes of red that create much more impact. Eastwood also includes several nice directorial touches, the most telling of which occurs when the iconic flag from the first film appears as a tiny, insignificant speck in the distance.

The Bad
The only disappointing thing is that Letters From Iwo Jima misses the opportunity for crossover between the two films (none of the American actors repeat their roles), although one scene is clearly meant to evoke an unseen moment from Flags.

Worth seeing?
Eastwood's bold experiment proves a great success: this is an engaging, superbly acted drama about the high personal cost of warfare. Recommended.

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Content updated: 17/07/2018 18:15

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