Home Arts-Entertainment Movies 'Letters from Iwo Jima' Presents War From the Other Side

'Letters from Iwo Jima' Presents War From the Other Side


Feb. 13, 2007 — Clint Eastwood’s "Letters from Iwo Jima" has received four Oscar nominations, and many reviewers think it will be awarded Best Picture. The film is the counterbalance to "Flags of Our Fathers," which Eastwood released last October.
Together the two films tell the story of that famous battle in 1945, the last year of World War II.
While "Flags" told the story from the American perspective, "Letters" tells it from the vantage point of the Japanese Imperial Army.
What Eastwood conveys is that both sides were very similar: Both were fighting for what they believed, anxious to get home and not the stereotypes often portrayed. Both were also capable of compassion and understanding, as well as unimaginable violence.
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone says, “Letters is quality from first frame to last, a war film that is almost a tone poem in how it reveals the minds and secret hearts of the Japanese soldiers defending the volcanic island of Iwo Jima against American forces over forty days of battle. We watch in horror as soldiers bang their helmets with live grenades, preferring suicide to surrender. Eastwood's film burns into the memory by striving for authentic detail. The result is unique and unforgettable.”
At age 76, Eastwood has made a remarkable movie, one that many say accurately captures the nature of war, much in the same way that Spielberg did in “Saving Private Ryan."
The story unfolds through a series of letters, which provide the perspectives of several soldiers as they prepare for the coming American attack, longing for home and knowing they face almost certain death.
Lou Lumenick of The New York Post writes, “Directed by Eastwood without a false note, this is a powerful, brilliantly acted film that can stand comparison with "All Quiet on the Western Front" and the works of Kurosawa and Ozu.
Like Kurosawa’s classic, “Rashomon,” Eastwoods’s "Letters" explores the subtleties and intricacies of human perspective.
The film is primarily in Japanese with subtitles, but this in no way diminishes the viewer’s experience. Many say it enhances it. Based on the books, Picture Letters from Commander in Chief by Gen Tadamichi Kuribayashi and So Sad To Fall In Battle: An Account of War by Kumiko Kakehashi, the pundits say that Ken Watanabe’s portrayal of Kuribashi is one of the film’s tour de forces.
If he wins the Oscar for "Letters," Eastwood will break his own record of being the oldest director to receive the award. Two years ago he won for "Million Dollar Baby."
Including his nomination this year for Best Picture for "Letters," this is the 10th Academy Award nomination for Clint Eastwood. The film is also nominated for Best Direction, Best Sound Editing and Best Original Screenplay Writing.
Many think this is an important film for Americans to see at this point with the nation embroiled in Iraq. What does it look like from that side? John Anderson of Newsday writes, “Eastwood may not be a primarily political filmmaker, but his celebration of men fighting a lost war is timeless, as well as urgently topical.”
Will it win the Oscar for Eastwood? Ty Burr of the Boston Globe writes, “'Letters' is so good and its maker working at such a level of mastery and respect, that one hopes for the best. Eastwood views his doomed losers with a humane and pitiless sigh; he has made a movie full of ghosts, and it haunts.”
The movie runs 140 minutes and is rated R for graphic war violence. It opens Thursday at Market Square East Cinemas.
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