Celebrating Great Films

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Letters from Iwo Jima

Letters from Iwo Jima#187 at time of writing.

It could have been seen as a gimmick when Clint Eastwood decided to film the story of the Battle of Iwo Jima from both the American perspective (Flags of Our Fathers) and the Japanese perspective (Letters from Iwo Jima). But it is not a gimmick.

This film is remarkably brave, honest and non-Hollywood. It portrays the Japanese soldiers as ordinary people forced by circumstance to battle for a lost cause, abandoned by the mainland and doomed by an insane cultural fear of losing face. It's visceral in scope and personal in tone, and there's always an assured hand in dealing with the performances and characters.

There are some desperately moving scenes as the soldiers and General Kuribayashi gradually realise the hopelessness of their situation. One of the most affecting aspects of the film is the tension between those soldiers that think it treasonous not to commit suicide in the face of failure, and those soldiers - the General included - who doubt the wisdom of such sacrifice.

As you watch the events unfold, you feel fear, loss, anger, and a mixture of sadness and admiration for the courage and persistent humanity of these ill-fated people.

This film is a significant, fascinating achievement.

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