.

Letters From Iwo Jima

Ken Watanabe, Kazunari Ninomiya, Shido Nakamura, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Ryo Kase

Directed by Clint Eastwood
Rolling Stone: star rating
5 4
Community: star rating
5 4 0
December 12, 2006

Having just won the Best Picture prize from the National Board of Review, Clint Eastwood's intimate epic Letters From Iwo Jima enters the Oscar race with banners flying, which is a good thing. The director's Flags of Our Fathers had to suffer the alleged indignity of being a box-office underperformer, as if that says anything about quality.

And 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 in 1945.

Working from a screenplay by Iris Yamashita (her first), Eastwood's companion film to Flags burrows deeply into Japanese culture, starting with Lt. Gen. Tadamichi (the soulful Ken Watanabe), once an envoy to the U.S., who led the defense and came up with the controversial plan to tunnel the island (eighteen miles' worth) and dig caves to take on the American forces that far outnumbered them.

Eastwood's direction here is a thing of beauty, blending the ferocity of the classic films of Akira Kurosawa (Seven Samurai) with the delicacy and unblinking gaze of Yasujiro Ozu (Tokyo Story). Characters are drawn with striking nuance and tender feeling, be they Saigo (Kazunari Ninomiya), the baker who dreams of seeing his wife and baby, or Baron Nishi (Tsuyoshi Ihara), an Olympic equestrian who brings his horse to the island.

The scenes of combat, shot in desaturated color on the beaches of Iceland by the gifted Tom Stern and edited with grit and grace by Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach, gain in terror and complexity from what we learn of these men. 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.

prev
Movie Review Main Next

ADD A COMMENT

Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...

COMMENTS

Sort by:
    Read More

    Movie Reviews

    More Reviews »
    Around the Web
    Powered By ZergNet
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.

    X

    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “Bird on a Wire”

    Leonard Cohen | 1969

    While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

    More Song Stories entries »
    www.expandtheroom.com