Critically hailed as an instant classic, Clint Eastwood's Letters from Iwo Jima
is a masterwork of uncommon humanity and a harrowing, unforgettable indictment of the horrors of war. In an unprecedented demonstration of worldly citizenship, Eastwood (from a spare, tightly focused screenplay by first-time screenwriter Iris Yamashita) has crafted a truly Japanese film, with Japanese dialogue (with subtitles) and filmed in a contemplative Japanese style, serving as both complement and counterpoint to Eastwood's previously released companion film Flags of Our Fathers
. Where the earlier film employed a complex non-linear structure and epic-scale production values to dramatise one of the bloodiest battles of World War II and its traumatic impact on American soldiers, Letters
reveals the battle of Iwo Jima from the tunnel- and cave-dwelling perspective of the Japanese, hopelessly outnumbered, deprived of reinforcements, and doomed to die in inevitable defeat.
While maintaining many of the traditions of the conventional war drama, Eastwood extends his sympathetic touch to humanise "the enemy," revealing the internal and external conflicts of soldiers and officers alike, forced by circumstance to sacrifice themselves or defend their honour against insurmountable odds. From the weary reluctance of a young recruit named Saigo (Kazunari Ninomiya) to the dignified yet desperately anguished strategy of Japanese commander Tadamichi Kuribayashi (played by Oscar-nominated The Last Samurai costar Ken Watanabe), whose letters home inspired the film's title and present-day framing device, Letters from Iwo Jima (which conveys the bleakness of battle through a near-total absence of colour) steadfastly avoids the glorification of war while paying honorable tribute to ill-fated men who can only dream of the comforts of home. --Jeff Shannon
Clint Eastwood's completion of the Iwo Jima saga. Here the action is seen from the Japanese point of view and the film is based on the book 'Picture Letters from Commander in Chief' by Tadamichi Kuribayashi. The island of Iwo Jima stands between the American military force and the home islands of Japan. Therefore the Imperial Japanese Army is desperate to prevent it from falling into American hands and providing a launching point for an invasion of Japan. General Tadamichi Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe) is given command of the forces on the island and sets out to prepare for the imminent attack. General Kuribayashi, however, does not favour the rigid traditional approach recommended by his subordinates, and resentment and resistance fester among his staff.