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4.5 out of 5 stars40
4.5 out of 5 stars
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In the wake of recent epics like Clint Eastwood's "Flags of Our Fathers" and the HBO CGI inspired series "The Pacific", Allan Dwan's much earlier "Sands of Iwo Jima" seems to have been almost forgotten. This is a great pity because as much as I admire these films, with the possible exception of Terence Malick's superb "The Thin Red Line", it is the best and most entertaining movie covering the Pacific theatre of the Second World War. As one song pointed out, John Wayne did not fight on Iwo Jima, but watching his performance today you feel that perhaps he could have done. He was deservedly Oscar nominated for his portrayal of tough Marine Sergeant John M Stryker, but eventually lost out to Broderick Crawford. His performance together with the cleverly used real combat footage from Pacific battles, and the inclusion of real combat veterans under the direction of Hollywood veteran Allan Dwan ensures a fine film.

The film casts Wayne as a brutal training Sergeant, who puts his unit through training hell in a New Zealand military camp just prior to the Pacific Island invasions. This alienates him from young college educated John Agar who disapproves of this strong arm approach. But Wayne who has fought on Guadalcanal appreciates the difficult task in front of them, and respects the fighting ability of the Japanese soldier. After the invasion of Tarawa the troops begin to hold their Sergeant in greater respect. The fighting heads toward a climax on Iwo Jima, where there is a surprise finale around the famous flag raising on Mount Suribachi.

Modern viewers might justifiably call the film jingoistic and propagandist, but it should be borne in mind that this film was first released in December 1949. It could not boast the CGI inspired special effects that todays film makers have at their disposal, but compared to many war films of the period it is surprisingly realistic. What modern film can boast the inclusion of so many real veterans. The three surviving flag raisers Rene Gagnon, Ira Hayes and Joseph Bradley, the father of "Flags of Our Fathers" author James Bradley, all briefly appear along with others. The actual battle footage is needless to say utterly convincing. Wayne is well supported by Forrest Tucker and a very youthful Richard Jaeckel. Following the success of the film Wayne was invited to place his footprints outside Grauman's Chinese theatre, where actual black sand from Iwo Jima was used in the cement. The film stands up incredibly well for a film made over 60 years ago, and is well worth watching if you have never done so. The film can be purchased very cheaply at the time of this review. Another option would be to buy it as part of "The Classic War Collection", where it deservedly sits alongside such classics of the genre as "Bridge on the River Kwai", "Das Boot", "All Quiet on the Western Front" and "Guns of Navarone".
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Sgt John M. Stryker is a battle hardened Marine who's job it is to prepare his new charges for the realities of war. With no care for making friends, Stryker does what ever it takes to make these men tough and ready for the Pacific conflicts to come.

Sands Of Iwo Jima is unashamedly proud in its jingoistic fervour, and rightly so. Iwo Jima, and the now immortal portrait of weary American soldiers hoisting the flag atop Mt. Suribachi, has become a bastion of bravery, a beacon of triumph if you will. So it's no surprise to find Allan Dwan's film has no intention if deviating from boasting its colours, and hooray to that. Here as Stryker we find John Wayne giving a bit more to his character portrayal than merely some beefcake winning the war. Wayne puts depth and sincerity into Stryker, an air of believability shines through as he shows vulnerability, we believe he can win this war with his men, but we also see tenderness and it lifts Sands higher than your average war picture.

Wise old director Dwan (432 directing credits to his name), weaves the picture together with admirable restraint. Fusing actual newsreel footage with his own tightly handled action sequences, Sands plays out as the tribute and rally call that it has every right to be, even finding place in the film for three of the soldiers who hoisted that now famous flag. Ira Hayes, Rene Gagnon and John Bradley are the three gentlemen to look out for. The rest of the cast don't really have to do much outside of respond to Wayne's two fold performance, but keep an eye out for a fresh faced Richard Jaeckel as Pfc. Frank Flynn, while I personally enjoyed the brief, but important contribution from Julie Bishop as Mary.

Wayne received a nomination for Best Actor at the Academy Awards (too bad for him that 49 contained brilliant shows from the winner Broderick Crawford & a bluderbus turn from Gregory Peck), with other nominations going to the Best Story, Editing and Sound categories. Ironically it was a role Wayne didn't fancy doing, but some encouragements from war veterans humbled him into starring.

Lock and load and saddle up for a top entry in the WWII pantheon. 8/10
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 18 October 2012
This old, black and white film, made in 1949 in a very jingoistic style proper to the war time Hollywood productions, is still (in my modest opinion) the best film on battle of Iwo Jima ever made - and yes, even if I am a huge fan of Clint Eastwood, I still consider this movie as better than his double film "Flags of our fathers"/ "Letters from Iwo Jima". This film also is the only one until now to show the hellish battle of Tarawa in 1943.

John Wayne plays here one of his pretty stereotypic characters - an extremely tough Marine Sergeant, John Stryker, a professional soldier who was already a veteran when war started and who earned quite a reputation on the battlefield at Guadalcanal (this battle is not shown in the film). The film begins, when Stryker's section receives replacements and starts training preparing for another operation - it will be the short but incredibly bloody and intense battle of Tarawa. Stryker is almost unanimously hated by his soldiers, because he makes their life a hell... But later, those who survived the battle of Tarawa, change radically their perception of this tyranic, hard drinking, brutish sergeant, recognizing that he prepared them the best he could for the REAL hell... After a period of recuperation and more training Marines are headed towards their toughest battle ever - Iwo Jima...

Although maybe a little bit aged in the dialogs, this film is surprisingly realistic in the battle scenes. Some real veterans of Tarawa and Iwo Jima played themselves in this film and that includes three surviving Marines out of the six who put the American flag on the top of Mount Suribachi. Just to be clear, John Wayne's character is nowhere near this great scene...

This is also I believe one of the very few old war movies, to show so clearly how hard those times could be on civilians, especially those more vulnerable. One of the best parts of the film is that in which Wayne's character answers to the advances of a girl in a bar. But once he arrives at her little appartment, he realises that she is a single mom and even if she has a daytime job, she still doesn't earn enough to support herself and her baby - and therefore she more or less prostitutes herself when she can not make the ends meet at the end on the month... This is a pretty strong scene for 1949.

Stryker's character, once we get to know him better, becomes quite interesting. His long term conflict with one of his soldiers, a particularly hard-case of bad mouth and mean attitude, is well described. And the ending of the film is pretty strong and rather atypical for John Wayne's movies.

And finally, this is also the first film in which we can hear the expression "lock and load". Used by Wayne's character as an order to get ready, this expression since then entered the English language for good.

So bottom line, this is a very fine war film, which aged much less than one could expect and still packs some considerable punch. It is a pity, that although nominated for the Oscar, John Wayne didn't get it for this role (he had to wait 20 more years to finally get this reward). Recommended to all John Wayne's fans and all the amateurs of war movies. Enjoy!
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on 9 February 2010
Sands of Iwo Jima might be a good little film but it's no where near as good as "Objective Burma"(1945)now that was a realistic and gritty film.
Iwo Jima is okay and everything is brought together by Wayne's leadership and courage but, there's too much romance and attempts to show the softer side of Stryker's platoon of Marines. It's like a prelude to "From Here To Eternity" in that respect as John Agar goes on leave and finds love while Wayne gives single mothers most of his pay so they can feed their children.
In between this we get good sequences showing the Marines receiving their training and good battle scenes of the Tarawa Atoll landings, after the scenes at Tarawa however you might get bored until the last five or ten minutes when Stryker and his men finally get to Iwo Jima and climb Mount Suribachi.
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on 12 May 2009
The Sands of Iwo Jima is one of Hollywood's better WWII films. The story centres on Sergeant John Stryker (Wayne), an experienced marine who fought at Guadalcanal, as he knocks a group of mostly raw recruits into shape for the battles ahead. Having had experience of fighting the Japanese, he is more than aware of their formidable fighting ability, which is something his recruits are reluctant to believe, so he takes a hard and brutal approach to training them, resulting in the expected resentment - in fact downright hatred - of those on the receiving end.

Wayne was nominated for an Oscar for his role (I believe for the first time), and it is easy to see why. Although he is easy to criticize as being a limited actor, in this film he had the chance to show a more complex personality than he was normally allowed, ranging from open-handed compassion for a single mother to murderous intent to kill one of his platoon who is about to disobey an order. And he does so very believably.

In a nutshell, the film takes us from the training grounds to the invasion of Tarawa Atoll, the platoon's first battle, and then to its second battle on Iwo Jima, as a now-experienced group of marines. The action is abundantly interspersed with real-life footage, which in most cases is clearly recognizable as being from the battle being fought at that point in time in the film. In fact, it is extremely well-integrated with the acting scenes, to the point that at times it is hard to tell where one ends and the other begins - something of a rarity with Hollywood films. Naturally, there is the usual case of an aircraft taking off as a Vought Corsair, for example, and somehow turning into a Grumman Avenger as it drops its bombs, but even this is less intrusive that is normally the case.

Although the special effects of this black and white film do not quite match up to the more recent feats achieved in the first 20 minutes of Private Ryan, to take one obvious example, if these two films are taken as a whole, I would rate The Sands of Iwo Jima as by far the superior film. It might not be the best war film of all time, it might not be trying to send any other message than to portray what men went through in the Pacific War, but I do feel that it is a very good film indeed.
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With all the glossy, bloody war films in full Technicolor, made in the past couple of decades, it's good to be able to see again some of the gritty black-and-white war films. As with many Hitchcock thrillers, war films in b/w seem to have that extra realism. This is one of several that John Wayne starred in and there are plenty of authentic looking battle action scenes mixed with a dash of personal psychology and love interest. This movie, made in 1949, directed by Allan Dwan is set in the Pacific theatre. If you are a fan of war films, this is a good one to watch.
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on 18 September 2011
An excellent war movie which also works well as a piece of propaganda for the time. John Wayne plays a troubled but good sargent who cares about his men and does all he can to train them to survive. The film has real footage of the war mixed in with the hollywood stuff and gives it a good feel. As with all war films of this type (50's hollywood) it should be taken with a pinch of salt and enjoyed purely as a popcorn movie and in that sense its a gem. John Wayne still has that movie star sparkle 60 years on. 5 stars.
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on 1 June 2012
This film, though sometimes a little clumsy and old fashioned, does a good job of telling the soldiers story in the pacific war. Real footage blends exceptionally well with the rest of the film which, after training and personal stories, builds up to decent battle sequences. Stands tall.
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on 25 May 2015
One of the big man's better WW2 films, the part he played was perfect for him. I don't think anyone else at that time (1949) could have portrayed Sgt Stryker better.
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on 3 July 2014
shipping and packaging excellent as always!Movie too be seen yet,I have a complete collection now and many of them will be seen during the next holidays!!CM
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