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3.0 out of 5 stars Unbalanced brilliance....(contains NO spoilers), 22 July 2013
This review is from: Letters From Iwo Jima [DVD] [2006] [2007] (DVD)
Mr Eastwood is my favourite director - no question. However with this piece, I have huge issues - and lots of them.
First the good news - is it a good film? Cinematically it is brilliant. The storytelling remains focused and very thorough in terms of plot.
It is a beautifully detailed work, deeply engrossing in terms of its account, while remaining sufficiently discrete to allow you to discern the full horror without necessarily being visually subjected to it (What???)
Putting this another way - you can take Spielberg's PRIVATE RYAN approach and find many simply won't have the stomach to digest the historical nourishment they so badly need, or you can temper the result pre 1990's style where the violence is sufficiently referenced to make it abundantly clear what happened (in our name), for which "you" should be damn well thankful for being spared the gore of watching, let alone the reality of actually living through it. Even toned down, LETTERS remains a chilling piece.
The characterisations are "colourful," contrasting the deliberately de-saturated footage which adds to the bleak intensity of the soldier's plight. I found the subtitles neither distracting nor labouring. They add necessary depth by allowing the native dialogue to convey the authenticity.
IWO JIMA is a long film - not just in terms of screen time, but one that builds upon the patience it demands. At 45 minutes if you are not already channel hopping your DIGIbox you've bought in for the next two hours I assure you.

The film strives to follow the oft-trodden path of a "soldiers-eye view", but frequently strays abroad of this in pursuit of wider political themes it fails to do justice to. More on this subject in a moment.
The story is largely predictable, but unapologetically so having never purported to be anything other than the real-time reinforcement of what it meant to have been there. It succeeds on all measures.
If this is your genre and you consume this as a film in isolation, then you may be rewarded with a fulfilling motion picture that is understandably hard to "enjoy."

So now to my own personal issues. It will be a long time before I watch this again, if ever.
I do not despise it, but do I fail to accord LETTERS the respect it otherwise deserves as a piece of film-making.
The production has a empathetic if not downright blinkered view of the events about which the story takes place.
I aim no accusations towards Mr Eastwood et al. His/their patriotism is not in doubt. But they attempt something that borders on the unreasonable, which is to tell a small tale at the expense of context that is of biblical proportions. Would we countenance the troubled tales of 1970's South African youth that airbrushes Apartheid completely from view? Would you care for the American Civil War, washed clean of the blood of slavery? How about, life in the German trenches without reference to the holocaust? Exactly!
What we have here is the depiction of a counterpoint in the monumental Far Eastern conflict that excludes, to the point of historical distortion, the horrifying era of the Hirohito Empire.
There is no mention of the scorched earth savagery of the "3 All's" campaign, the butchered breasts of Chinese women and expectant mothers, the brutal starvation of foreign women and children, the forced labour camps or the enduring, despicable torture of prisoners of war. It is not for me to educate you, for I am ignorant also, but from Eastwood? More is needed to correctly align the plight of his character leads against the backdrop of cruelty the Japanese Empire was held to account for. Let me further remind, that if you aim to serve the point that soldiers and conscripted ones especially, remain essentially ordinary folk like you and me, then we should equally ponder what evils "we" are clearly capable of given sufficient motivation. Instead we have but a single underweight reference, to the alleged targeting of US medical personnel by the Japanese to lure their fighting comrades.

I believe Mr Eastwood, makes a huge error of judgement that, however unwittingly, shows a lack of respect if not a total disregard for the protracted suffering of millions of people throughout South East Asia.
War is very ugly. There are no winners and no innocents. All lose hugely and dignity is the first casualty.
Victory is claimed by those who have lost the least. The only justification for taking Eastwood's perspective is that it perversely mirrors Hollywood's own from the "gung-ho" World War movie era.
Was that then, where this is now? Possibly, but the fact is, however we have managed to allow such propaganda in the past, it is barely acceptable now.

A film does not have to be historically accurate, but it should at least be respectful if it claims to be history. That I cannot accord to LETTERS OF IWO JIMA.
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