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Who Knew the Japanese Were Human Too

  • Dec 9, 2007
  • by
Pros: Outstanding cinematography; compelling story-line; outstanding direction

Cons: N/a

The Bottom Line: In the end Letters From Iwo Jima is a story of ordinary man who fought and died for their version of honor.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot.

On Feb. 23, 1945, after days of pitched battle five U.S. Marines and one U.S. Navy sailor—a Hospital Corpsman—planted a makeshift flagpole atop Mount Surabachi on the tiny isle of Iwo Jima in the Pacific Ocean. They were photographed and immortalized and thus the Battle of Iwo Jima became one of the most famous if not the most famous battle of World War II. But few know the true story behind the raising of that flag captured so majestically in a snapshot, Flags of Our Fathers tried to explain in the limited way a movie can about the men behind the flag raising.

That was story number one about the Battle of Iwo Jima, story two (Letters From Iwo Jima) also from acclaimed director Clint Eastwood is told from another perspective; that of the enemy, the Japanese. And in many ways theirs turned out to be a more compelling story than that of the Americans; it was somehow more human, gripping, and spoke more to the savagery and senseless of warfare and why it should be avoided at all costs.


Directed by the aforementioned Clint Eastwood (Bridges of Madison County, Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby), Letters From Iwo Jima begins with a changing of the guard on Iwo Jima before the American invasion. Command of the Imperial Japanese Army forces—indeed all Japanese forces on the island is handed over to General Tadamichi Kuribayashi portrayed by Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai, Batman Begins, Memoirs of a Geisha) and he proceeds to plan for the defense of the island knowing full well that it a fool’s errand.

My Thoughts

Letters From Iwo Jima, like its sister movie Flags of Our Fathers, is a compelling movie, but has the added benefit of being told from a perspective never before explored by an American director, at least not with this much depth. That made Letters From Iwo Jima more interesting to me than Flags of Our Fathers; more authentic if you will.

Eastwood hired Japanese-American screenwriter Iris Yamashi_a to largely write the script, though Paul Haggis does snag co-story writing credits. And there was (mostly) an all Japanese cast speaking in Japanese with English subtitles; a nice touch which only lent to the authentic feel of the movie.

Be prepared, Letters From Iwo Jima is a long bitter and heartbreaking movie that highlights the cultural differences between freedom loving Americans and the fierce independence that engenders and entrenched Japanese ideology that regards dying in battle as an honorable and noble sacrifice. And dye they do in great numbers rather than surrender a cause to know is lost.


Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Good for Groups
Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age

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review by . November 17, 2008
First of all, you don't need to be a fan of war movies to enjoy "Letters from Iwo Jima". This movie shows the Japanese side of the battle for control of the barren little island, from the points of view of two main characters.     The first is Private Saigo, a baker snatched away from his wife and unborn child and sent to Iwo Jima. Saigo is not a very good soldier, and usually gets assigned all the dirty jobs by the cruel Captain Tanida.     The other is Lieutenant …
About the reviewer
Vincent Martin ()
Ranked #187
I am an IT Professional and have worked in the industry for over 20 years. I may be a computer geek, but I also like reading, writing, cooking, music, current events and regretfully, politics.
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