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The Blonde and The Maven Review “Letters from Iwo Jima”

War pictures are not new for actor/director Clint Eastwood, as he also brought us the story of American soldiers who fought in the Iwo Jima battle in “Flags of Our Fathers.” His latest masterpiece, “Letters from Iwo Jima,” is an equally thoughtful portrait of the Japanese forces who held the island for 36 days.


“Letters from Iwo Jima” takes us back to the year 1945 in the final stages of World War II. U.S. forces were planning to take on the Japanese on a small island known as Iwo Jima. Although the island was mostly rock and volcanoes, it was of key strategic value to Japan. The Japanese leaders saw the island as the final opportunity to prevent an Allied invasion. Lt. General Tadamichi Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe) was put in charge of the forces on Iwo Jima. Kuribayashi comes across as a dedicated, yet humane and kind, man. He had spent much time in the United States and was not eager to take on the American army. However, Kuribayashi understood his opponents in a way his superiors did not, and devised a clever strategy of digging tunnels and deep foxholes which protected and allowed his troops a tactical advantage over the invading soldiers. Unfortunately for Kuribayashi, his strategy alienated some older officers. It did impress Baron Nishi (Tsuyoshi Ihara), who was the son of a well-to-do family. Baron Nishi also studied America and was an athlete at the Olympics in 1932. As Kuribayashi and his men prepared for battle, they were not altogether confident about their success. Most of the men were actually told they would not survive, but to be strong and be proud, fight to the end and to die for their country.


This story is beautifully told through their actions and through the letters the soldiers wrote home to their families and friends. The sad truth, unknown to the men, is that these letters (that gave them so much hope), in most of the cases were not delivered until long after they were dead.


Among the soldiers manning Japan's last line of defense were Saigo (Kazunari Ninomiya), a gentle kind sweet soul, a baker sent to Iwo Jima only days before his wife was to give birth; Shimizu (Ryo Kase), who was sent to Iwo Jima after washing out in the military police; and Lieutenant Ito (Shidou Nakamura), who has believed in the concept of "Death Before Surrender" with total certainty. Eastwood’s movie was filmed in Japanese with a Japanese cast, including Ken Watanabe, Kazunari Ninomiya, Tsuyoshi Ihara, and Ryo Kase.


THE BLONDE: Sorry readers, it will just be me this month, as the wonderful and intelligent FITCH we know as “The Maven” is sick this week. SOOO…. I am going to be less fun and more to the point. This is a most amazing film that is not only serious, but has much to say. First let me get my Starbucks…..OKAY, I AM READY!


Talk about a movie with heart, substance, purpose and a message! To begin with, the acting in this film was stunning and mesmerizing, which is also a credit to Clint’s directing. He will NO DOUBT win the “Best Director” Oscar for this movie! Even though this story is told through subtitles, it is quite easy to follow. I actually liked it better this way, as it comes across more authentic and adds to the realism of the story. I think this dramatic war film is Clint Eastwood’s finest moment. It takes a filmmaker with a rare, blend of maturity, genius, knowledge, heart, compassion, wisdom and artistic style and vision to create such an intimate, moving, heartfelt picture as this one he has given us. This one will earn him the fame he no doubt deserves.


“Letters from Iwo Jima” is such an important and moving film, especially since we are presently in a war of our own with Iraq. Eastwood offers his viewers a thoughtful portrait of the Japanese forces AS HUMAN BEINGS, and not just as fighting soldiers. He shows us that they have families, goals and plans for their own futures. He brings us into the hearts and minds of these Japanese men as people. Eastwood shows us these soldiers that are commanded to kill for their country and not monsters as we know them as. He takes us into their world of fears, and doubt, and hopes and dreams. We are guide through a place where no other director has taken us before. You get to actually see this horrible war from their side and not just ours. “Letters from Iwo Jima” takes moviegoers to an important world that seems quite unimaginable for an American director; a director who is responsible, daring, bold, and quite courageous to have the guts to present this story. This film presents a picture from the other side, not only showing what wartime was like for our Japanese adversaries on that island in the Pacific, but also actually translating the story in their tongue which truly makes this film all the more brilliant. I'm not actually a big fan of war movies, but this one managed to take my breath away. It left me paralyzed. It makes you stop to wonder. It hits the heart of the laughable, silly, overused quote, “Can’t we all just learn to get along?” I mean really, as stupid as that is, WHY CAN’T WE?


How many wars and how much anger and hatred will it take for the world to become one and honor and respect each other’s customs and beliefs and learn to appreciate and tolerate each other as humans on this planet earth? What is it going to take? Does it actually have to take total destruction of the world from nuclear weapons? Who will be the brave hero and say enough is enough?


After watching this film through the eyes of our past enemy, we get to see them MOSTLY as a people with pride, caring, and loving to their own families, which is after all, no different than we are. That is what this movie is saying. If we met these people, ‘one on one’, we would most likely be friends with them. That is what Lt. General Tadamichi Kuribayashi was fighting with himself for, as he met many of us in our country, one on one, and liked us. Perhaps, just perhaps, if we sat down for dinner with an Iraq family, for the most part, as people and not clutter it up with political views, we wouldn’t be too different then them… loving our families, working hard and trying to do the right thing. This film makes us see that maybe there is a better way than war. What that way is, is something we should all spend a little more time finding out. We shouldn’t live our lives by, “Whoever kills more of the enemy wins” concept!




I rate “Letters from Iwo Jima” an A+.

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