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Letters From Iwo Jima

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Judy Thorburn

Letters From Iwo Jima

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"LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA" DELIVERS A MOVING ANTI-WAR MESSAGE

Flick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha Chemplavil

When actor turned Academy Award winning director Clint Eastwood decided to make “Flags of Our Fathers”, a World War II movie about American GI’s who survived the battle of Iwo Jima, and as victors raised the flag on the island, before returning home as heroes, it turned out that the American point of view wasn’t enough to cut it for him. There was another side to the war story, a perspective that should be told through the eyes, hearts and letters of the Japanese who defended the island of Iwo Jima against American forces during the forty days of battle in 1945. The result is “Letters from Iwo Jima”, a more superior, deeply moving film than its companion piece released earlier in the year. At this writing Letters has already been honored as Best Picture of 2006 by the National Board of Review and it has won the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film by the Hollywood Foreign Press. Next up is the Academy Awards, which will no doubt have Letters among its contenders. As the second half of the dual project, Letters from Iwo Jima, spoken in Japanese with English subtitles and shot mostly in black and white (probably as an homage to old war movies and to emphasize the gloomy setting) stands as an eye opening, thought provoking experience that will have everyone rethinking the way we perceive the Japanese soldiers in World War II who, in previous movies, were portrayed as nothing more than the cruel and ruthless enemy. This is the first time young Japanese soldiers are seen as young men, not that different from ours. Stripped of all their cultural, language and political differences when it comes down to it they have more in common with us than we are led to believe, sharing the same human qualities.

Through all their tactics and strategies, for the 20,000 Japanese who tried to hold on to the island they held sacred, it turned out to be a virtual suicide mission where only 1,000 of their men survived. Short of food, water, and ammunition and informed by headquarters on the mainland that no reinforcements would be sent, the soldiers know that victory was futile and they would most likely die. Surrender was not an option. Rather, for the staunch believer, he would rather take his own life either by a self-inflicted gunshot to the head or by blowing himself up with a hand grenade.

The story centers around several significant characters we meet whose personal life is revealed through flashbacks and letters to their loved ones as they are held up in caves under horrendous conditions, near starvation, waiting for the enemy to invade. All the performances are outstanding. Saigo (popstar Kazunari Ninomiya) is a young baker forced to go to battle against his will after being told that it is his patriotic duty. Although indoctrinated to believe that it would be an honor to die for his country he can’t wait to go home and be reunited with his wife and baby daughter that was born while he was away. Shimizu (Ryo Kase) is the idealist, a former member of the military police who was discharged and sent to war as punishment after he wouldn’t follow orders to kill a barking dog, an act he knew would be wrong. The handsome and dashing Baron Nishi is the world-renowned Olympic equestrian who loves his horse so much that he has it sent with him to the island. Unlike their soldiers who have no knowledge of Americans other than from the propaganda they’ve been told, both Nishi and General Kuribayashi (former Academy award nominee Ken Watanabe) have spent time in America, have an understanding of what is now their enemy and show a compassionate human side in contrast to some of the heartless and ruthless military leaders who would rather kill or torture one of their own men then allow signs of weakness or defeat. As commander in charge, once the General arrives he devises the plan for his men to dig more than 18 miles of tunnels and caves that enables them to withstand the onslaught of American troops for more than a month, but he eventually becomes well aware of the fate that awaits himself and his men.

Yes, there is plenty of combat, bloodshed and explosions, the usual brutality and horrors of war. And Eastwood doesn’t shy away, showing the atrocities being committed on both sides, equally. Let’s face it. War is ugly any way you look at it, with innocent young men used as pawns and the use of propaganda by combatant countries to sell the idea of a just war. Clint Eastwood makes these points very clear and has delivered a triumph, creating one of the most notable, powerful anti war movies I have ever seen. Letters from Iwo Jima plays out as an intimate look inside the heart and mind of the people who are forced to fight wars not of their making. Though spoken in Japanese the display of humanity, common to all, needs no translation.