Sunday, February 25, 2007

LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA deserves its critical acclaim

We soldiers dig. We dig all day. This is the hole that we will fight and die in. Am I digging my own grave?To my mind, LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA is a far more successful film than its companion piece, FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS. In the latter, director Clint Eastwood relies on an overly complicated non-linear plot to make an essentially simple point. It is an important point but not especially emotionally engaging. By contrast, LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA has a simple narrative structure. Its power lies in telling a story that we have not seen before through engaging characters and evocative photography.

The action of IWO JIMA takes place largely on the infamous island. We see the soldier digging pill-boxes on the beaches in anticipation of the American invasion. Much like the Americans in FLAGS, the Japanese soldiers realise that they are up against great odds, especially given that they can expect no support from air or sea forces. Added to their tactical difficulties is a literally suicidal factionalism within the high command. Ken Watanabe plays a General whose common sense rationale will not see scarce troops commit "honourable suicide", but who knows that the battle is essentially a suicide mission writ large. But he faces opposition from the old guard who demand death rather than escape to fight another day. And make no mistake, Eastwood does not shy away from showing us the extreme brutality of such actions on the ordinary soldiers tunnelled into the mountains.

In short, LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA makes for uncomfortable viewing, as it should. But it is essential viewing all the same.

LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA was released in Japan and the US in 2006 and played Berlin 2007. It is on release in Greece, the Netherlands, Finland, Iceland, Italy, Mexico, Spain, Belgium, France, Australia, Canada, Germany, Israel, Singapore, Austria, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Norway, Turkey and the UK. It opens in the Philippines, Hong Kong, Hungary and Brazil next weekend and in Brazil on March 9th, Sweden on March 9th, Russia on March 15th and the Czech Republic on March 29th.

1 comment:

  1. Great review on an excellent film. I hope more people get around to seeing it as it is indeed a story that needed to be told and has been told beautifully on screen.