Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Letters From Iwo Jima (2006)

Sorry, Clint, your film didn't make my day.

The television mini-series The Pacific set the bar very high for stories depicting the battle for the island of Iwo Jima during the Second World War.

The Pacific was very intense with action sequences that brought this film fan to the edge of his seat. Stories of the lives of American soldiers were also powerful.

Director Clint Eastwood's Letters from Iwo Jima isn't so much about combat, but trying to survive near-certain death. There's little tension here.

Japanese soldier Saigo (Kazunari Ninomiya) wasn't keen to enlist. He was told he was signing up. A baker by trade, his concern is to get home to his wife and young child.

That desire to live doesn't fit in well when he's a Japanese soldier tasked with defending Iwo Jima from American invasion. There's no realistic chance of the Japanese winning. They have no air or naval support. Tanks are out of commission. Supplies, such as food and ammunition, are scarce. Rather, their goal is to hold the Americans off for as long as possible and die in service to their country.

Saigo gets some much-needed help from the new commander of the American forces, General Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe). He's not keen on seeing his troops punished - such as Saigo when he wonders why the Japanese just don't surrender. Kuribayashi spent time in the United States before the start of the Second World War. His view on warfare isn't shared by some of his subordinate officers.

Letters to and from soldiers serving on Iwo Jima come up throughout the film. Correspondence, especially as the end nears, offers a chance for soldiers to forget about their dire situation.

Letters from Iwo Jima was nominated for four Oscars, including best picture and direction. It's OK, but not great. There are better war films to watch.

RATING: 7/10

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