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Published on June 21st, 2008 | by simeon

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Letters from Iwo Jima

Director Clint Eastwood has crafted a moving masterpiece with his film “Letters From Iwo Jima”, which is a fitting companion piece to Flags of our Fathers. The film centers on a group of Japanese soldiers from various backgrounds as they prepare to defend the island of Iwo Jima from the pending invasion by U.S. forces.

Since the island is a coveted staging area for attacks on the Japanese mainland, the troops are ordered to defend the island to the last man, despite the lack of air and sea support. Faced with overwhelming odds, many men question what is to come in the days ahead, as the futility of their task weighs heavily upon them, but they go on due to their sense of duty and desire to fight for their families.

The film is a touching look at the men behind the history, and focuses on two men of completely different backgrounds. There is General Tadamichi Kuribayashi (Ken Wantanabe), the man in charge of defending the island, who risks the support of his subordinate commanders by defying the traditional lines of defense in favor of trench and tunnel warfare.

Then there is Saigo, (Kazunari Niomiya), a simple baker and family man who was conscripted to fight and has left his wife and his unborn child behind. Saigo questions the war and his place in it, as he feels the upcoming battle as pointless. To him, the war is over.

The two men, different as night and day, soon find themselves intertwined by fate and the many comrades around them, each with their own stories some of which are shared to fully flesh out characters that are usually left one-dimension in war films.

Eastwood has done a masterful job in crafting a film in the Japanese style, complete with their original language. He painstakingly produced a movie that takes a look at a side of the conflict that is often overlooked. Not all of the soldiers pitted against the American forces were hardened soldiers. Many were simple men who were at odds by the conflict and considered some Americans to be close friends in the days before the war. Eastwood shows he has a true gift for storytelling, that while action packed, capture the true humanity of the subjects. Even when they are caught in some of the most horrific situations one can imagine.

Gripping and moving, “Letters from Iwo Jima” is a must see film, and easily a masterpiece you will not soon forget.

The two DVD set is loaded with extras and is available from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

5 stars out of 5.


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