Letters From Iwo Jima

  • Film
  • War films
The second part of Eastwood’s remarkable Pacific War diptych – following ‘Flags of Our Fathers’, which detailed, from the US point-of-view, the bloody wresting of the tiny island of Iwo Jima from 21,000 Japanese by an unprecedented amphibious armada of 110,000 Marines in 1945 – is, if anything, an even more sombre affair, as beautifully restrained as the earlier film but also, despite its scenes of battle, death, suicide and suffering, shockingly intimate. Performed almost entirely in Japanese and told from the perspective of both high and low Japanese Imperial Army troops – for whom their Emperor’s dictum of ‘death before surrender’ was to become frighteningly clear – it is an impressive work of compassionate imagination, not least as a film made by an iconic American while his country is engaged in another increasingly bloody war.

The colour is as drained here as in ‘Flags…’ and, as if to reflect the claustrophobic conditions of the Japanese troops, dug-in in the tunnels and caves high above the beach on the orders of empathetic General Kuribayashi (a noble Ken Watanabe), the story (by Paul Haggis and Iris Yamashita) internalises what ‘Flags…’ externalised. There are flashbacks – to Kuribayashi’s visits as an attaché to the States or the family life of ‘everyman’ Private Saigo (the slightly disappointing Kazunari Ninomiya) – but no flash-forwards. If heroism is being examined here, it is that of men having the time to consider the imminence – if not the meaning – of their own demise, as often by their own hand (or grenade, sword or polluted water) as by the enemy’s. A very fine film, with some surreal ironies – witness the almost imperceptible shot of the famous flag-hoisting on Mount Suribachi in extreme longshot – that bravely neither embraces grandeur nor demands the medal of ‘masterpiece’.

Release details

Rated: 15
Release date: Friday February 23 2007
Duration: 141 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Clint Eastwood
Screenwriter: Iris Yamashita
Cast: Shidon Nakamura
Tsuyoshi Ihara
Ryo Kase
Ken Watanabe
Kazunari Ninomiya
Nae
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