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’.
Cast and crew