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Movie Review: Letters From Iwo Jima

Alternate Title: War is Always Hell

Story: This film is the companion piece to director Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Father, released a few months ago. He cleverly filmed this movie at the same time (obviously saving lots of bucks in the process). It is viewed from the opposing army's perspective and based on the book, Picture Letters from Commander in Chief by Tadamichi Kuribayashi and Tsuyoko Yoshido with a screenplay by Iris Yamashita and Paul Haggis.

It is a unique vision of what war was like for an opponent who knew they could not win the battle at Iwo Jima. We get to experience their rules of war which include, no surrender. Suicide is more honorable than surrender. It is hard to watch at times. After 40 days of battle the Japanese lost over 20,000 men with fewer than 1000 surviving.

It is fascinating to get to see fully actualized characters rather than the cartoon generalities that are so often portrayed in American war movies. The film is subtitled and is bleached of color.

Clint Eastwood is a fine filmmaker and seems to only get better with each new film.

Acting:: Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai) is the most recognizable actor in the film. He is grace and dignity personified as the stoic general of a losing battle. Kazunari Ninomiya, is a stand out as the baker who was drafted and simply wants to return home to his wife and new baby. I read that he is a popular singing star in Japan as well.

Predilection: I like's Eastwood's film.

Critters: A horse

Food: The gruel was bad for the soldiers. Seaweed soup was a stand-out.

Soundtrack: Outstanding music by Clint Eastwood.

Theater Audience: The audience had more than its share of Veterans from what I calculated all of our last wars. The fellow in the ticket line in front of me asked if there was a vet's discount (there was not).

Weather: The weather stunk on Iwo Jima. It was very hot.

Sappy Factor: 0

Quirky Meter: 0

Squirm Scale: There are a few scenes that are very squirmy.

Drift Factor: I did not drift at all.

Predictability Level: High

Tissue Usage: I did share a few tears near the end.

Oscar Worthy: Perhaps.

Big Screen or Rental: I recommend the big screen. You do not have to have seen Flags of Our Fathers, but it would be a good idea to see them both.

Length: Under two hours.