Sunday, December 24, 2006

Letters From Iwo Jima

Clint Eastwood has reached a new pinnacle in his career. First he brings us the superb film, "Flags of Our Fathers" and in the same year follows it up with it's brilliant companion piece, "Letters From Iwo Jima". The two films cover the same historical moment in time but couldn't be further apart. "Flags" covered the American point of view of the battle of Iwo Jima, focusing on the famous flag raising and the guilt that haunted the men responsible for their effort when pressed into service by the military propaganda machine. "Letters" focuses on the battle itself, told completely from the Japanese point of view. It is an intimate portrait of war told through the letters and memories of the soldiers that lived and died during terrible battle.

After a brief contemporary prologue, the story shifts to 1944 as the Japanese prepare to defend Iwo Jima from the coming American attack. The story focuses on a handful of Japanese soldiers, enlisted men and officers alike, and follows them through the attack and battle for possession of the island. Through their story we come to know them not as the enemy but rather husbands and sons just like our own troops, fighting and dying in a conflict not of their choosing.

The steel gray cinematography lends itself perfectly to the barren island, it's black sand beaches and it's man-made caves. The score is haunting and compliments the story without overwhelming it. "Letters From Iwo Jima is this generation's "All Quiet On The Western Front". As a bookend to "Flags of Our Fathers", Mr. Eastwood has delivered a masterful one-two punch on the futility of war.

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