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Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)

The story of the battle of Iwo Jima between the United States and Imperial Japan during World War II, as told from the perspective of the Japanese who fought it.

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Won 1 Oscar. Another 23 wins & 36 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Shimizu (as Ryô Kase)
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Lieutenant Ito (as Shidou Nakamura)
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Takumi Bando ...
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Nobumasa Sakagami ...
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Sam (as Lucas Elliot)
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Medic Endo (as Sonny Seiichi Saito)
Steve Santa Sekiyoshi ...
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Storyline

The island of Iwo Jima stands between the American military force and the home islands of Japan. Therefore the Imperial Japanese Army is desperate to prevent it from falling into American hands and providing a launching point for an invasion of Japan. General Tadamichi Kuribayashi is given command of the forces on the island and sets out to prepare for the imminent attack. General Kuribayashi, however, does not favor the rigid traditional approach recommended by his subordinates, and resentment and resistance fester among his staff. In the lower echelons, a young soldier, Saigo, a poor baker in civilian life, strives with his friends to survive the harsh regime of the Japanese army itself, all the while knowing that a fierce battle looms. When the American invasion begins, both Kuribayashi and Saigo find strength, honor, courage, and horrors beyond imagination. Written by Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

From the director of "Flags of our Fathers" comes the story of the battle for Iwo Jima told through the eyes of the Japanese soldiers. See more »

Genres:

Drama | History | War

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for graphic war violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

Country:

Language:

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Release Date:

2 February 2007 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Red Sun, Black Sand  »

Filming Locations:

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Box Office

Budget:

$19,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$122,548 (USA) (22 December 2006)

Gross:

$13,753,931 (USA) (20 April 2007)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

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Sound Mix:

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Color:

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Clint Eastwood's 27th film as director. See more »

Goofs

In the scene where General Kuribayashi recognizes Saigo in the tunnels, his clearly visible tunic collar insignia are that of a Chujo (Lieutenant- General), consisting on two silver five-pointed stars over a yellow strip. Instead Kuribayashy was promoted to full generalship (Japanese rank Taisho) in March 1945 before being sent to Iwo Jima, and he should wear a yellow collar strip with three silver stars. See more »

Quotes

General Tadamichi Kuribayashi: I will always be in front of you.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Saturday Night Live: Rainn Wilson/Arcade Fire (2007) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
unlike 'Flags', this time Clint Eastwood's war epic has more cohesion in its complexities, and a stronger punch with its theme
14 January 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

It was worth it for producer/director Clint Eastwood to tackle on a second part to his now two-part duo of Iwo Jima movies. With Flags of Our Fathers Eastwood tried for very ambitious ground in covering what it's like for Americans to fight a war worth fighting for but with life's value undermined in the scope of preserving the 'grander' scheme of things like the flag on the mountain. Unfortunately, the screenplay with that film was also muddled and denied Eastwood's usually assured hand as a storyteller and conveyor of proper moods. But with Letters From Iwo Jima, a slightly radical departure from the usual American-directed war picture by showing the action totally from the side of the "other", there's a stronger sense of what it meant for the Japanese to fight this war, and the nature of sacrifice and what it means to oneself in relation to one's society, national pride, and to one's mind-set. And, this time, the screenplay doesn't do TOO MUCH of a jumping-around method with the narrative. It's visceral in scope and personal in tone, and there's always an assured hand in dealing with the performances and characters.

We're also shown, unlike in other war films, how the home-field advantage doesn't always yield positive results. Even though the Japanese had Iwo Jima, and had the capabilities to defend it for a little while, without reinforcements it would be all for not (this is compounded with some of the most tragic irony when towards the end the General Kuribayashi listens to a radio broadcast of children singing a song meant for hope of success in a battle that those on the mainland have already abandoned). No matter what though Kuribayashi believes in his men, no matter how in spots morale is already low when the digging on the beaches begin. Saigo, a lowly peasant, is a part of the fight, and for chunks of the film we see the battle from where he stands, even as he doesn't look on it too optimistically. Plans are made, the General orders for tunnels to be dug in the center of the island against advisement (though under good thought to do so), and then even before the ships and huge fleet of troops land comes the bombs from the air. The desperation, as the battle continues and trudges on, becomes almost too crushing for the weakest of the soldiers, and soon all thoughts of cohesion within the ranks breaks apart.

It's in many of these scenes that Eastwood garners his most dramatically charged moments in either one of the Iwo Jima movies. Maybe it's almost too easy though- when seeing this movie, taking out of context what was shown in 'Flags', one might think that the Americans had the battle on a silver platter. But taken back into context there's a greater sense of loss on the enemy side, not just of life but of what it means to fight for a cause that is never totally explained, to an Emperor practically all of these soldiers wont see or meet, and that to kill oneself is a brave act against the odds. The scene where many soldiers in the cave kill themselves with grenades- and then with two of the soldiers finally deciding that this is insanity and fleeing from the bodies- is very affecting. Then added to this, we see the letters being written, how the humanity of these people can never be denied no matter how hopeless their situation seemed to get. Sometimes we're also provided with flashbacks for some of the characters (some, like a man talking to his unborn child in his wife's womb, are too atypical, but there is one that leaves a very lasting impression involving the murdering of a dog- a scene that left people in the theater gasping even after so much battle carnage already happened).

Though mostly we're stuck in these caves and tunnels with these soldiers- one of the exceptions of this, Shimizu, was in said scene with the dog- there are other small vignettes, like the lieutenant who decides to break away to strap some explosives on himself to blow up an enemy cannon, only to fall asleep, and once awakened forgetting the whole act. And, of course, the ones who could not think of any other way- in fact seeing it treasonous otherwise- than to not sacrifice oneself for the homeland. All the while the acting is always competent, sometimes even ranging into the brilliant, and with Ken Watanabe delivering some of the finest notes of emotion (and also holding back emotion or hiding a real emotion) that I've seen from him thus far. And as far as the technical side, Eastwood and his crew have created an appropriately very dark looking picture, with the color desaturated so as to look like it's not really black and white but as if the life has been sucked out so as to look terminally gray (if that makes sense), with the battle footage somehow even more convincing than in 'Flags'.

So in the end, the two Iwo Jima movies bring up a lot to ponder about what it is to fight in war, what it means to be akin to the varying degrees of nationalism, and how it affects the psyche of people who were plucked from very normal lives into circumstances of perpetual death and, if one lives, the memories. While one doesn't really need the framing of it being 2005 at the end and beginning of the film, there's enough here to mark it as a significant, fascinating achievement for the filmmaker.


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