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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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In the second half of "Letters from Iwo Jima," a group of Japanese soldiers find an American who has been badly wounded and take him into their cave. Their general speaks English, so he begins talking to this soldier, whose name we later find out is Sam. Although the two men should be sworn to kill each other, they are able to have a connection in the one conversation they have. A while later, the general comes back into the room only to discover that Sam's wounds have killed him. He searches him for a while and discovers a letter written by his mother. The letter is full of words that truly come from the heart of this kid's mother, and by the time the general finishes reading the letter, every soldier in that cave has realized that Americans aren't these savages; these hate-driven murderers. No, they all realize that Americans are exactly like they are, and that they don't want to be there and want to return home safely just like their enemies. I believe the point that Clint Eastwood is making with his Iwo Jima saga is just this: these two enemies were far more alike than they had imagined and they were both fighting only in hopes of returning home safely to their family.
As for the specific film itself. In just about every way imaginable, this absolutely brilliant film is a step up from "Flags of our Fathers" (which is not something I say easily, as "Flags" is a terrific film in my opinion). From the acting of the incredible ensemble cast (most notably from Ken Watanabe's Oscar-worthy performance), to the film's delicate but powerful script, to the beautiful imagery of the film (the color distortion could not be any more brilliant than it is here), to Clint Eastwood's absolutely perfect knowledge of film and what works in a film like this.
Many people are wondering whether this will be able to compete for Best Picture at the Oscars this year. It is true that just about all of the film is spoken in Japanese, but the truth is that Eastwood has created nothing short of a masterpiece with this work, and a foreign language doesn't even come close to making that extremely obvious. I think that this film is very comparable in quality to Steven Spielberg's (who is one of the producers of the film) "Saving Private Ryan." Although Spielberg's film has more entertainment value (as it features more action) and has an opening scene that cannot be contended with, Eastwood sends out an even more powerful message about war than Spielberg did, as it turns out that watching soldiers battle with no way out makes you feel the pains of war more than watching the soldiers on the invading side of the army. The fact that "Ryan" was able to strongly compete for Best Picture (and just about win the award) makes me very certain that this film has great chances, even if Martin Scorsese seems to be tough to beat at this point. What I think allows this to compete with "The Departed" is the fact that this film doesn't take the "cool" route that Scorsese took, which isn't something that the Academy has honored in the past.
The score, written by Kyle Eastwood (Clint's son), captures the feel of the movie better than any score written for any movie this year. It is very quiet music, but listening to it makes you think about all the people that die as victims of war.
To sum it all up, "Letters from Iwo Jima" is one of the greatest war films ever made, and is easily does the best job of depicting war as something that harms all involved that I have ever seen. Clint Eastwood has, with this achievement, engraved his name as one of the greatest American directors in film history.
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