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The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags are used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.
For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for Letters from Iwo Jima can be found here.
Letters from Iwo Jima portrays the World War II Battle of Iwo Jima from the perspective of the Japanese soldiers and is a companion piece to Flags of Our Fathers (2006), which depicts the same battle from the American viewpoint. Both films are directed by Clint Eastwood. The movie focuses on a platoon of Japanese soldiers, commanded by Lieutenant General Tadamichi Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe), under orders to defend to their deaths Iwo Jima's Mount Suribachi from U.S. attack.
Letters from Iwo Jima is based on a screenplay by Japanese-American screenwriter Iris Yamashita. She based her screenplay on two nonfiction books: (1) "Gyokusai Soshireikan" no Etegami [Picture Letters from the Commander in Chief] (2002) by General Tadamichi Kuribayashi, and (2) So Sad to Fall in Battle: An Account of War (2005) by Kumiko Kakehashi.
To understand it? No. Both films can be viewed as standalone movies. However, it's better to watch them both (no matter the order), because the point of making them was to show different points of view of one event.
Iwo Jima (now Iwo To) is a volcanic Island in the northwest Pacific Ocean south of Japan and east of Taiwan.
Although sparsely inhabited, Iwo Jima was the site of several airfields that hindered U.S. bombing missions to Tokyo. Once the bases were secured, it was believed that the U.S. would use the bases for an invasion of the Japanese mainland.
After burning the documents and burying the letters, Private Saigo (Kazunari Ninomiya) seeks to rejoin Kuribayashi and his troops only to find Kuribayashi dying of the wounds he suffered during the final surprise attack and Lieutenant Fujita (Hiroshi Watanabe) killed by a sniper. With his last breaths, Kuribayashi asks Saigo whether Iwo Jima is still Japanese soil (yes) and rrequests to be buried where no one can find his body. He then shoots himself with the M1911, and Saigo drags off the body for burial. Meanwhile, a US patrol finds Fujita's body, and one Marine picks up Fujita's katana while another tucks Kuribayashi's M1911 into his belt. They search the area and find Saigo hiding, still carrying the burial shovel. Saigo is ready to surrender until he notices the M1911 tucked in the Marine's belt. He goes berserk and begins swinging his shovel at the Marines until one of them knocks Saigo unconscious with the butt of his rifle. When Saigo awakens, he finds himself lying on a stretcher amid other wounded soldiers waiting to be transported by "the enemy." He looks up to see the red rising sun in the east. The final scene cuts back to 2005 where the Japanese archeologists are digging up the sack of letters Saigo buried 61 years earlier.
It was filmed mostly in Barstow and Bakersfield in California. A skeleton crew was allowed only one day to make on-location shots on Iwo Jima, and that was only after being given special permission from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, because more than 10,000 missing Japanese soldiers still rest under the soil.
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