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Letters from Iwo Jima
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629 out of 683 people found the following review useful:

Excellent movie

10/10
Author: sford-20 from United States
6 January 2007

I was very disappointed to learn that this movie was only going to have a limited showing in the US, only one or two theaters on either coast. My wife and I both enjoyed "Flags" and were pleased when we learned that Clint Eastwood made a second movie, this time telling the story from the Japanese perspective. As luck would have it, we going to Japan for the holidays so we decided to try and see the movie in Tokyo during our trip. We went to the Ginza area of Tokyo and, to our surprise, the movie was completely sold out. We needed to buy tickets at least one day in advance. Further, we learned that the movie was currently number 1 in Japan. Wow – that's impressive that an American made movie would become number one in Japan! Way to go, Clint! After a little extra planning and some adjustments to our schedule, we bought advance tickets and came back the next day.

We completely loved it. We were moved and stirred with many emotions including anger, anger over the horrors of war. We actually liked it better than "Flags of our Fathers". The movie was in Japanese and, as near as we could tell, Japanese appears to be the native language of the film. There were brief moments of English, American solders talking, one flash back scene before the war during a foreign dignitary dinner, and of course the credits at the end. The movie would have to be translated and/or sub titled to English in order to have half a chance in the US. Frankly, I think translation would take away from the movie's beauty and meaning. I understand a limited amount of Japanese so I could follow most of the story. The theater was very big and packed. I was a little uncomfortable at first; I may well have been the only American in the place. My wife (who is Japanese) and I sat next to an older couple. At several points during the film, I thought I noticed the man from the couple crying. When the film ended, my wife talked with the couple and learned that the old man's father died in Iwo jima. Later during the trip, speaking with Japanese friends and seeing the Japanese news, stories of lost loved ones from the war were common and this movie for the Japanese people has brought many of these memories out in the open.

To the Japanese, Iwo jima was a part of their homeland where a foreign invader was going to land and begin its invasion on Japanese soil. Throughout all of recorded Japanese history, never had a foreign invader prevailed in war against the Japanese on Japanese land. The imperial Japanese government of that time used this when they sent fighters to Iwo jima. These fighters were to ordered to "fight to the death" defending their country. That to loose and not die fighting would bring disgrace to self and family. They knew that America was planning to send an overwhelming force and they knew that they were being sent to die. For Americans, Iwo jima was just another far away place and different point in time where American boys were sent and where, unfortunately, some lives were lost fighting for freedom. My god, have we become that blasé about the wars our sons and daughters are being sent to fight in? My wife and I are unique, not typical American movie goers. I'm American, my wife is Japanese. Together, we've visited and cried together at the A-bomb Dome in Hiroshima, and again at the Arizona Memorial in Hawaii. I have relatives who fought in the Pacific, she also has family who fought in the war and who lived in Hroshima. I have two sons now serving in the US Marines. Together my wife and I watched and enjoyed both movies. The movies really didn't bring anything new, historically, to us about Iwo jima. But, the movies did do an excellent job reminding us that the ones who pay the price for war are normal everyday people. People who really don't understand the reasons or the politics behind why they are being sent to die. People who live, love, and are loved by family and friends. People with dreams and ambitions. But, for some reason when called by the leaders of the time, they go forward, obey orders, and do their duty. Sometimes, paying the ultimate price.

I've grown up with Clint Eastwood and it has been a wonderful entertaining journey. These two movies are, in my opinion, his best. Not because of the action, or the drama, or any of the other things that Clint Eastwood is known for, but because he's given us two interlinked stories about the affects of war on the people who are called to pay the ultimate price – people like you and me. We may be from different cultures, eat different food, speak different languages, prey to God differently, but we all have things in common. We all live, love, want to be loved, and we dream about and long for peace. And, sometimes we are called to serve and pay for the opportunity. Thank you Clint.

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351 out of 390 people found the following review useful:

Very Personal

9/10
Author: Dean Ying from United States
20 December 2006

Did it really last two and a half hours? It felt felt a lot shorter than that.

No, this is not an action war film with nonstop blood baths. It is a film that pulls the humanity out of the monster that is war.

This is one of, if not the best, movie ever directed by Clint Eastwood. I usually have a hard time following plots with many characters because they make me lose focus on the general story, but this one is done well. Not only am I engaged, I also become attached to every character and feel and understand their conflicts.

It does not matter who fights on the right or wrong side of WWII. This film goes beyond that. It is about what is right or wrong for the individual human being. It excels as a story about the human heart.

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294 out of 348 people found the following review useful:

Outstanding!!

10/10
Author: William Maxwell from Japan
15 December 2006

I have watched this film twice already this week (first week of release here in Japan). I am an American living in Japan for the past twenty two years and have yet to see such a strong performance from an (almost) all-Japanese cast. This movie draws you into the caves and makes you a part of the Japanese soldier's life. The main characters all have an interesting story to tell. But in the end the message is clear. War is futile.

The strangest part of all. Clint Eastwood has made a Japanese movie that the Japanese should have made. There is almost no way to tell it was a "foriegn" production until you see the credits.

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248 out of 278 people found the following review useful:

One of the Greatest War Films Ever Made

10/10
Author: billybobwashere from United States
31 December 2006

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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251 out of 289 people found the following review useful:

Great movie!

10/10
Author: movieguy23 from United States
12 January 2007

Don't listen to the people who call this movie inaccurate or revisionist history.

The movie is accurate. There were people on both sides of the war who at times showed kindness.

Labeling all the Japanese soldiers as people who tortured POWS would be like saying all American soldiers in Vietnam killed and rape innocent Vietnamese. Or all American soldiers in Cuba tortured POWS from the wars in the Middle East. You can't group people together like that.

This movie shows better than any other film that there's really no good guys or bad guys when it comes to war. War is just pointless.

The movie is not supposed to be a documentary so the people who bash it for little details should go rent a documentary if thats what they want to see.

Also, Clint Eastwood deserves major credit for telling both sides of the war. Too many war movies always show the enemy as "heartless monsters" when it reality its never like that.

This is without a doubt the best movie of the year. Make sure you go see it.

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126 out of 156 people found the following review useful:

unlike 'Flags', this time Clint Eastwood's war epic has more cohesion in its complexities, and a stronger punch with its theme

9/10
Author: MisterWhiplash from United States
14 January 2007

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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128 out of 163 people found the following review useful:

Eastwood Has Done It Again...

Author: El_Sid from United States
24 December 2006

At the age of 74, Clint Eastwood became the oldest person to win the Best Director Oscar for "Million Dollar Baby". With his new movie; "Letters From Iwo Jima," it looks like he might set the record even higher.

In "Flags of of our Fathers" we look into the horribly graphic War World II from the American point of view. In the movie which was filmed back to back with "Flags of our Fathers," in "Letters to Iwo Jima" we see it how it was for the opposing Japanese side.

Letters from Iwo Jima is a truly incredible, yet horrifying experience. The film seemingly pulls the audience into the middle of the war, with explosions and bullets going off everywhere, and disturbing screams of agony coming from the wounded soldiers. The film can be confusing at times, with the Japanese language and sudden attacks and explosions, but things are all cleared up at the end.

Eastwood has really outdone himself this time, at the age of 76 years he has created one of the best (if not the best) war films in history. During the two and a half hours not once did I look at watch, nor did the film begin to drag. Letters from Iwo Jima is a true masterpiece, possibly even the best film of 2006.

9.5/10

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122 out of 154 people found the following review useful:

Brilliant - A must see movie

10/10
Author: freemondo92 from United States
16 December 2006

Not since Akira Kurosawa's "Rashômon" has anyone attained such exquisite insight into the human condition, having read "Flags of our Fathers" and growing up, having veterans tell me of their experiences on Iwo Jima,I would look back at them in awe at the fact that they were here sharing their very own story,and many times they to could not believe they were alive.It is amazing to see the sensitivity that Mr.Eastwood imbued into both tales. The scriptwriter Iris Yamashita brought me to tears only at the end of the film with the conundrum we still live with today.Peoples dreams are both sacred and profane and lives are cheap.

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100 out of 124 people found the following review useful:

The landscape of war

9/10
Author: BroadswordCallinDannyBoy from Boston, MA
28 December 2006

The companion film to "Flags of Our Fathers" shows the battle of Iwo Jima from the Japanese point of view. Starting with the building of fortifications, hiding from relentless bombardment, and fending off an equally strong attack as American troops land on the island.

"Letters from Iwo Jima" just like "Flags of Our Fathers" is a first rate war movie with a relevant message with its critical nature. "Flags" showed the selling of war and "Letters" does the same, albeit with a different mind-set. Japan was an empire governed by a monarch back then so the military mentality was quite different, but it is also important to note the similarities. Especially at the base of the social pyramid where it is quite apparent that people are people no matter where you go.

Virtually all of the uber-patriotic tendencies that were rampant in Imperial Japan during WWII were also in Nazi Germany and, as both "Flags" and "Letters" demonstrate in the United States as well. People were used for the purpose of the government and were fed propaganda just the same. Maybe a different in a different form, but in the end it is all the same.

Ken Wantanbe is the film's highlight as a military man torn between his sense of duty and his inner feelings. As commander of the island he sees amongst his men the fanaticism, the pacifism, the "just do our job" crowd, and many other configurations of thought in between and mixed with the others. Even strange that some men initially want to fight and are proud to serve in the military and what's shocking is that some of their wives and mothers believe the same.

That paints a landscape of war as something amidst all of the stereotypes that have been made of it. Since that is where the truth usually lies, amidst all the gray matter. --- 9/10

Rated R: war violence/carnage

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35 out of 41 people found the following review useful:

The film hits in almost every aspect, except it misses in……

8/10
Author: Majd Selbi from Jordan
26 August 2011

…… the entertainment aspect.

While "Letters from Iwo Jima" is truly a great achievement is several ways, the script is powerful, the production is superb, all the technical departments almost perfected their jobs, there is some really good acting as well, and Eastwood's touch as a director is very visible, and its beautiful, it flaws almost flawlessly in this regard.

Well, what's wrong then? It simply lacks what makes it a really interesting movie. "Letters" starts with a present day scene of excavators digging up remains of the war in Iwo Jima, and finding letters in a cave that were written by Japanese soldiers and officers during the war on Iwo Jima island, it then travels back in time to WWII and story revolves around those whom their letters were found during the dawn of the American invasion on that island. Slowly, the movie loses its grip over its audience, becoming something closer to an audio book, and survival becomes a repetitive process!!!

Everyone seem to be praising the film for being told from the other side, and its true you don't see that many American film makers do that, and although the film didn't just speak Japanese, it lived and breathed Japanese, it couldn't escape the limited framework of Hollywood, this is very visible through the "good" characters, all the good, honest or lovable Japanese characters were either American sympathizers who lived in the US for a while and kept saying how a great nation the US is, or are Japanese people that do not care for the Imperial system and would not mind handing over the island to their rival Americans. On the other hand, all Japanese loyalists were mean American haters. Even the resolution of the strict Imperial soldiers was that the Americans were not as evil as they were told. But still, everyone was very fond of the fact that the movie was told completely from a Japanese point of view. However, just because Eastwood is an American film maker making a Japanese-point-of-view movie, doesn't make the film any better than what it really is, the film's ratings seem to be getting higher just because there is an American film maker behind it and I disagree, it is what it is regardless who the people behind it were.

The film was also highly praised as a companion film to "Flags", and while together they form a great duo, on its own, "Letters" does not achieve greatness.

Why did Eastwood and Spielberg decide to make "Letters from Iwo Jima" this calm instead of making an adrenaline-pumping film? My guess is that they did not care about the average audience and the commercial success as much as they did care for the story's integrity.

Majd Selbi

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