Sparse but Effective War Film, 3 February 2007
Author: David H. Schleicher from New Jersey, USA
At times deathly quiet, almost completely drained of color in the cinematography, and never reaching that emotional crescendo present in most modern day war movies, Clint Eastwood’s “Letters from Iwo Jima” is sparse and effectively haunting. A slow and thoughtful build-up to the fighting and leisurely flashbacks allow the viewer to connect intimately with various characters who represent a broad cross-sections of Japanese society. Using voice-overs from actual soldiers’ letters to their families and hyper-realistic interplay between the men and their commanders, the film pensively explores the psychological make-up of the Japanese people who were often painfully loyal and deferent to authority and frequently placed honor and dignity above common sense and effective battle tactics. This complex internal struggle can be seen in the many suicides vs. retreating/regrouping that sank their chances to hold ground against the Americans invading the island.
The film provides much to think about without ever stooping to preaching an overtly anti-war message. As ponderous and meandering as it seems at times, the film still leaves some lasting images: the first glimpse of the American infantry landing on the shores of Iwo Jima as seen through the eyes of a Japanese foot soldier emerging from a cave, the stark shot of a gray sky through dead branches from the vantage point of a soldier lying amongst fresh cadavers anxiously planning a suicide attack on an American tank, and a faithful captain desperately dragging his dying general down a sand dune to a secluded cove after a failed last charge.
Though not as emotionally resonant as “Saving Private Ryan,” compelling acting and top-notch production values make “Letters from Iwo Jima” stand proudly amongst the canon of classic World War II films.
Originally Published on the Internet Movie Database