I have not been all that impressed with Clint's recent directing efforts. Million Dollar Baby was servicable but not great and I hated the bullshit that was Mystic River. So I didn't rush out to see Flags of Our Fathers either. Not to mention Paul Haggis who wrote Million Dollar Baby and directed the infernal Crash wrote the screenplay for Flags of Our Fathers and developed the story for Letters From Iwo Jima. Needless to say, I wasn't super excited to see more mediocre Clint movies.
I let Flags of Our Fathers pass but when the glowing reviews came in for Letters From Iwo Jima, I decided to do something about it.
This is a really really good movie. I don't think that a World War II film told from the enemy's side is going to get too much of an Oscar push for Best Picture but it should. I saw this film a few weeks ago and I still keep thinking about it.
Unlike other recent war films that have super cheesy modern bookends (Saving Private Ryan), this film's bookends are quick and to the point. Maybe it is because this story is told from the Japanese point of view that it doesn't feel like all of the other World War II films I've seen that have the standard cast of soldier types. You know what I mean - the country boy, the city slicker, the blowhard, etc.
It is fascinating to watch the film unfold. The soliders know they are doomed but also know that they have to fight to the death. The film begins and ends on the beach. Both times a shovel is a key element to the scene. Both times the shovel represents utter futility. The rest of the film is in the caves as the Japanese try to take out as many of the enemy as possible before succumbing to the inevitable.
The memorable images and scenes in this film are too many to mention. The first glimpse of the American war machine creeping up on the island, the school children singing a song of bravery to the soldiers on the radio, the suicide by grenade scene.
I loved Saving Private Ryan when I first saw it. But now that I think about it, so much of that movie rings false, trite, and melodramatic while set to a soaring John Williams score. In that movie, there is debate about whether or not to kill a German POW or not. He is let go and then comes back to make the Americans pay for their stupidity.
Contrast that with Letters From Iwo Jima, where the captured soldiers that get killed get no chance to talk their way out of it. Either they are slaughtered or the captor already has decided what he's going to do with his prisoner. No moral handwringing while playing to the audience's suspense. No big speeches. No Matt Damon with his perfect late 90's teeth.
I put this up there with some of my all time war favorites. See it.
Directed by Clint Eastwood
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1 week ago