硫黄島からの手紙 (Iwo Jima kara no tegami) a.k.a. Letters from Iwo Jima is a critically acclaimed award winning film depicting the battle of Iwo Jima, the first battle of American and Japanese soldiers on Japanese soils from the Second World War. With Japanese point of view, the movie is directed by veteran film-maker Clint Eastwood and is based on Japanese nonfiction books Picture Letters from Commander in Chief by General Tadamichi Kuribayashi and So Sad To Fall In Battle: An Account of War by Kumiko Kakehashi. The significant aspect of this film is the production of the film which considered as a companion piece to Flags of Our Fathers another movie depicting the same battle of Iwo Jima from American viewpoint also directed by Clint Eastwood. Thus, it’s inevitable that most reviews, including this one of mine, would not only explore the movie on its own but also take into account the similarity and connection between two films.
While Flags of Our Fathers reveals the undesirable truth of the war and its effect to the people involved afterwards, Letters from Iwo Jima combines factual events and people with fictional characters representing survival and sensational emotion during the war. These fictional characters emphasis an anti-war theme of the film. With a well written script, the audiences learn to empathize with soldiers from both sides of the war, resulting in a highly motivated experience. Ken Watanabe perfectly portrayed Lieutenant General Tadamichi Kuribayashi, the commander in chief of Japanese army at Iwo Jima, who is a highly respectable patriotic man. Another notable performance is from Kazunari Ninomiya, a famous Japanese boy band singer and actor, in a role of a fictional Japanese soldier, a baker with pregnant wife forced to serve the country and left behind his family. These emotional bonds representing in the soldiers of Iwo Jima really touch my heart. However, I felt that some part of the movie had a hidden American agenda, especially those flashback scenes of General Kuribayashi when he was in the States before the war broke out. In the end, with American production company behind the Japanese speaking film, you couldn’t expect less pro-American attitude. That being said, all in all, the film is one of the best World War II films in its own rights.
5 Stars out of 5 – recommend to fans of war and drama films. Watch it with its companion Flags of Our Fathers for a full experience.