Letters from Iwo Jima

 
(i)

 

Eastwood offers a profound perspective on WWII.
  • Review Date: May 21, 2007
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2006
  • Running Time: 141 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The soliders are mostly noble, though they're confronted by impossible orders, expected to commit suicide rather than surrender (with an eye to future honor); some soldiers (including Americans) are plainly overzealous and weary, killing out of frustration.

Violence

Frequent conversation about death and suicide; captain beats his men to make them work harder; battle images are rough, with explosions and bodies flying, as well as close-range stabbings and shootings; Japanese soldiers kill themselves by holding grenades to their chests (explicit effects); a horse is found dead following a bombing raid; blood effects are jarringly red, as most other imagery is in washed-out greys and blues.

Sex

Flashback discussion of Hanako's pregnancy (Saigo leans into her belly and speaks to their child).

Language

One use of "s--t," in subtitles.

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Cigarette smoking; occasional, formal drinking by officers.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this war drama deals with a very serious subject: the defeat of soldiers who know they'll die and that their cause is lost. Thanks to that and the fact that it's deliberately paced and spoken entirely in Japanese (with English subtitles), it will likely appeal only to older teens. The explosive action scenes include brutal battles with shootings, stabbings, and the use of flamethrowers -- resulting in dismemberment, beheading, burning, bloody injuries, and general chaos. Some wounded soldiers appear in distress, and U.S. Marines take and abuse prisoners. A dog is shot off screen (kids can be heard crying), and a beloved horse is killed in an explosion. A character dies of dysentery (off screen, though he's sick for some time). A couple of soldiers write letters home that reveal their awareness of their imminent bad ends. Characters smoke cigarettes, and officers drink in flashbacks.

What's the story?

Concentrating on the battle at Iwo Jima, director Clint Eastwood's film depicts the daily grind and worries of the Japanese soldiers that occupied the island, awaiting an inevitable attack by U.S. forces. We see them digging trenches and constructing tunnels for battle, and, at last, waiting to die even as they extol the nobility of their hopeless cause. General Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe) carries an American Colt .45, which makes him suspect in the eyes of more traditionalist officers, including Admiral Ohsugi (Nobumasa Sakagami). Saigo, a young baker recruited against his will, and the general both write letters home, Saigo to his wife and Kuribayashi to his son Taro. Each, in his own way, understands what's coming, and each embodies a certain nobility that is at once familiar from U.S. war movies and unconventional. They question conventional wisdom and look after their fellows, but neither is inclined to the sort of unquestioning obedience displayed by the fierce Lieutenant Ito (Shido Nakamura), who, unable to convince anyone else to follow him, straps mines to his body and heads off into the night, determined to find an American tank and lie beneath it to blow it up.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Elegant and sad, Letter from Iwo Jim is a war movie about loss. Director Eastwood conceived it as a companion piece to Flags of Our Fathers, and it is at once a more finely focused and more profound film, with violence that can never answer the questions raised by its long moments of anticipation.

The film interrogates the inevitability of loss in war, even when victory is proclaimed. Superiors communicate to their men that the rationale for war is always the future. Ironically, this is precisely what's lost to those who fight, whether they come back with memories or don't come back at all. Letters ends on the beach where it begins, refusing to illustrate a future after loss, concentrating instead on loss itself. It makes war seem too terrible to bear.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the dedication shown by the Japanese soldiers -- to their nation and sense of cause, and, more immediately, to their commander. How does the movie connect this dedication to their previous experiences? How is their behavior different from that of the U.S. soldiers in Flags of Our Fathers? How does this movie draw connections between history and current events? How does the film argue against war, even as it admires national pride and individual soldiers' bravery? How is the Japanese perspective (filtered through director Clint Eastwood's U.S. lens) different from one that might be considered strictly American? Is there such a thing as the "true" version of history?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 20, 2006
DVD release date:May 22, 2007
Cast:Kazunari Ninomiya, Ken Watanabe, Tsuyoshi Ihara
Director:Clint Eastwood
Studio:Warner Bros.
Genre:Drama
Run time:141 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:graphic war violence.

This review of Letters from Iwo Jima was written by

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Teen, 16 years old Written byBlueDragonMaster98 May 30, 2010
 

For another perspective

I take no sides in any war- Japan did attack Pearl Harbor, yet what the US did was inhuman as well (Hiroshima, Nagasaki, the bombing of Tokyo, Osaka, and many other large cities and towns). This breaks away from the American war film stereotype of soldiers yelling and cussing as they mindlessly kill their opponents with no respect at all. However, they do make the Americans seem a little inhuman, yet this is forgivable since many Americans had this same perspective, feeling the Japanese were savages since they did not have some of the technology and traditions as the US. There are mixed plots in this movie. One of the main soldiers is fighting for his pregnant wife back home, and the general is only fighting because he has to under the law, even though he likes the Americans. Others, however, just want to see the Americans die or go back home. The role models can easily be seen, as the general and Saigo-sama. (I add Sama to show respect even though he is fictional. Same to the general.) besides violence, this movie is amazing and sad with great acting and the effect of utter realness. Lastly- the whole suicide deal. I have compaired Asian culture to American, so suicide for honor is not unusual to me and I understand it. But, most people in the US/ or other places where suicide is a taboo, this will be obscene and shocking and will make many people think even less about the Japanese People, so watch for that.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Great messages
Great role models
Adult Written byGoldmuntz April 9, 2008
Teen, 14 years old Written byww2lover February 24, 2009
 

awesome movie

wow. when i saw the trailer for this movie I thought: "i hope it's better than Flags of Our Fathers." After I watched this movie, It changed my perspective of the Japanese in World War 2. The great thing about this movie is that all of the Japanese soldiers aren't faceless like the ones in Windtalkers. When Japanese soldiers get shot, you think. "ah, I liked that guy". While in most movies you go "yay." I think this movie is fantastic and a must see for teenagers that are liek Military History. Bloody though. No one under 12 would want to see it.

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