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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
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 & Scariness
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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Flashback discussion of Hanako's pregnancy (Saigo leans into her belly and speaks to their child).
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One use of "s--t," in subtitles.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Cigarette smoking; occasional, formal drinking by officers.
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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. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Elegant and sad, Letters from Iwo Jima 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.
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Our Editors Recommend
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate