LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA (2007)

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REVIEW
by Dave White
Who’s in It: Ken Watanabe, Kazunari Ninomiya, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Ryo Kase The Basics: The Battle of Iwo Jima told from the Japanese perspective. But if it’s honorable-kamikaze clichés you’re looking for or another World War II movie that demonizes soldiers on the other side of America’s fight, you’ll be surprised by what you get — an unsentimental, moving story, directed by Clint Eastwood, about people who fought for the same reasons the allies did.

What’s the Deal? There’s this old 1943 movie called Destination Tokyo that stars Cary Grant. It’s basically a Yank-propaganda movie, and there’s a very memorable and racist line in it where Grant says, “The Japs don’t understand the love we have for our women …” You see it now, and you can’t understand how anyone could write something that wrongheaded and laughable. Then you see this tough-minded movie about how brutal war is for all the young men pressed into service and the old ways of thinking about the “enemy” just seem even more useless.

I Refuse to Apologize for Kinda Disliking Flags of Our Fathers: That was Eastwood’s movie about World War II that came out last month. And even though they’re “companion” films, the other one felt like a double. This one knocks it out of the park. I say: See this one, and only check out the former if you’re feeling complete-ist. Or see them both. Look, do whatever makes you happy.

Blink and You’ll Miss: The iconic raising of the American flag that was the focus of Fathers. It happens in the background while these guys are busy doing other war stuff.

Pronouncement Time: I don’t usually do this because I think you need to let time elapse before calling something one of the best things in years. But this is one of the best war movies in years.

CRITICS’ REVIEWS
SOURCE RATING THE GIST
POSITIVE REVIEWS FOR LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA
Entertainment Weekly A “… profound, magisterial, and gripping …”
Hollywood Reporter N/A “… a vivid memorial to the courage on both sides of this battle …”
Los Angeles Times N/A “Daring and significant …”
New York Magazine N/A “… wears its humanism on its sleeve …”
The New York Times N/A “… utterly original, even radical …”
Rolling Stone 4 stars/4 “… quality from first frame to last …”
USA Today 4 stars/4 “… an intimate, moving and spare war film …”
Variety N/A “… something rare in the history of war movies …”
Village Voice N/A “… less concerned with provocation than with contemplation …”
MIXED REVIEWS FOR LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA
TV Guide N/A “… filled with moments of brutal truth, savage grace and old-fashioned hokum.”

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