Letters from Iwo Jima

This completes my viewing of the Best Picture Oscar® nominees. This is the 12th year I have watched all of the Picture nominees before the ceremony, for whatever that’s worth.

This film is pretty extraordinary in the sense that it is directed by a quintessentially American director (Clint Eastwood), and yet it presents a battle between Japanese and American troops from the Japanese viewpoint, and it does so almost entirely in Japanese (with subtitles, of course). Furthermore, when the battle begins, it’s really hard not to be hoping for a Japanese victory, since we know the men on that side and do not know the Americans. And both sides are shown to have both honorable and less honorable men.

The film includes a couple of Japanese soldiers, including the general in charge (played by Ken Watanabe), who have spent time in the United States. I don’t know if that is true or not, but it adds an interesting angle to the film.

Letters is substantially better than its companion film, Flags of Our Fathers. The Filmspotting guys said that this film suffered from some of the same problems as Flags, and I can see now where they are coming from, but while watching it those things didn’t bother me. Well, maybe a little—the flashbacks to the men’s past lives in Japan did seem a little superfluous even at the time. But it’s still an excellent film, and would probably be my first or second favorite of the five nominated films (The Departed would be the other one).

I give it 3.5 stars out of 4 stars.

Seen 2/15/2007.

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