Letters from Iwo Jima (2006) – REVIEW

by Jordache Wee

Original Japanese Title: 硫黄島からの手紙
Release Date: December 9, 2006 
Directed by: Clint Eastwood
Language: Japanese, English
Music by: Kyle Eastwood, Michael Stevens, Clint Eastwood
Starring: Ken Watanabe, Kazunari Ninomiya, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Ryō Kase, Shido Nakamura, Hiroshi Watanabe, Takumi Bando, Yuki Matsuzaki, Takashi Yamaguchi, Eijiro Ozaki, Nae Yuuki, Nobumasa Sakagami, Akiko Shima, Ikuma Ando, Masashi Nagadoi, Luke Eberl, Jeremy Glazer, Mark Moses, Roxanne Hart

In 2005, Japanese archaeologists team arrives in Iwo Jima. During their excavation, they found something buried under the grounds.

It was 1944. Iwo Jima is greatly outnumbered despite requesting for more reinforcements from Tokyo’s headquarters. Private First Class Saigo (Kazunari Ninomiya) curses the soil that the American can have this because of the humid weather and the trouble of digging through the trenches. He was heard and caught by Captain Tanida (Takumi Bando), who defines him unpatriotic.

Private First Class Saigo (Kazunari Ninomiya)

General Tadamichi Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe) arrives at Iwo Jima and the beatings of Tanida towards Saigo was halted when he took full command of the garrison. He orders Captain Tanida to stop the men from further digging.

Being the new general in command, Kuribayashi scouts around the perimeter of Iwo Jima and Mount Suribachi as he measures and predicting attacks from the Americans. He then orders his subordinates to move heavy artilleries and mortars at Mount Suribachi; stating that high ground would be an advantage for the soldiers when the American arrives.

Every Japanese men on the island are trained to shoot to kill. But Saigo failed to do so and Tanida finds fault in him and intends to kill him, only to be saved by Kuribayashi for the second time.

Former Olympic's gold medalist - Lieutenant Colonel Nishi Takeichi (Tsuyoshi Ihara) with his favorite horse, Jupiter

Lieutenant Colonel Nishi Takeichi (Tsuyoshi Ihara) just landed in Iwo Jima. He is greeted with applause for he is a national hero because he earns a gold medal during 1932’s Olympic show jumper.

Soon, some soldiers falls ill due to dysentery problems caused by lack of food nutrition and unhealthy sanitation. One of Saigo’s friend, Private First Class Kashiwara (Takashi Yamaguchi) falls sick and passes away a couple of days later.

A new batch of soldiers also arrived in Iwo Jima stationing at Mount Suribachi. Private First Class Nozaki (Yuki Matsuzaki) finds the new soldier Superior Private Shimizu (Ryō Kase) is a “kempetai” to keep his eye on Saigo’s written letters which he has been criticising about Iwo Jima and his superiors to his wife. But Saigo could not care less about it.

In 1945, the Americans arrives with a sneak attack from air as they bombed Iwo Jima from above just like how the Japanese ambushed Pearl Harbor in 1941. Iwo Jima is at war.

General Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe) waits for the American to reach the beach before commencing the attacks

A war outnumbered by the thousands of military fleet and ground infantries. An inevitable and impossible victory without any reinforcement from military aircraft support. Mount Suribachi suffers heavy casualties resulting several military division to use the “Banzai Charge”, believing suicide as an honorable way to die to serve the Emperor of Japan.

Saigo ran away from his regiment but was stopped by Shimizu for disrespecting his regiment who just commit suicide. Saigo dares him to kill himself of which he can not. Saigo decides to join forces with the regiment at the north.

They reach the Air Force Lieutenant Oiso who finds them disrespectful as he grabs his katana and ready to slash Saigo. Kuribayashi saves Saigo again for the third time.

Lieutenant Ito (Shido Nakamura) could stay hiding all along and decides to send his troops to a full frontal assault but Nishi ask his men to stand down because Kuribayashi’s orders are not to risk the lives of men blindly. His men joins Nishi but he carries 3 land mines as he hope for American tanks to crawl over him.

The next morning, Nishi wounded an American marine named Sam (Luke Eberl) but treated him with morphine to save him and have some little chats as they converse in English.

The following day, a mortar shell blew up and Nishi’s eye were permanently blind. His last order were to have his men fight alongside Kuribayashi till the end. He shot himself.

Kuribayashi launches a final frontline attack. But mos the men are killed in action. With him and Lieutenant Fujita (Hiroshi Watanabe), his last orders to Fujita is to behead him. But the American shot Fujita.

Saigo arrives in time after burning some military paperworks and strategies and burying some important stuffs underground to meet Kuribayashi, who is badly wounded. Before Kuribayashi shot himself, he ask Saigo for a favor to have him buried somewhere where his corpse can never be found.

The American marines found Saigo and he was saved.

Reviewer’s Note:
Letters from Iwo Jima is not a sequel to Flags of Our Fathers. It serves more like a companion film. Clint Eastwood has carefully capture a breath-taking story as we watch from any other Japanese soldier’s perspective towards the American invasion on Iwo Jima.

They are very much alike. The difference is they serving for a different leader. Their task is to accomplish the campaign. The Japanese Imperial soldiers managed to defend Iwo Jima for 36 days after surrendering and signing a treaty with their counter-part.


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