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May 2007

DVD REVIEW: LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA

by Kam Williams

DVD REVIEW: LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA


Cast: Ken Watanabe, Kazunari Ninomiya, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Ryo Kase, Shido Nakamura
Director: Clint Eastwood
Format: Widescreen, NTSC
Language: Japanese
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Number of discs: 2
Rating R for graphic war violence.
Studio: Warner Home Video
DVD Release Date: May 22, 2007
Run Time: 140 minutes

DVD Features:
Available Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
Available Audio Tracks: Japanese (Dolby Digital 5.1)
"Red Sun, Black Sand: The Making of Letters from Iwo Jima": Led by Clint Eastwood, take an inside look at the creation of the film with many of the key players involved who brought this epic film together
"The Faces of War: The Cast of Letters from Iwo Jima": Cast members introduce the characters they portray in the film
Images from the Frontlines: The Photography of Letters from Iwo Jima
November 2006 world premiere at Budo-kan in Tokyo
November 2006 press conference

   

 

Oscar-Nominated Flick Now Out on DVD Revisits WWII Battle from Japanese Perspective

When Clint Eastwood came up with novel idea of making two movies about the same historic WWII battle, little did he know that the one shot from the enemies’ perspective would turn out to be far more moving. For while Flags of Iwo Jima was just a Hollywood-style rehash of the ubiquitous, patriotic-style propaganda from the Forties, Letters from Iwo Jima is comprised of contrasting character portraits of soldiers torn between dying with honor and the very human instinct of self-preservation. Among the sympathetically-portrayed men we meet are Saigo (Kazunari Ninomiya), a baker who desperately wants to survive to see his newborn baby; General Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe), a Westernized gent who has enjoyed visiting the United States; Lieutenant Ito (Shido Nakamura), a proud soul inclined to commit suicide rather than surrender; and Shimizu (Ryo Kase), a young MP new to battle who is worried how he will respond to his first taste of combat.

It would take the GIs 40 days to prevail, since the defenders had dug themselves deep into a subterranean maze of caves carved across the island and into the face of Mount Suribachi. The movie makes it quite clear that the Japanese knew they would lose even before the assault began, yet they were under strict orders to fight till the bitter end.

In the face of that futility, they spend as much time writing letters to loved ones, reminiscing about the good old days, and musing about the meaning of life, as they do in the furious firefight against the Americans. Nominated for four Academy Awards (including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay), and winning the Golden Globe in the Best Foreign Language Film category, Letters from Iwo Jima exudes an undeniable emotional honesty likely to touch the heart of even the most embittered veteran of the Pacific theater.

Afterall, if we returned that barren pile of black volcanic ash in 1968, why not posthumously recognize the humanity of the over 20,000 Japanese who perished there, too?