By Debbie Elicksen.
I would call Letters from Iwo Jima (2006) the modern day version of All Quiet on the Western Front. It qualifies as classic material, and it also portrays the human side of the soldiers serving along enemy lines. It is beautifully directed by Clint Eastwood. The costumes, color, photography, and sets are exceptional. Iris Yamashita wrote the screenplay (and the story with Paul Haggis) based on the book by Tadamichi Kuribayashi and Tsuyoko Yoshido.
It was near the end of World War II and the Japanese were holding strong on the island of Iwo Jima, anxiously anticipating the landfall of the Americans. They knew they would be terribly outnumbered and out-gunned. The Japanese soldiers receive conflicting orders. The lieutenant disregards his superior officer’s instructions and tells the soldiers something else. One of the soldiers overhears the original instruction and is faced with the dilemma of whether or not to follow blindly.
When the group’s captured American soldier dies, a letter he had for his family is read to the rest of the Japanese troops. They realize the enemy soldiers are no different than they are.
The movie shows that the Japanese weren’t just the enemy, they were human beings with friends and family. They loved, bickered, and had dreams like everyone else. They also lost many to dysentery.
Ken Watanabe and Kazunari Ninomiya are terrific in this film. It is subtitled and a powerful drama. It ranks five stars out of five.
Letters from Iwo Jima won an Academy Award for Best Achievement in Sound Editing. It was also nominated for three: Best Motion Picture of the Year; Best Achievement in Directing; and Best Writing, Original Screenplay. It also won a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film.