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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Letters from Iwo Jima - 2006

To begin my Clint Eastwood marathon I thought Letters from Iwo Jima, my favorite of all his work, would be fitting. Back some months ago when I first started this blog and signed with Netflix nearly at the same time, I watched this film, and reviewed it. To save time I was going to re-post my earlier review, but after I read it I realized how terribly ridiculous it was. Thus, considering Letters from Iwo Jima is one of my personal favorite films, I knew I had to review it again to do it justice. So, now officially starting my marathon of one of cinema's finest directors, Letters from Iwo Jima!

It's funny, and yet not funny at the same time, Martin Scorsese, one of cinema's most legendary directors, never won an Oscar for best director when he was deserving of the title (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, GoodFellas). But the year he comes out with a solid work in The Departed, he wins the Oscar when he was absolutely not deserving. Not that The Departed is a bad film, it is just United 93 and Letters from Iwo Jima were both far greater films, and their directors did far better work as well. It's a shame, really, but I suppose after already having won Best Director twice, Eastwood could live without winning for his work here.

The interesting thing to me about Letters from Iwo Jima, is that Eastwood actually made the film from Japan's point of view, which is probably a large turn off for many American viewers. Thinking of the circumstances with Pearl Harbor never leaving anyone's mind, I don't think a lot of us ever even cared to hear another side to that story. But Eastwood made this movie so touching, and eye opening, that I cannot resist telling people about it on a regular basis. Most of the film was spent fixed on the war, but there are some flashbacks throughout, and they may have some of the most meaningful lines in all of film. At least for someone who has grown up hearing about this war.

Clint Eastwood directed Letters from Iwo Jima flawlessly. I don't know exactly what made Eastwood get this team together to make it, but my hat goes off to anyone on the set behind this film, because they all did an excellent job. Eastwood obviously put an enormous amount of care into every single scene, and I can't imagine how many takes he did on some of them. As brilliant of a job that he pulled off, Letters from Iwo Jima is less of his own achievement, and more of a team achievement. You might say that is the case for every good film, but then if you say that you probably have not seen this masterpiece.

Now I realize I am probably getting extremely repetitive at this point, but the film is so incredible it is hard not to at times. Cinematographer Tom Stern does one beautiful job of shooting this film, and was wrongly robbed at the Oscars. It makes me sick that the Academy would nominate him for his work in The Changeling, but simply brush this off to the side. You know, sometimes (last year) I think the academy gets it really, really right, but then there are others, like 2007 when they just ridiculously get it wrong. None of it really makes sense, does it?

Overall, aside from the solid acting, the great and fresh way to present this piece of history, and unbelievable directing, Letter from Iwo Jima is above all a masterful piece of artwork. We could go on and on about the Departed, United 93, the Pursuit of Happyness, and all of the other brilliant films coming from 2006. But Letters from Iwo Jima is in a completely different category, it is one of those rare films when you can truly say "that's art".


  1. Must admit this isn't my favorite Eastwood directed film but it is still a fine one none the less. The book it is based on is excellent if you are interested in reading it.
    He has had an incredible career and done it all over sixty years in the industry. I'm a big Eastwood fan whether actor or director. But without question he is a better director than actor. For me my number one Eastwood directed film is Unforgiven.

  2. Ugh, I have STILL yet to see Unforgiven!

  3. This does sound to be a great movie from Eastwood, and I agree that United 93 deserved the award much more than the Departed (which I loved, its just I preferred United 93 even more). Great review, Matt

  4. Yep, I just watched a bit of Million Dollar Baby though, and I had forgotten how great it was. Thanks man!

  5. I always enjoy whatever Clint dares to bring to the screen, and he has yet to let me down (even though Flags of Our Fathers was a little....well, mediocre) - that said, I bought this film on BluRay about 12 months ago to watch and it's still sitting on my shelf, I have had no inclination to watch it.

    Now I might have to. It's rare to find a film where it could be considered "art" - they're too few and far between these days, it seems - but from the little I've seen of Letters From Iwo Jima, you might very well be right.

    Great thoughts here, Matt!

  6. Oh man, this is nothing but art! You must watch it! And thanks for reading!