I had my Reasons for waiting – Letters from Iwo Jima

I remember when I was super obsessed with Arashi and found out that Ninomiya Kazunari had been in an American film! Okay, American directed film (thanks Clint Eastwood!), based on the capture from the Japanese perspective of the island of Iwo Jima. And we had this film at home on DVD! And yet from the time of discovery (2014), I didn’t bother watching until recently.

Why? Hype, makes me nervous. There is always, always, always the fear that the film or media in general will never live up to it. You’d think I’d get over that personal mental hurdle and just watch it. Well, now I finally did.

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Story: The film shows the Japanese forces beginning to barricade and fortify the area of the island of Iwo Jima. The island being a critical point that the Japanese Imperial Army must hold on to in order to fend off the American forces. General Tadamichi Kuribayashi (Watanbe Ken), has been assigned to to command the forces on the island.

Known as a desk warmer at headquarters, he makes several choices that begin to create insubordination amongest his fellow commanders, while somehow rallying the remaining foot soliders. Saigo (Ninomiya Kazunari) is a former poor baker, seperated form his wife in this war effort. He’s also saved from a brutal beating thanks to Kuribayashi’s interferance the day of the general’s arrival. This sets the story as one of hope, desperation and courage to face the horrors of one of the worst battles in history.

This, isn’t an easy film to stomach. It’s pretty nightmarish in content, and there’s no real heart warming moments to ease the pain. It’s brutal, it’s ugly, and it suppose to be that way. Nino was my driving force for this film, but even he couldn’t fully sustain me throughout. Fair warning for all, it’s not a feel good war film.

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Also for film buffs, this accompanies Flags of our Fathers, also by Clint Eastwood. Letters from Iwo Jima being the Japanese perspective, and both films being shot back to back originally.

Characters: Oh man. I keep running into Watanabe Ken and Nakamura Shido, which in this case is wonderful. Both are superb actors that both really shown as two sides of the same coin in the series. Where Watanabe Ken wanted to survive the war, Nakamura Shido wanted to be considered a hero. I’ll leave it at that.

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Shimizu barely looks like this in film FYI.

Before gushing about Nino, I actually want to take some time to talk about Kase Ryo as Shimizu. Shimizu, is the character that really demonstrates the disconnect between the officers in the war and the grunt-men. Without spoiling too much, Shimizu fell from grace and more or less as punishment, was sent to Iwo Jima as punishment. His character was the signal that Iwo Jima, to the Japanese was already a lost cause and that was very subtle and very important.

Yes, he’s an officer that fell from grace. He has more decilpine and more on the line as a solider then Saigo and company. However, Saigo reminds him that it’s a struggle to live, not a glorifying way to die. Which is why Shimizu’s end is so touching and tragic.

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Which leads into Nino’s acting. Well, just damn. People like to pretend idols can’t act but I can always point to Nino as proof they are wrong. Watching Nino as Saigo was closer to watching a documentary, rather then a movie. Even as an American, I emphathized with his side of the story. He was just a simple baker who wanted to go home to his wife and child, he wasn’t a solider by any means just a survivor. Without Nino as Saigo, the movie’s core would have been lost.

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Scenes like these always sent shivers down my spine.

Cinematography: Clint Eastwood knows how to frame a scene to convince you to feel something. There were so many uses of light filtering in, caves and the monologues within the caves, colorations of browns, greys, black, brown, etc. It was stylishly done in ways that framed the situation. Even the night scenes, had a strong sense of feeling within theme, something that I feel often gets lost in most films.

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Other Thoughts/Overall: One of the most compelling war films I’ve ever watched (and I’m seen a few too many, thanks dad). It’s a cinematic masterpiece, and absolutely matched up to the awards, and hype. If you can work through from of the ideology of the time, and some of the more graphic scenes you should watch this.


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