The Devil Is in the Detail: Clint Eastwood's Powerful Drama Intimately Captures the Chaos of Conflict

By Gilbey, Ryan | New Statesman (1996), February 19, 2007 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

The Devil Is in the Detail: Clint Eastwood's Powerful Drama Intimately Captures the Chaos of Conflict


Gilbey, Ryan, New Statesman (1996)


Letters from Iwo Jima (15)

dir: Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers, which explored the US victory at Iwo Jima in 1945, was a muted war film that couldn't quite shake off the bombast of the genre. Only a few months after its release comes Letters from Iwo Jima, Eastwood's story of the same battle seen from a Japanese perspective. The film, which opens on 23 February, is being sold as the companion piece to the earlier work. That status can only be provisional. It is Flags of Our Fathers that is the adjunct or footnote, outclassed and overshadowed in every department by the newer picture.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Both films are strikingly photographed by Tom Stern using a drained palette that is as close to monochrome as colour could get. Yet, in moral terms, these works are far from black and white. Letters from Iwo Jima concerns Japanese soldiers faced with defending the island. Lieutenant General Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe) has decided that the best hope of success lies in establishing miles of tunnel within the volcanic rock. This is greeted with incredulity by the grunts assigned to do the digging, including the puckish young baker Saigo (Kazunari Ninomiya). Every potential fillip turns out to have its downside. A comrade's persistent bowel trouble provides cause for hilarity, until he becomes the unit's first loss to dysentery. Then there is the exciting arrival of the Olympic horse-riding champion Baron Nishi (Tsuyoshi Ihara). "He's a real womaniser," writes Saigo admiringly in a letter to his wife, but then notes that there are no women left on the island anyway.

As the Americans creep across the Pacific, the Japanese are equipped with the necessary psychological armoury, though the physical stocks required to see them through sustained combat--small things such as ammunition, reinforcements and food--are in shorter supply. They are assured that the enemy is prone to letting emotions interfere with duty-which is why it's best to aim for a medic, so you can pick off anyone who rushes foolishly to his aid. As the battle intensifies, and the lieutenants warn that no man will be permitted to die until he has despatched ten enemy soldiers, the troops begin to wonder if their position is futile. "I want to fulfil my duty," bleats one soldier, "but I don't want to die for nothing.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

The Devil Is in the Detail: Clint Eastwood's Powerful Drama Intimately Captures the Chaos of Conflict
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?