Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Clint's Bold Tribute to a Heroic Defeat; after Flags of Our Fathers, Eastwood Retells the WW2 Story of a Battle in the Pacific from the Japanese Point of View

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Clint's Bold Tribute to a Heroic Defeat; after Flags of Our Fathers, Eastwood Retells the WW2 Story of a Battle in the Pacific from the Japanese Point of View

Article excerpt

Byline: DEREK MALCOLM

Letter from Iwo Jima Cert 15, 141 mins

CLINT Eastwood may have made more impressive films than this portrayal of the Japanese defence of Iwo Jima, told in their own language. But he has surely never made a braver one.

It's doubtful whether Hollywood would have allowed a film with subtitles from anyone else but the veteran Oscar-winning star and director.

Shot back to back with Flags of Our Fathers, which relates the same battle from the Americans' point of view, the second part of Eastwood's doubleheader doesn't defend the Japanese as paragons of nobility. It does attempt to explain that wars have their heroes on both sides and that armed conflict often murders the souls as well as the bodies of those who have to fight them.

The fierce battle for the inhospitable volcanic island of Iwo Jima, vital for any future invasion of Japan and considered by the Japanese to be part of Tokyo (even though the city is 700 miles away) resulted in the death of 7,000 American troops, with another 20,000 wounded. Only 1,000 of the 20,000 Japanese defenders survived. This, unusually for Hollywood, is the story of a heroic but crushing defeat, partly gathered from the buried letters found years later on the island.

The Japanese were short of men, ammunition, communications equipment, food and water. They had no air cover and an appeal for reinforcements was rejected by the mainland as impossible. Since surrender was unthinkable, death or suicide were the only eventual alternatives.

Eastwood, shooting in what looks almost like black and white, possibly for the purposes of realism and to give a documentary feel, begins in late 1944 with the arrival of General Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe).

Controversially, he moved his artillery from the beaches to high ground and built a series of connecting tunnels and caves covering 18 miles, in which his troops could shelter from the constant bombing from the Naval Air Corps and the shelling from the huge American fleet, which lay out at sea. …

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