Saturday, February 17, 2007


In Japanese with English sub-titles

Iwo Jima is a tiny, barren, desolate, volcanic island located about 550 miles south of Tokyo and was the last remaining outpost of the homeland. To the US, the island’s importance lay in its location, midway between Japan and American bomber bases in the Marianas. Beginning in the summer of 1944, the Japanese home islands had been hit by strikes carried out by long-range B-29 bombers. However, the Americans had no fighters with enough range to escort these big superfortresses so many aircraft were lost to Japanese fighter-interceptor attacks.

Iwo Jima, with its three airfields, was ideally located as a fighter-escort station and as a sanctuary for crippled bombers returning from bombing raids over Japan. Both the Empire of Japan and the United States of America wanted control of Iwo Jima, but for entirely different reasons.

Ken Watanabe: Lieutenant General Tadamichi Kuribayashi, garrison commander
Tsuyoshi Ninomiya: Baron Nishi, former Olympic equestrian medalist
Kazunari Ninomiya: Private Saigo, conscripted former baker
Ryo Kase: Private? Shimizu, latest arrival and a bit of a loner

There have been few war movies seen from the enemy’s perspective. And there have been even fewer that have the air of realism to it (Das Boot comes to mind) but this one combines that with believable acting entirely in their language, not in poorly spoken English.

Unlike a lot of movies about international conflict, this one does not have an anti-war message about it. In fact it has no hidden agenda; simply showing us a group of people who are not all one-dimensional as the propaganda would have us believe.

The attention to detail is remarkable. For example the dimly lit caves and the muffled background noise of machines on the move recreates the situation to the point we almost can feel it ourselves. Despite the fact it is lengthy (2 hours and 20 minutes) it is compelling viewing and does not seem that long.

for graphic war violence.

The Mark-II hand grenades used by the allies were primed to explode by releasing the safety lever in the process of throwing the ordinance. By contrast the Japanese Type 91 hand grenades were armed by striking the firing pin against an hard object, frequently the soldier’s helmet, which set off the primer and ignited the delay mechanism.

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