Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Looking for a Must-See Film?

About halfway through the day, I decided that I simply no longer had the patience to sit in front of the computer and send out resume after resume after resume, hoping that I got some sort of quick phone call or e-mail in response. I wanted to get out of the house, and had considered going for a ride out in the country; my mother-in-law, while we were talking, suggested that I go and take in a movie (even suggesting that it be something that I would find hilarious). While I opted against hilarity, I did take her up on her suggestion of the movie and went to see Letters from Iwo Jima -- and I'm so glad that I did.

Although I've followed to a lesser extent the hooplah surrounding all of the awards and nominations that the movie and its director, Clint Eastwood, have received, I didn't know much about the film itself. I am a lover of foreign language films (note: if you're not much for subtitles, you won't enjoy this too much), and having seen and enjoyed the performances of Ken Watanabe in two earlier films (The Last Samurai and Batman Begins), I was hopeful that this would be equally impressive. I was not disappointed. This was one of the better films that I've seen in quite some time, with magnificent acting, a very compelling story (based on a collection of letters written by Watanabe's character), and a hauntingly beautiful soundtrack written by Kyle Eastwood (Clint's son, and a tremendous jazz musician in his own right).

I've seen many war movies over the years, where stories are told from the American perspective -- films where we know the history and, while we know that things are going tough for our boys, there's a light at the end of the tunnel. It was quite an emotional experience for me to see a film from the perspective of the other side, where the outcome is -- to us and to the characters -- quite hopeless, and yet where the characters continue to search for that light at the end of the tunnel. Conflicts in the movie raged on many levels; on the surface, there's the conflict between the Japanese forces and the Allies. On a deeper level, there is the conflict among main of the major characters. And at its deepest level, there is conflict within the main characters, and that is what made the movie the most interesting for me -- watching how these men, who know they are about to die, struggle over whether they should uphold their oath to defend to the death their emperor and their homeland, or whether they should remain true to their deeper, more personal obligations to their families.

Even in the midst of the chaos and death, I found moments and thoughts that could be described as inspiring, including an excerpt from one letter that was read in the film. I hesitate in discussing the film in great depth here, for the sake of those who haven't yet seen it. (If you have already gone to the theater and want to swap opinions, please feel free to e-mail me.) In short, however, I will say that this deserves to be on your "must see" list, and the accolades the film has earned are very appropriate. Now, I'm off to download the soundtrack from iTunes and add the movie to my Amazon wish list.....


Kansas Bob said...

Nice review Matt. I linked to it at my place.

Dave said...

I agree, it's a good movie choice and you did a fine job summarizing it. Beyond the obvious cinematic quality and philosophical profundity, it's a strong reminder that there are and have been a lot of people who've had it much worse than we do!

I wrote a quick review of it myself a couple weeks ago... back there in the archive somewhere... Did you catch the little glimpse of the famous flag? That brief moment passed quickly and quietly but really did a lot to put the "heroics" of war into perspective.

ipanema said...

Already on my to-do list. It's really something when we switch off our computers once in a while. :)