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Letters from Iwo Jima


Stars: Ken Watanabe, Kazunari Ninomiya, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Ryo Kase

Director: Clint Eastwood

Thought by many to be superior to its companion piece, Flags of Our Fathers, Letters, which chronicles the story of the WW2 battle for Iwo Jima from the Japanese side, is actually long and laboured in the telling.

You sense that the director is trying to paint a picture of a heroic Japanese defence of the island, but the picture that emerges is that of a vastly outnumbered force, short on ammunition and stripped of air support, t
hat realises it's doomed from the starrt.

Its tanks, too, have been waiting for months for parts. Only the strategy of the intelligent Japanese commander (Watanabe), who orders tunnels dug throughout the island, prolongs the hostilities over a period of 40 days, by which time the defenders have run out of food and water.

Besides the commander, the story centres on a humble baker (Ninomiya), dragooned into military service, and now surviving time and again by a hairsbreadth. Very few of his comrades, though, come across as three-dimensional characters in a film that, drained of nearly all its natural colours, rarely comes to life.

David Quinlan

USA/Japan 2006. UK Distributor: Warner Brothers. Technicolor.
141 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 17 Feb 2007