Letters from Iwo Jima (US - DVD R1)
Brendan Surpless takes a look at Clint Eastwood's film 'Letters from Iwo Jima'
Clint Eastwood is pretty much a sure-fire hit director, especially in recent years with his success in Million Dollar Baby. When the idea came out that Eastwood was going to direct a film based on Iwo Jima, historians and history film buffs became immediately interested. Then it was announced that Eastwood was actually going to direct two films on Iwo Jima, one from the American point of view ( Flags of Our Fathers and one from the Japanese point of view. The film in question is Letters from Iwo Jima, which is a fine, engrossing effort that is sure to capture the emotions of all those watching.
Iwo Jima, as any basic historian can tell you, follows the events that took place when Americans invaded Japan during World War II. Eastwood presents the Japanese point of view here, specifically following General Tadamichi Kuribayashi (the always great Ken Watanabe), who, despite the idea that defeat was going to occur, defended Iwo Jima for nearly forty days of combat. While his American companion piece Flags of Our Fathers focused on the heroic aspects of the American view, Iwo Jima focuses on the emotional decision the Japanese faced during the events leading up to what occurred at Iwo Jima.
What makes a film like Iwo Jima work is that Eastwood, despite not really giving us many characters we want to care about besides General Kuribayashi, has put together a film that basically serves as a tribute film to the Japanese side. Even though the Japanese were the ‘enemy’ of the US at this point, Eastwood doesn’t put that out on the table. In fact he doesn’t even really touch on that aspect, instead touching on the fact that these Japanese soldiers were men too, fighting and standing up for what they believed in. That’s what makes this film so powerful. Eastwood presents the ideas, views, actions and thoughts of the other side. This gives us another aspect into the thought process the other side faces during a time of war.
One can’t help but mention Flags of Our Fathers, which came out before this. It seems that the general consensus is that Iwo Jima is a better film as it performed at a higher level in relevance to critical reception and Academy love (well, the Academy tends to love every film Eastwood does). Even though the film didn’t win the Best Picture Oscar (and The Departed did deserve it folks), Iwo Jima is still a fantastic film that anyone (and I strongly believe this) can enjoy. You don’t have to be a history buff or even a fan of history in itself to appreciate what Eastwood presents. Events like this impacted our fathers and grandfathers’ lives for a reason. Now because of Eastwood, we’re given a glimpse into the general moral that the two competing countries felt during this period. Simply put, Iwo Jima is a great film that everyone should see.
Presented in a 2:35:1 widescreen aspect ratio, Letters from Iwo Jima boasts a rich, clear, powerful image throughout the film. Colour usage, despite only really presenting a black and gray feel, was spot on with numerous instances of crystal clear detail. Edge enhancement was pretty much absent. Sharpness was fantastic with a real sense of the drab, rainy Japanese world that surrounded the film. The film’s print, running only five months old, was in perfect shape with no grain issues. This is a fantastic effort from Warner. I can only imagine what this one looks like in HD!
Similar to the video presentation, the audio is perfect. Arriving with a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound track, Letters from Iwo Jima ended up sounding exactly how I expected the film to sound. Surrounds were excellently mixed together. As bullets and explosions zipped by my ear, dialogue remained intelligible. Something I had feared was that the film’s dialogue would end up becoming muddled with all the surround activity. Speaking of dialogue, the Japanese track was simple to understand thanks to the provided subtitles. The film’s score was really moving and well organized, as we really became one of the Japanese during this experience. Bass was deep and responsive adding that necessary boom to the explosions. Just like the video presentation, Warner has given Letters from Iwo Jima a great audio track.
In this two-disc package, the film takes up the first disc while the second disc houses the extras.
Warner has awarded Letters from Iwo Jima a fairly packed two-disc edition that fans will enjoy. First up we get a making of entitled ‘Red Sun, Black Sand’. This was a fabulous look at a fantastic film. Eastwood gives us a few comments on the production of the film and why he decided to make a film that focused on the Japanese aspect of the war.
After this, we move to ‘The Faces of Combat’, which, like the above feature, focuses on a few comments from the cast and crew. An interest part of this was that a majority of the cast Japanese actors, possibly due to their age, no idea about Iwo Jima. Next up is ‘Images from the Front Line’, which gives us a few stilled images from the film and the set.
The next two features were decent as they covered the publicity aspect of the film. 11/15/2006 World Premiere at Budokan in Tokyo and 11/16/2006 Press Conference at Grand Hyatt Tokyo focuses on the premiere and features a few comments from Eastwood. We also get a little information on the film’s meaning for Eastwood. The press conference was a bit disappointing as we got to hear from Watanabe and Eastwood again. The conference felt like something off the the E! channel (read rather bland). Another downside, despite the possible interest, is that the feature was a short at twenty-four minutes. The feature should have been at least double in length. This would have allowed for more information and for more of an in-depth glance rather than a cursory glance.
While the overall supplemental package is a bit weak considering the approval of the film, Warner Brothers has still given Iwo Jima a fine DVD release. Arriving with nearly five-star video and exceptionally perfect audio, fans will appreciate this release simply because they’ll have the film they love in their library. A recommended purchase for fans and a very, very strong rental (read MUST rental) for those on the fence.
Review by Brendan Surpless
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 22nd May 2007
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Japanese
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Extras: Red Sun, Black Sand, The Faces of Combat, Images from the Frontline, November 2006 World Premiere at Budo-kan in Tokyo, November 2006 World Press Conference
Easter Egg: No
Director: Clint Eastwood
Cast: Ken Watanabe, Kazunari Ninomiya, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Ryo Kase, Shidou Nakamura
Length: 140 minutes
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