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(Review originally written at 13 July 2007)

There never have been many movies concentrating on the Japanese side of WW II. It makes every movie regarding this subject per definition and interesting one. "Letters from Iwo Jima" is also such a movie that tells just like "Flags of Our Fathers" to story of the battle of Iwo Jima, only this time told from the Japanese side.

On a positive note; the movie this time almost entirely focuses just on the battle. It makes the story far more interesting and intriguing to follow. on a negative note, the battle looks just as confusing as was the case in "Flags of Our Fathers". Hours literally goes by in minutes and it's hard to understand who is fighting were at the moment. In some cases it just doesn't ever bother to show some important events but instead use small parts of dialog, concerning the progress of the battle. This is the sort of approach normally a cheaply made movie would make in order to save money. You just don't expect this is a multi-million production. Again it shows that Clint Eastwood is better off sticking to 'small' drama's, it's obvious that his most talent lays there. Although admittedly the budget ($15,000,000) was a lot lower than usually would be the case with such a large scale production.

Strangely enough the characters are for more interesting and easy to relate with than was the case in "Flags of Our Fathers". It's also one of the reasons why "Letters from Iwo Jima" works better out as a movie. It's more involving, more tense and more shocking as a war movie. You get a better sense of the madness and scale of the battle and war in general. Interesting, since the movie concentrates on an Axis power of WW II.

Yet again the movie is great looking, with nice cinematography and good looking battle sequences, though the budget looks significantly lower than "Flags of Our Fathers".

The story isn't as fast going as "Flags of Our Fathers" and the movie takes its time to set up things. It makes the whole build up to the battle and the actual battle itself work out way better on the screen. The pace is definitely slower but yet works out more effective.

And wow, how great is Ken Watanabe in this? Too bad that in the middle he gets pushed way too much to the background. I wouldn't had mind another Oscar nomination for him.

A great, though in-perfect, 2006 must-see!

8/10

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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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