movies, music and everything else

This blog is about pretty much what the title implies... movies, music and everything else.

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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

I like movies, music and everything esle... ; ) oh... and i can't spell, so, please, no comments

Thursday, December 21, 2006

return to sender

LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA is a film about the battle of Iwo Jima (made famous by the photograph of the raising of the American flag) as told from the point of view of the Japanese soldiers. The center of the film is General Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe) who is brought onto the island to oversee its defense against the Americans. Before long, it becomes clear that there is no chance for victory and the movie turns into a portrait of a group of soldiers facing certain death and how they deal with it. With all of this, the films is also almost entirely in Japanese and directed by two time Oscar winner Clint Eastwood.
Just the plot alone, I went in wanting to love this movie. It had also been popping up on top ten lists and had won the best picture for the National Board of Review. The movie that I saw though was slow, wildly uneven and overly melodramatic.
Like many other films from the year, LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA suffers from being too long. With a running time of about two and a half hours, it drags throughout and suffered from it. To better capture the characters and feel who they are and where they came from, the film’s structure is peppered with flashbacks of them before the war and who they were with their family and what they have are going to lose. While this seems like a good idea, the way that Eastwood used the flashbacks, it is extremely heavy handed and felt forced. I was never lost in the characters and able to really feel for them because the way that it was handled felt like the filmmaker was trying to make me care. I always felt like I was watching a movie.
When the movie was focused on the actual soldiers and on the invasion and ensuing battle, the result was just a jumbled mess. There was a general lack of geography and I never felt like I had a clear view of what was going on and when it was going on. There are instances when this chaos works (BLACK HAWK DOWN), but here, it just came across as poor direction. There are a handful of moving sequences and moments, but they just did not come together to really tell a story.
Another thing that realty bothered me was the look of the film. It took the bleach bypass look of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN way too far, making the film look distractingly like a black and white film with the only real colors being a muted red and yellow. It looked like sloppy color timing trying to create a style. The result was characters that looked less than human. The skin tone was an ashy grey that was more like a ghost than a human. This might be construed as intentional, but I thought it looked lazy. Again, some of the shots are great, but the look overall just seemed too much.
Also, the score is terrible. I have never been a fan of Eastwood’s score choice in films, but his use of a minimalist piano didn’t fit the tone here at all. It was almost as if they pushed up the release date and had a weekend to record the score so he thought that it would just call it “minimal” and people would not notice. For me, this was possibly the worst score of the year.
LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA is one of the best-reviewed movies of the year and will no doubt be nominated for many Academy Awards, but I just can’t help but feel like I saw a different version of the film. The one that I saw was too long, poorly paced, melodramatic, lazy and just plain cheesy.


Anonymous Letters from Iwo Jima Movie said...

Letters From Iwo Jima is nothing short of a remarkable film. It takes the Japanese perspective in the legendary battle for Iwo Jima, that island that was so critically important to both sides of the conflict.

11:59 AM  

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