June 23rd, 2008


Director Clint Eastwood’s companion piece to Flags of Our Fathers focuses on the battle of Iwo Jima from the Japanese prospective.  We see soldiers on the island digging trenches in preparation for the imminent American attack.  We see the Japanese Grand Poobah General (Ken Watanabe from Batman Begins) organizing his troops in a makeshift war room and giving them little pep talks.  We see wet behind the ears soldiers idly chit-chatting to take their nervous minds off the impending battle. 


And true to the title, we see lots of motherfuckers writing long winded letters to their loved ones back home. 


After about an hour of cinematic thumb-twiddling, Eastwood finally delivers on the action.  Soldiers get gunned down, set on fire, and some have their arms blown off.  In the film’s only memorable sequence, a bunch of wimpy defeatist Japanese dudes commit hari-kari, but since they don’t have a knife handy, they use a grenade instead!  Brilliant.  


Despite a decent amount of bloodshed, it comes at the expense of an extremely weak first act, and quite frankly; it’s too little, too late.  Though shit DOES blow up pretty good during the mid-section of the film, Eastwood goes right back to the ponderous, slack-jawed pacing after the explosions subside.  While some of the action scenes are fairly well staged, regrettably, Eastwood tosses in a bunch of those handheld Shaky-Cam scenes to make it look like we’re in the thick of an all out attack.  It doesn’t necessarily make the audience feel as if we were actually there, but it DOES succeed in giving us a headache though.   


Look, I know that Eastwood’s intention with this whole thing was to show you that the Japanese were not the evil Yellow Menace that American propaganda led us to believe.  They were people just like us who wanted nothing more than to serve their country.  All of this is well and good, but that doesn’t really hide the fact that this flick is about as boring as watching a dog turd dry out in the sun.


I’ll give credit to Clint because it took some serious balls (or incredible hubris, either one) to direct a major studio release in which (almost) everyone speaks nothing but Japanese for two and a half hours.  Having said that; the film plays more like a melancholy, subtitle heavy art house flick than an honest to goodness war movie.  If you don’t believe me then feast your eyes on the pathetic scene where some Emo soldier’s prized horse gets killed during a bombing and he just kinda sits there crying about it.  It sets a new screen standard for cheesiness.


In short, it’s not the sort of thing you’d come to expect from Dirty Harry Callahan.