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Nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director, Letters From Iwo Jima is one of the finest films of Clint Eastwood's already glittering career.

His companion piece to the moving Flags Of Our Fathers relates the same events - the first battle fought on Japanese territory during World War II - but from the perspective of the Japanese.

Screenwriter Iris Yamashita shows the courage of the Japanese soldiers and their general, and the stark differences in culture and temperament with the Americans.

Nowhere is this more apparent than when a lieutenant requests the command to commit suicide rather than surrender.

"Permit me to die with honour with my men," he begs.

"No," replies the general sternly, determined to continue striking at the heart of the American armada. "This is an order."

Lieutenant General Tadamichi Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe) has travelled the States and has a valuable insight into western war strategy. He is despatched to the island of Iwo Jima, to lead his men to almost certain death.

Kuribayashi, a master tactician, immediately alters the plan of action to take advantage of the perilous geography of the island - a mass of black sand and volcanic rock.

His sage words bring hope to the soldiers, including equestrian champion Baron Nishi (Tsuyoshi Ihara) and military policeman Shimizu (Ryo Kase), whose youthful idealism will be cut to shreds by the horrors of war.

On February 19, 1945, as the American forces finally land on Iwo Jima, the general watches his plans come to fruition from his command post in the mountains.

Letters From Iwo Jima is an extraordinary tribute to the bravado of more than 20,000 Japanese troops who perished during 40 hellish days.

Sadly, such a well balanced and emotionally devastating depiction of war, for troops on both sides of the conflict, may cut too close to the bone in these troubled times.

Watanabe brings great dignity to his military man, with superb performances from his co-stars.

Director of photography Tom Stern's colour bleached palette seems even more monochrome than Flags Of Our Fathers, with the merest hint of ruddy brown and red.

Action sequences are once again shot on handheld cameras, to drop us into the blitzkrieg of exploding missiles and bullets.
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Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Feb 26, 2007
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