In 2006, renowned actor/director Clint Eastwood presented two critically acclaimed WWII companion films about the Battle of Iwo Jima, approaching the same battlefield from two different perspectives. On the American side, Flags of Our Fathers
follows the soldiers who hoisted the American flag in that iconic picture that came to symbolize Iwo Jima in the United States. On the Japanese side, Letters from Iwo Jima
recalls the final days of the Japanese soldiers stationed at Iwo Jima through the letters they left behind. Both films carry strong messages about the devastation of war and the heroes that come of them, but while Flags of Our Fathers
covered the cynical politics and psychological aftermath of war, Letters from Iwo Jima
returned to more humanistic roots, focusing squarely on the individuals who gave their lives on the island. The story is mainly positioned around Watanabe Ken (The Last Samurai
), who cuts a fine and noble figure as General Kuribayashi Tadamichi, and Ninomiya Kazunari of Arashi, who delivers a surprisingly affecting performance as a smart-mouthed conscript intent on surviving for his family. The film also features Nakamura Shido (Be With You
), Ihara Tsuyoshi, and Kase Ryo.
General Kuribayashi Tadamichi (Watanabe Ken) arrives at the lifeless island of Iwo Jima in 1945 to lead the first WWII battle fought on Japanese soil. Iwo Jima represented Japan's frontline, but Kuribayashi knows they are fighting a battle they can not win. Having spent many years in the United States, however, he understands what military strategies are necessary to hold out the battle for as long as possible. In the face of the oncoming war, Kuribayashi must also contend with the egos of his fiercely nationalistic, rigid-minded subordinates and a 20,000-man army composed of motley conscripts who just want to go home. When the 100,000-strong American troops arrive on the shores of Iwo Jima, however, all that awaits them is an emotional fight to the end.