Clint Eastwood’s Flags of Our Fathers was all about politics — the human cost of selling a war as opposed to fighting it — but Letters from Iwo Jima, his sympathetic take from the Japanese viewpoint of the battle, rarely leaves the killing grounds to provide a historical perspective or justification. We see only the grim, domino-like loss of life after life after life, with no storybook glamour, heroism, valor or end in sight. Ken Watanabe is superb as Gen. Kuribayashi, the moral compass in an immoral war. In Eastwood’s stark and colorless canvas, the parched earth the soldiers tread rivals the post-apocalyptic nightmare of any supernatural sci-fi scribe, while flashback vignettes provide punctuation at intervals — tender parentheticals amidst the never-ending ellipses of battlefield bloodshed. Eastwood’s provocative exploration of the Iwo Jima conflict is a historically educational lesson and, more importantly, a debate-opening comment on our current war.
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