The simple act of mirroring can't help but seem provocative in a movie that's about to be released into a nation at war -- a war, like most others, predicated on absolutist notions of good and evil. But in Letters From Iwo Jima, as in Flags of Our Fathers, director Clint Eastwood seems less concerned with provocation than with contemplation of a popular military campaign and its supposed days of glory. The second film completes and deepens the first, yet to view them side by side is to see not two sides of a coin, but two distinct panels in a diptych. Whereas Flags fanned out over several decades to show the long-range impact of World War II on men who shuddered at the thought of their generation's purported greatness, Letters narrows its focus to Iwo Jima and the Japanese troops who endured weeks of food shortages and dysentery epidemics, only to perish in hails of bullets or, in some cases, impaled by their own swords. And where the earlier film punctuated its monochromatic color palette with flashes of Old Glory (always drenched in irony), the images in Letters move even closer to stark black and white, as if to remind us that the movie's moral landscape is anything but.
Director: Clint Eastwood
Writer: Iris Yamashita, Tadamichi Kuribayashi, Tsuyoko Yoshido and Paul Haggis
Producer: Clint Eastwood, Robert Lorenz and Steven Spielberg
Cast: Ken Watanabe, Kazunari Ninomiya, Shido Nakamura, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Ryo Kase, Yuki Matsuzaki, Hiroshi Watanabe, Takumi Bando, Nobumasa Sakagami and Takashi Yamaguchi