October 28th, 2007
Along with Flags of our Fathers, this oddity forms half of Clint Eastwood’s duo about Iwo Jima. Shot entirely in Japanese, with subtitles, it tells the story of the siege of the island of Iwo Jima from the point of view of the Japanese defenders.
You have to be ready for subtitles and quite a bit of grimness, cruelty, and blundering around in dark tunnels. Some of the Japanese just want to survive and get home to their wives and children, but others keep trying to get them to commit “seppuku” - ritual suicide to alleviate the shame of defeat, here performed with hand grenades.
The film is earnest and well-meaning. It’s pretty good but for me, not a must-see. It might interest Americans more, for whom the famous “raising the flag” photo is an iconic image of the war in the Pacific. This is the flip side of that story, presented not as an apology for the Japanese but as a thoughtful examination of the deadly reality of war.