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Quick Review: Letters from Iwo Jima

I’m appalled at the near-unanimity of the glowing reviews for Letters from Iwo Jima. We saw it a couple of days ago, and were left with one strong, overriding, feeling: boredom.

It is an overwhelming trite and surprisingly rote war movie. You know everything that is going to happen, not just the big things, but the little things as well, long before they occur. I suspect Eastwood was simply overwhelmed by his subject matter. Unlike Million Dollar Baby, which interestingly upended notions of The Boxing Movie, Letters from Iwo Jima seems too daunted by the Epic Realities of War to deliver anything that isn’t cliche.

I can find one review that captures my sentiment.

  1. I went to see Letters not expecting anything in particular, and in fact still suspicious of what Clint might be up to. Hadn’t read any reviews.

    I ended up liking it a lot. I’m a fan of the kind of Japanese movies made for meditative spectators, like those by the directors Ozu and Mizoguchi. In these films process takes precedence over action, and whatever actions and words we see and hear are little pieces of a story that may be almost invisible. The movies don’t have the kind of structure we see so often in American films; they’re more subtle and ambient, and work on consciousness in more of an accumulative way as the bits pile up. When you come out into the light, you are changed, but subtly so.

    Letters isn’t a perfect movie, but I respected it because I felt Eastwood made a war film that resembled the meditative films I’ve described. There’s some combat, but it isn’t a combat-heavy movie; onscreen combat time is rationed and overall the film seems to be more quiet and observational. And in a time when our culture is chock-full of hyper-patriotism, I was pleased to see Eastwood try to make a film that looks at Americans through non-American eyes.

  2. The review cited above on is on the mark. The movie was contrived, trite, and as you say, rote. What a disappointment. The acting was nuanced and beautiful. But the film itself was obvious and heavy-handed.

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