Eastwood’s Iwo Jimo Looks A Lot Like Spielberg’s D-Day

Letters from Iwo JimoIt’s not so much that I didn’t like Clint Eastwood’s second half of his story about the battle for Iwo Jimo, I did. The story is undeniably poignent, the acting is first rate and the direction is impeccable. I just think I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t seen Saving Private Ryan almost 10 years ago.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, Iwo Jimo is the second part of Eastwood’s Flags of Our Father, which comes out on DVD today. Where Flags tells the story from the American point of view, Iwo Jimo tells it from the Japanese side and in case you were wondering, almost entirely in Japanese.

The basic premise of the movie is that where American soldiers where sent to war hoping to come back, Japanese soldiers were sent to Iwo Jimo and told they weren’t coming back. It’s a point Eastwood makes here over and over and heck he even spells it out in some recent radio adds for the film just in case you didn’t get it.

It’s a powerful point that shows where the Japanese mind set was at the time and it tackles several stereotypes. There are few gung ho kamikaze Japanese bravely or insanely giving their lives for the emperor, no here we see scared, young men giving there lives because they don’t really seem to have any choice.

Where the movie falls short is that the ground here has been covered, perhaps not better but it’s been covered just the same. When Eastwood pans out from the caves of Iwo Jimo to show the American fleet bearing down on the Island you can’t help but recall the iconic images Spielberg, who co-produced Iwo Jimo and Flags, gave us of D-day back in Ryan.

The amazing effects are all here, the reluctant heros are here, the brave sacrifices are here and Eastwood even bookends the story with scenes from present day just like Spielberg did in Ryan. This all may be part of a grand conceit to get the audience to root for the Japanese. It works and it’s a bit like rooting for the south to win the Civil War. War is the real enemy in Eastwood’s Iwo Jimo not the nations that fight them.

JC

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