(Japanese: 硫黄島からの手紙); Country: United States; Language: Japanese)
Told through the perspective of Japanese army conscripts, the film portrays the historical account of the WWII battle between Japan and the United States at the island of Iwo Jima.
The Japanese defeat was written on the wall before the battle started; most of Japan’s defences were already destroyed in the Battle of the Philippine Sea and therefore no reinforcement could arrive from mainland. Their military commanders at Iwo Jima did not know this when the battle started on the island but fought very bravely with whatever they had at hand.
The Americans planned to take the island in 5 days but it took them 37 days to declare victory.
The story begins when an unposted letter of Private First Class Saigo (Kazunari Ninomiya) to his wife is found during the digging of a war era trench detailing the hardships of soldiers at the remote and barren Iwo Jima. The movie then moves through the point of view of General Tadamichi Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe) who leads Japanese forces in the battle.
The General had spent time in the United States on a military exchange programme many years earlier and his conviction at that time that Japan and United States could never go to war is told in flashbacks. He is shown to be frustrated and disappointed at having to fight this war. Despite his skepticism, which might or might not be historically accurate, the general led his forces from the front and died in action.
The usual portrayal of ruthless, racist, terrible Imperial Japanese escapes this movie; the focus is on the struggle of the Japanese contingent stationed to defend Iwo Jima and their efforts for survival once the American air raids begin, and their resolve to see it to the end despite the knowledge that no help was coming from Tokyo.
I’d rate it 4/5. IMDb Link