"Letters from Iwo Jima" a movie worth seeing

I pretty much dislike most movies these days, and that may well be more of a reflection on me than the movies I disdain. But I doubt it.

So it goes without saying that I'm always looking for what I consider a good movie and am pleasantly surprised when I find one.

That's why I feel compelled to spread the word about Clint Eastwood's "Letters from Iwo Jima."

I saw ads for its Feb. 16 broadcast on American Movie Classics, where it was shown without interruption and probably will be again. If it's not, rent it.

Letters is about the American effort to capture the miserable island of Iwo Jima during World War II. There's been debate about the military necessity of the attack since then. But at the time, American military commanders perceived the island as necessary to build runways to support America's bombing campaign against the Japanese homeland. The Japanese wanted to hold it just as much as Americans wanted to take it. That set the stage for the bloodbath to come.

Told from the point of view of the Japanese, "Letters" is the companion to the movie Eastwood made about the invasion from the American viewpoint, "Flags of our Fathers."

At any rate, letters is an interesting examination of life and combat from the point of view of soldiers who were sent to die in defense of Iwo Jima. By the time of the battle, Japanese resources were in such short supply that the troops on Iwo were all alone. There would be no reinforcements, no resupply, no assistance from planes or ships. Essentially, it was for the Japanese a fight until death or suicide against large numbers of well-supplied American soldiers.

What's particularly striking is the cult of death that surrounded the Japanese exercise, and that's what made the island so tough to take.

They wouldn't surrender.

Told from the point of view of a few Japanese soldiers, the movie recreates the feelings of despair and duty they felt as they faced the end. It's a grim story, but a good one.

Very few movies about war humanize the enemy's side. This one does. By the time it's over, the viewer feels sorry for everyone trapped in this murderous fight on a desolate Pacific island.

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