Smog of War

The Baltimore Sun

Clint Eastwood's critical hit and box-office bomb, Flags of Our Fathers, fumbled its Marines'-eye view of the Battle of Iwo Jima over 36 bloody days early in 1945. Its awkward combat scenes echoed but didn't match the D-Day sequence in Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan. Its choppy home- front scenes about the U.S. propaganda machine plunged into maudlin melodrama. Eastwood was justly lauded for trying to go beyond a rah-rah point-of-view. But the fog of war was more like smog in the gray visual and emotional palette of Flags of Our Fathers.

And it is again in Letters from Iwo Jima, Eastwood's companion film, which depicts the same history from the Japanese position. While scouring Japanese material such as Picture Letters from Commander in Chief by Gen. Tadamichi Kuribayashi, commander of the Japanese forces on Iwo Jima, and Sadness in Dying Gracefully, by Kumiko Kakehashi, Eastwood came to grips with the insight that, during war, bad things happen to good people on both sides.

Letters from Iwo Jima (Warner Bros.) Starring Ken Watanabe, Tsuyoishi Ihara, Kazunari Ninomiya. In Japanese, with English subtitles. Directed by Clint Eastwood. Rated R. Time 141 minutes.

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