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Old July 10 2010, 04:33 PM   #588
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Location: Charlottetown, PEI, Canada
Re: Movies Seen in 2010

60. Brief Encounter (B+)
61. Iron Man 2 (B+)
62. The Lion in Winter (A-)
63. Unforgiven (A+)
64. Harry Brown (B+)
65. Toy Story 3 (A+)
66. Letters from Iwo Jima (A+)

Oh, Clint Eastwood, is there anything you can't do?

Western films from the Japanese perspective are pretty rare compared to ones told from the German perspective (which are themselves not especially common in and of themselves). Cultural differences I imagine, plus the absence of big Japanese-American stars who could headline such a project. The biggest exception that comes to mind is the Japanese segments of Tora! Tora! Tora! (one of my favourites). It must have been a challenge to direct a film in a language you don't speak.

It's to the film's advantage that the cast is full of unknown Japanese actors, apart from Ken Watanabe, who is, appropriately, the general (and even he's not exactly Tom Cruise). Actually, I found it almost jarring after so much time with these unknowns to see one of Kuribayashi's flashbacks in the US with character actor Mark Moses (Desperate Housewives, Mad Men). Given what we know about the Japanese military, you start out the film with the understanding that most of the characters, and maybe all of them, will die, which sets a very fatalistic tone and gets your hopes up every time somebody considers actually surrendering.

The most interesting point of the film is its complex depiction of the Japanese army as it faces the certainty of defeat. Per custom, their only recourse is to die, either by suicide or suicidal charge, which some eagerly embrace; but most of them basically seem to be peer-pressured into it. It's a very humanistic portrayal.
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