Last week Reuters released a top 10 movies of the decade list, compiled by Hollywood Reporter film critic Kirk Honeycutt. And I was pleasantly surprised to see that the US-based Honeycutt included a handful of international films.
There are French, German and Palestinian films on his list. But perched at the number one spot was the 2006 war movie directed by Clint Eastwood, Letters from Iwo Jima. And while Eastwood is an iconic figure who has come to represent the West, Letters was shot with Japanese actors on location in Japanese. It’s a follow-up to the film Flags of our Fathers, which told the ‘same’ story, of the WWII conflict in Japan, from the American soldiers’ perspective. Surprisingly it was Letters, the Japanese soldiers’ story, which became a bigger hit, both with audiences and critics.
I wonder a little about Honeycutt’s choice here — in his original review of Letters from Iwo Jima, he didn’t exactly seem to lavish praise on the film. He said of it back in 2006:
‘The film is slow. Soldiers reflect on their fate perhaps too many times. Points are made and then made again. But this may be part of Eastwood’s strategy: War is slow and repetitive and can drive people to real insanity. Filmmakers usually ignore this in war movies. “Flags” and now “Letters” represent a different kind of war movie.’
It’s likely he’s seen it again. I’ve seen Letters from Iwo Jima, and although I wouldn’t personally rank it in my own top 10 of the decade, I did appreciate its subdued way of telling a powerful story — an Eastwood hallmark. And although most movies I see tend eventually to fade from memory, I can still vividly recall the grey, washed-out setting and the gritty expressions of the central characters of this one. In fact, Honeycutt selecting it has made me want to watch it again over the winter holidays.