Both movies were shot at the same time and tell the story about the Battle of Iwo Jima. Flags tells it from the perspective of the Americans and Letters from the Japanese point of view.
Now as usual, I can’t do things the right way and saw Letters first. Not that that’s not allowed, but it is not the preferred order or at least not how the discs are put in the box. I still need to watch Flags and will undoubtedly do so with another picture in my mind than one would when first seeing the movie.
General Kuribayashi is played by Ken Watanabe. I have only seen him in The Last Samurai. (According to wiki, he was also in Batman Begins – I don’t remember that, so I will definitely need to watch that movie again.). One of the main characters we follow through the story is Saigo, played by Kazunari Ninomiya. I really liked this character and he gets a lot of sympathy from the audience, I don’t doubt.
The movie starts with some archeologists who are digging something out of the ground in a cave in Iwo Jima. It’s then that we get flashed back to 1944 and see Saigo and the other soldiers digging trenches on the beach. That day general Kuribayashi lands on the island to take over command and prepare for the attack by the Americans. It is important that this little island is well defended, because it could be used as a base to invade Japan. We get to see a general who is different to the other commanders. He has a clear view and knows how to motivate the soldiers. We see different flash backs to a time when he lived in America and his friends there. Now he has to face them in battle, with little means, unloyal officers and less soldiers than his opposers…
I didn’t know much about that battle, as a European in a whole different time. It’s actually impressive that Clint Eastwood dared to make a movie from the other perspective of that battle. Cause to be fair, everything has another view, another story to be told as well.
Although this movie is based on documentation as well as real persons, this movie contains many fictional characters as well. It must be hard to tell a story when most information is second hand or more. Where is the truth? Still, to me this movie tells a story of a war, of honour, of fear – as experienced in any battle. So to me, in this lies the truth to this story.