Letters from Iwo Jima is the companion film to Flags of Our Fathers, both by Clint Eastwood. It was an excellent, although disturbing movie.
Letters from Iwo Jima tells the story of Iwo Jima from the Japanese prospective. Saigo is a baker that was drafted into the Japanese army. He misses his wife and has yet to see his baby daughter for the first time, but is stuck on Iwo Jima digging trenches. Lieutenant General Tadamichi Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe) arrives to take command of the island. He decides that the beaches should not be the central defense point, and instead has the troops dig tunnels in the mountains. This choice alienates the other commanders.
The movie details the horrific circumstances that the Japanese lived in during the battle (and before with the air raids) knowing that they faced eminent death. They were willing to accept death for honor and to protect their homeland against what they thought were evil Americans for one more day.
I'm used to hearing about the greatness of the Japanese Army and how wonderful it is organized. I was surprised to see solders disobeying their commander when he wanted them to retreat to better defend their main outpost because this would be "dishonorable." The suicide "honor" deaths were also horrific and hard to understand from our cultural viewpoint. The honor suicides actually made it harder for the commander to have a great defense and probably lost the battle sooner because of this.
I liked how the two movies were linked in several key points including the beating and killing of "Iggie."
Overall I liked the movie even though watching such scenes of violence is hard to take sometimes. I think it's important to understand our history and especially to see it from other points of view besides the victors. I think more Americans should watch such movies and think about history and how going to war should not be our first priority. I'll get off my soap box now. The movie had fantasic cinematogrophy and an engrossing storyline. I'd recommend watching Flags of Our Fathers with this movie.