In 1945, World War II was in its last stages, and US forces were planning to take on the Japanese on a small island known as Iwo Jima. While the island was mostly rock and volcanoes, it was of key strategic value and Japan’s leaders saw the island as the final opportunity to prevent an Allied invasion.
Lt. General Tadamichi Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe) was put in charge of the forces on Iwo Jima; Kuribayashi had spent time in the United States and was not eager to take on the American army, but he also understood his opponents in a way his superiors did not, and devised an unusual strategy of digging tunnels and deep foxholes that allowed his troops a tactical advantage over the invading soldiers. Among the soldiers manning Japan’s last line of defense are Saigo (Kazunari Ninomiya), a baker sent to Iwo Jima only days before his wife was to give birth; Shimizu (Ryo Kase), who was sent to Iwo Jima after washing out in the military police; and Lieutenant Ito (Shidou Nakamura), who has embraced the notion of “Death Before Surrender” with particular ferocity.
Ken Watanabe, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Shidou Nakamura, Ryo Kase, Kazunari Ninomiya
What the critics say
Superbly acted, unblinking and unhysterical, it looks beyond politics into the hearts and minds of the men we needed to call ‘the enemy,’ and lets us see ourselves. David Ansen -Newsweek
Letters is quality from first frame to last, a war film that is almost a tone poem. Peter Travers – Rolling Stone