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American Sniper is currently playing in theaters

American Sniper

 

American Sniper (2014) – Rated R

Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle’s pinpoint accuracy saves countless lives on the battlefield and turns him into a legend. Back home to his wife and kids after four tours of duty, however, Chris finds that it is the war he can’t leave behind.”

Wow. This film, and the character of Chris Kyle (in both senses of the word), seem to have split extreme left and right. I am certainly of two minds about this film.

American Sniper is an extremely well-made film. It begins with an incredibly suspenseful scene and leaves us in that suspense as we flashback to Kyle’s early life. The movie also ends on several perfect notes – a fade to black with some print on the screen, some real footage, no music over the end credits. Absolutely the most satisfying beginning and ending to a movie that I have seen in a long time.

Bradley Cooper’s transformation into Chris Kyle is simply amazing. He bulked up quite a bit which I expected for his role as a Navy SEAL. He’s left behind many of his mannerisms, or Cooperisms if you will. I thought the bulking was in general but when you see pictures of the real Kyle, they did a great job of making Cooper look like him.

Cooper’s performance is spot on as well. If he wins the Oscar, it will be deserved. He is ably backed up by Sienna Miller as his wife. Sammy Sheik is good as the enigmatic Mustafa, particularly as he has very little screentime for the role. The other actors playing soldiers do their jobs but don’t stand out particularly (which works well as this is a story about Kyle).

So American Sniper is a perfect film then? Not exactly.

American Sniper is shamelessly jingoistic. We are shown footage of the Tanzanian and Kenyan bombings of 1998 and one of the towers falling on 9/11. The other side is shown torturing civilians with a drill and executing them.

The movie is based on Kyle’s autobiography and, as with the jingoism, shamelessly promotes him to the exclusion of all others, sometimes embarrassingly so. His spotter serves no actual purpose in the film, other than perhaps bodyguard. We are told repeatedly that Kyle got 150 kills but are shown only a few of them and of those few, at least two are quite fabricated.

HISTORY SPOILER:  If you’ve read the autobiography then you know that Mustafa’s fate is quite different in real life than in the movie. The opening scene is also fairly embellished.

There are also plenty of details that are bizarrely wrong. In one scene, Kyle is clearly holding a baby doll and not a baby. Huh? Kyle was not even close to 30 when he went through training. I’m not sure why this was even a thing.

American Sniper is still a very good and riveting film but I don’t feel it is Best Picture material. It certainly isn’t innovative like, for example, The Grand Budapest Hotel.

In the Line of Fire – Geometry week

This is Geometry week. Yesterday was the lowly Point – today we will connect two of those to make a line. In the Line of Fire is currently available on instant Netflix.

WATCH: In the Line of Fire (1993) – Rated R for adult content, graphic language and violence.

In this triple-Oscar-nominated thriller, director Wolfgang Peterson sets in motion a deadly mind game: A twisted yet ingenious killer (John Malkovich) torments and teases a veteran Secret Service agent (Clint Eastwood) who is haunted by his failure years ago to save JFK. Unable to make the current president take the psychos assassination threats seriously, the agent and his partner (Rene Russo) pursue him on their own, walking into a trap.

“John F. Kennedy said all someone needs is a willingness to trade his life for the Presidents”

Wolfgang Petersen does a great job of directing here. After the classic Das Boot, he came to Hollywood and directed several very intelligent thrillers (this, Outbreak, and Air Force One). Unfortunately he has misfired lately with Troy and Poseidon, two films that should have been so much better than they were.

In the Line of Fire begins with the requisite action scene before becoming an intelligent tense cat and mouse thriller. The opening scene also serves to point out the other main job of the Secret Service – that of protecting U.S. currency.

The screenplay written by Jeff Maguire was nominated for an Oscar. It lost to The Piano by Jane Campion.

I really like that as Clint Eastwood ages, his tough guy characters age as well. His Secret Service agent Horrigan almost has a heart attack on POTUS duty.

Of course Clint would not be Clint if he were not going after someone young enough to be his daughter (sometimes granddaughter). Here the love interest is Secret Service agent Lilly Raines played by Rene Russo. They share a hilarious hotel scene where they shed their equipment.

They give Clint a partner here. Dylan McDermott is Secret Service agent Al D’Andrea but he is more window dressing / plot development than anything else. As with any good cat-and-mouse thriller, the focus is squarely on the protagonist and antagonist.

John Malkovich is excellent here as “Booth”, the would-be assassin. Petersen delights in giving him many different looks. He was nominated for a Best Supporting Oscar for this role. He lost to Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive.

The third Oscar nomination that this film got was for Best Film Editing. Anne V. Coates lost to Michael Kahn for Schindlers List.

While not the best of Petersen’s American thrillers (that honor goes to Air Force One), this is a really good one. I have no reservation recommending it.

People Watch: Look for a pre-Saw Tobin Bell in the opening scene and an uncredited Steve Railsback as CIA Agent David Coppinger.

Bronco Billy – Clint Eastwood week

Well I just couldn’t end Eastwood week with that stinker Pink Cadillac. Thank goodness there was one instant Eastwood I had not reviewed. Bronco Billy is currently available on instant Netflix.

Bronco Billy

WATCH: Bronco Billy (1980) – Rated PG.

“A ragtag troupe of misfits led by Bronco Billy (Clint Eastwood) perform their hearts out as members of a fly-by-night Wild West show. Billy inspires his entertainers, including Doc Lynch (Scatman Crothers) and Lefty LeBow (Bill McKinney), as they wow crowds with lassos, knife throwing and sharpshooting. Then stranded heiress Antoinette Lilly (Sondra Locke) becomes Billy’s assistant, and soon the two are squabbling, scuffling and falling in love.”

“He’s like all men. A big kid in a man’s body.”

Okay charming was how Netflix described Pink Cadillac. Unlike that film, Bronco Billy is actually charming. This was part of Eastwood’s late 70s/early 80s attempt to move from Western star to Country Western star.

Eastwood attempts to contrast the fullness of Billy’s penniless existence with the hollowness of rich heiress Antoinette Lilly’s life. No one likes Lilly (who is in fact quite unlikeable) and she is abandoned by the people around her. Billy who has no money and doesn’t pay his staff but puts on free shows for the orphanage is surrounded by people who love him.

This comes across as naive and pedantic. It wouldn’t work except for two things. First it seems genuinely heartfelt. Second the wonderful details of life in a rundown Wild West show are very amusing. The audiences that consist of a few families, the ramshackle tents, the accidents, and such all bring a smile.

All of the performers of Billy’s show do a wonderful job. Scatman Crothers is great as the barker. Bill McKinney is a hoot as Lefty (I told you that shotgun trick wouldn’t work). Sam Bottoms, Dan Vadis, and Sierra Pecheur do a good job of rounding out the troupe.

There are several throwbacks to screwball comedies of the 30s and not just the heiress and the poor man plot. Some of these work well and others fall a bit flat. The explanation of Billy’s origins is absolutely wonderful and fits the film well.

This film is deeply flawed but I have to recommend it simply because I know of no other films that cover the trials and travails of a rundown Wild West show.

People Watch: Merle Haggard appears as himself and Clint’s children, Alison and Kyle, are children at the orphanage.

Pink Cadillac – Clint Eastwood week

Well I guess it’s time to wrap up Clint Eastwood week. Pink Cadillac is currently available on instant Netflix.

Pink Cadillac

AVOID: Pink Cadillac (1989) – Rated PG-13

“Clint Eastwood and Bernadette Peters star in this charming film about a guy who makes a living hunting down people who’ve skipped bail. All is smooth sailing until he meets a woman who’s just left her husband — and has her baby and her husband’s pink Cadillac in tow. Unbeknownst to both of them, there’s a stash of cash in the vehicle, and soon, everyone is after them.”

“Your skin is so soft – like Velveeta.”

Stuntman Buddy Van Horn directed three movies. All of them starred Clint Eastwood. Unfortunately they are pretty much Clint’s worst three films (Any Which Way You Can, The Dead Pool, and this one).

Have I described Clint as likable enough this week? Well darn it he is. Unfortunately that doesn’t save this movie.

This is from his 80s period where Clint was apparently trying to get away from his gruff no-nonsense persona. None of these movies were particularly well-done (Every Which Way But Loose, Bronco Billy, Any Which Way You Can). City Heat even spoofs his image a bit.

I think the real problem is that Clint appears to be having fun in these movies. Just because Clint is having fun does not make it a good movie. That appears to be all there is to the movie so the conclusion has to be that someone thought that’s all it took to make a movie.

Actions have no grounding. Clint’s character leaves the keys in the car so that Bernadette Peters can drive off with it. Never mind the part where that doesn’t make any sense.

This film has it all. Racism, domestic violence, child endangerment, drug abuse and kidnapping all play a part in this feel good comedy.

In addition to the other faults this movie has, Netflix has broadcast it in fullscreen. Really just watch ANY other Clint Eastwood film.

People Watch: Look for James Cromwell as a motel desk clerk and Jim Carrey as a lounge entertainer.

Blood Work – Clint Eastwood week

This is Clint Eastwood week. Blood Work is currently available on instant Netflix.

Blood Work

WATCH: Blood Work (2002) – Rated R for violence and language.

“Retired FBI director Terry McCaleb (Clint Eastwood), feeble from a recent heart transplant, is hired by Graciela Rivers (Wanda De Jesus) to investigate the death of her sister, Gloria — who is, coincidentally, the donor of McCaleb’s new heart. McCaleb soon deduces that Gloria was murdered by a serial killer he was trailing for years while in the FBI … but can the elderly agent muster the strength to hunt down the killer and stop him for good?”

The script is written by Brian Helgeland from the novel by Michael Connelly. I can’t speak to the faithfulness of the script to the book but Helgeland’s script is quite literate. Characters are likeable and well-fleshed out. Dialogue is believable and flows nicely.

Eastwood’s direction is assured but not flashy. Events move at a brisk clip without skimping on the investigation part. The focus is more on the whydunit than the whodunit.

Eastwood’s performance as an aging detective is quite good. Jeff Daniels is amusing as Buddy. The female leads, Wanda De Jesus, Tina Lifford and Anjelica Huston all do an excellent job, especially as none of them fall into the stereotypical romantic interest role (for the most part).

All in all, this is a very enjoyable if not entirely memorable mystery.

People Watch: Comedian Paul Rodriguez plays Detective Arrango and Clint’s wife Dina plays Reporter #1.

Firefox – Clint Eastwood week

This is Clint Eastwood week. Firefox is currently available on instant Netflix.

Firefox

PASS: Firefox (1982) – Rated PG

“When the Russians develop a Mach 5 jet with thought-controlled weaponry, the free world needs someone to go steal it from them to maintain the balance of power. Despite suffering from posttraumatic stress as a result of his Vietnam experiences, Mitch Gant (Clint Eastwood), who was once a hotshot pilot and speaks fluent Russian, is given the assignment. Nigel Hawthorne plays a Jewish dissident who aids Gant in his mission.”

“The American is a dead man, First Secretary.”

Yes, this movie is as jingoistic as that quote would lead you to believe. This movie is more groan-inducingly anti-Communist than Red Dawn but sadly not nearly so much cheesy fun.

I am very patriotic but the plot behind this movie is utter rubbish. The first two-thirds of the film involve people comically taking literal and figurative bullets for Gant to get him to steal the jet. I’ll sacrifice my life for Clint – no it’s my turn to to sacrifice my life – get out of the way!

The last third is Gant flying the plane. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to note that of course there is another Firefox (LAZY writing). A particular scene late in the film is literally lifted from Ice Station Zebra (way back in 1968). The plot is ludicrous as it is obvious to the Russians that Gant, an American, has stolen their plane.

Acting is just fine if not Oscar-caliber. Clint capably plays Gant. Nigel Hawthorne lends some weight as Baranovich and it is nice to see the fascinating Freddie Jones as Aubrey.

While Clint is, as always, eminently watchable, there is nothing special to recommend this film.

People Watch: Look for John Ratzenberger (Cliff from Cheers) as Chief Peck.

The Dead Pool – Clint Eastwood week

This is Clint Eastwood week. The Dead Pool is currently available on instant Netflix.

The Dead Pool

PASS: The Dead Pool (1988) – Rated R

“A macabre sports pool is placing bets on which celebrity is going to die next and crossing names off a list as each of them meets their demise. A serial killer who preys on famous figures enters the scene, and suddenly the odds are dramatically changed. When rogue cop “Dirty Harry” Callahan (Clint Eastwood) and high-profile TV journalist Samantha Walker (Patricia Clarkson) suddenly find their names on the list, the game hits too close to home.”

“Do you like cops?” – “As long as they’re not in my rearview mirror”

Yes even 17 years later this is still Dirty Harry. Harry has no problem shooting a fleeing criminal in the back. At this point Harry hardly even seems like a policeman. He doesn’t do police work so much as stumble from shooting to shooting killing everyone. His decision at the end of the film is again vintage Harry.

The real problem with The Dead Pool is that this is a completely lazy by-the-numbers sequel. Instead of stumbling into a bank robbery or a hijacking as in the first two films, Harry stumbles into a restaurant killing which is tangentially related to the plot.

Instead of an African-American partner or a female partner, this time Harry gets a Chinese-American partner. Surprise, the Chinese-American partner knows martial arts (yawn). As with all Dirty Harry films, this partner may as well be wearing a red shirt.

There is a completely disposable, not to mention boring, subplot involving an imprisoned organized crime boss taking out a contract on Harry. This gives Harry an excuse to threaten, beat up, and shoot people.

The Dead Pool portion of the plot could actually have made for a good mystery movie but it is given a half hour at most even though it is the main plot thread.

Someone in production must have really loved Guns ‘n Roses. “Welcome to the Jungle” is prominently featured twice in the film which, while a good song, is a bit of overkill. In addition look for Steven Adler, Duff McKagan, Axl Rose, Slash, and Izzy Stradlin as musicians at a funeral.

There is a hilarious sequence late in the film where they replicate the famous Bullitt car chase. Only this time one of the cars barreling over San Francisco’s hills is a remote-controlled explosive miniature car. This inspired scene alone is almost worth recommending the film.

The Dead Pool is not good but it is quite watchable simply by virtue of Clint’s presence. It is a shame that this was how they chose to end the series.

People Watch: Look for Jim Carrey in an early role as Johnny Squares.

Magnum Force – Clint Eastwood week

Last year I reviewed 13 Clint Eastwood movies available on instant Netflix. Netflix has now released a bunch more. Magnum Force is currently available on instant Netflix.

Magnum Force

WATCH: Magnum Force (1973) – Rated R

“The second of five Dirty Harry movies, Magnum Force finds Clint Eastwood revisiting his career-making turn as a tough-as-nails detective who makes his own rules. A wayward cop is enforcing vigilante justice by assassinating several criminals who manage to escape punishment by slipping through legal loopholes, and “Dirty” Harry Callahan is on the case. Watch for an uncredited appearance by a young Suzanne Somers.”

“A man’s got to know his limitations.”

“Nothing wrong with shooting as long as the right people get shot.”

This is an excellent follow-up to Dirty Harry. The opening credits are a hand holding a gun and Clint’s voice-over ad for the .44 Magnum. The killings (initially) are shown being committed by a uniformed patrolman in iconic gear – perhaps an inspiration for the later Maniac Cop series. The ending, as with Dirty Harry, does not drag after the climax.

Magnum Force features, albeit briefly, perhaps the second greatest pimp-mobile of all time. Top pimp mobile still goes to Isaac Hayes’ vehicle in Escape from New York – nothing beats chandelier headlights.

Screenwriter John Milius stated that Clint’s sex scene with an Asian woman was added because of all the Asian fan mail propositions Clint had received. That was awfully nice of him to respond to fan requests.

Clint Eastwood is marvelous as always in perhaps his most iconic role. Unlike Dirty Harry, this is not quite a one-man show. Hal Holbrook is excellent as Harry’s superior. Tim Matheson capably plays one of the junior officers. The other actors are all good.

Magnum Force mildly corrects a few of the right-wing fantasy issues from the first film. The movie shows that vigilante justice is a slippery slope. Harry has a speech about taking things too far as well.

San Francisco scenery is once again put to fantastic use here. There are many shots of the Golden Gate bridge and the harbor. There is a nice though brief chase in the winding hilly streets. The action sequence on the carriers is impressive and features some nice stunt work.

Again I wholeheartedly recommend this sequel to Dirty Harry. Unlike Dirty Harry, this film is shown in its original aspect ratio (widescreen).

People Watch: Well Netflix stole my thunder by mentioning Suzanne Somers’ bit part in this. Robert Urich appears as a police officer in this before moving on to SWAT, Vega$, and Spenser for Hire. David Soul plays another officer before his role as Hutchinson in Starsky & Hutch.

Dirty Harry – Clint Eastwood week

Last year I reviewed 13 Clint Eastwood movies available on instant Netflix. Netflix has now released a bunch more. Dirty Harry is currently available on instant Netflix.

Dirty Harry

WATCH: Dirty Harry (1971) – Rated R

“When a madman dubbed the “Scorpio Killer” terrorizes San Francisco, hard-boiled cop Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) — famous for his take-no-prisoners approach to law enforcement — is tasked with hunting down the psychopath. Harry eventually collars Scorpio in the process of rescuing a kidnap victim, only to see him walk on technicalities. Now, the maverick detective is determined to nail the maniac himself.”

“Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya Punk?”

I am of two completely disparate opinions on this film.

First this film is an absolute classic from a classic era of cop movies. Steve McQueen’s Bullitt was also filmed in San Francisco a few years prior to Dirty Harry and The French Connection came out the same year as Dirty Harry. These three films formed the basis for the modern police movie.

All the classic hallmarks are here. Dirty Harry is a cop who plays by his own rules – this was before, and also why, it became a cliche. There is wonderful use of San Francisco’s unique scenery (though nothing to equal Bullitt’s car chase). The villain is so despicable that one roots for his demise.

Don Siegel’s direction is quite assured. Everything moves at a brisk pace. The movie opens with a bang. The villain’s nom de guerre is ‘Scorpio’, an obvious reference to the then still fresh Zodiac killer. The end shot after the film’s climax is wonderful.

Clint Eastwood is a wonderful tough guy hero and does all of his own stunts here. Thankfully he can carry the movie all by himself as this is essentially a one-man show. The character of Dirty Harry is well-realized and spawned 4 sequels – two of which I’ll cover this week.

My second opinion is that this is an absolutely hysterical extreme right-wing fantasy. Dirty Harry has no problems shooting an unarmed man because it is expedient to do so and then physically torturing the suspect. It is mentioned that Harry hates pretty much every ethnic group and refers to one of his police peers as ‘fatso’ and another as a ‘spic’.

The killer is a sniveling weasel who knows his rights. He is a young man with long hair and wears a peace symbol belt buckle. Keep in mind that this was 1971 so he pretty much represents the left. All the officials who actually advocate following the law, procedure, or being reasonable are portrayed as gutless.

Unfortunately Netflix has chosen to convert a pan-and-scan (or Fool-screen) version of this iconic movie. In spite of the above-mentioned issues, I have no reservations about recommending this movie whole-heartedly. If you ever wanted to see the original Jack Bauer, watch this film.

By the way – it is a shame that they dropped the original title of the film. The title of the script was ‘Dead Right’.

People Watch: The ever-reliable John Vernon plays the mayor and director Don Siegel has a cameo as a pedestrian by Harry’s car.

Clint Eastwood part 3

Clint Eastwood directed all four of today’s pictures. This does help to illustrate that while the director is the most important person on the set, their quality can vary wildly. You know that you are a real movie nut when you are looking not at who is in the film but primarily who made the film. Being the first of October, I had to cut this short and did not get a chance to watch Breezy, which is also available on instant Netflix.

Absolute Power

1. Absolute Power (1997) – “Cat burglar Luther Whitney (Clint Eastwood) finds himself in the president’s doghouse when he spies the chief executive (Gene Hackman) trysting with a trophy wife. When their rough romancing turns lethal, efforts to cover up the scandalous situation spiral violently out of control. Now, Luther must survive a desperate pursuit from the back streets of the nation’s capital to the halls of power. Eastwood also directed this riveting crime thriller”

I have not read David Baldacci’s novel on which this is based so I’m unable to judge whether it’s a faithful adaptation but William Goldman’s script seems quite good. Clint Eastwood assembled a first-rate cast for this thriller. In addition to Clint himself, the film also stars Ed Harris, Scott Glenn, Laura Linney, E.G. Marshall, and Gene Hackman and they all put in predictably good performances. While there are some logic holes and the standard implausibilities, this is still a very good if unmemorable thriller.

People watchers: Dennis Haysbert (President Palmer on 24) plays a Secret Service agent and Penny Johnson (First Lady Palmer on 24) plays a police investigator. Clint’s daughter Alison appears as an art student.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

2. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997) – “When magazine writer John Kelso (John Cusack) travels to Savannah, Ga., to cover a chichi party thrown by urbane antiques dealer Jim Williams (Kevin Spacey), he is pulled into his subject’s intriguing murder trial and introduced to a throng of colorful locals. Set against the beguiling backdrop of Southern high society, this retelling of John Berendt’s novel by director Clint Eastwood also stars Jude Law as Williams’s lover, Billy Hanson”

In the most brilliant casting move since The Long Riders, Clint Eastwood casts Lady Chablis as Lady Chablis, and Jim Williams’ sister and two nieces play themselves as well. Kevin Spacey delivers another near-perfect performance and dominates every scene he is in. A wonderful cast backs him up – John Cusack, Jack Thompson, and Jude Law all perform ably and are highly watchable and Irma P. Hall is very good and would stand out more if the riveting Kevin Spacey and the amusing Lady Chablis didn’t steal every scene. Clint’s direction is assured and ignoring the wonderful acting and even the story, this movie could serve as a wonderful tourism piece for the city of Savannah.

People watchers: Kim Hunter (Zira from Planet of the Apes) plays Betty Harty and Clint’s daughter Alison is in this as well.

True Crime

3. True Crime (1999) – “The alcoholism and womanizing of journalist Steve Everett (Clint Eastwood) have nearly ruined his career and marriage. When he’s assigned to write a human-interest story about death-row inmate Frank Beechum (Isaiah Washington), Everett finds that the evidence in Beechum’s murder conviction is shaky. With 12 hours till the execution, the reporter embarks on a quest to save the man he’s convinced is innocent. James Woods and Denis Leary costar”

The answer to yesterday’s query of  ‘Is there a more tired genre than the buddy cop movie?’ – well how about the innocent man on death row movie? I’m torn about this genre – while I find it tired and cliched (redundancy for the win!), the rise of DNA evidence has led to many inmates being released from death row and there have been a number of admitted errors over the years. Statistically one is far more likely to get the death penalty if the victim(s) is white and the defendant is black or hispanic. Anyway enough of the soapbox – if you want a good informative Death Row movie see Dead Man Walking – if you want an entertaining one then see The Green Mile. Clint Eastwood directs himself in a very mediocre movie here – watching it you wish he would jettison the main plot of a newspaperman ludicrously piecing together Frank Louis Beechum (Isaiah Washington)’s innocence in a matter of hours before his execution and instead focus more on the details of Beechum’s incarceration and preparation for the death penalty. Clint plays a loose cannon former alcoholic, womanizing reporter that lost his last job at a big newspaper taking on a corrupt mayor (seriously how many cliches is that?). The stately Bernard Hill, the sarcastic Denis Leary, and the volatile James Woods are sadly not given much to do here – Isaiah Washington, Lisa Gay Hamilton and Penny Bae Bridges are fine as the inmate and his family but aren’t really fleshed out very well. Also even though it is Clint, it is still a little creepy seeing the then 69 year-old Eastwood hitting on a 23 year-old in a bar (and most of the other women in the film).

People watchers: Francesca Fisher-Eastwood, Clint’s real life daughter plays his daughter in the film. Her mother, Frances Fisher, plays the D.A. Clint’s wife Dina Eastwood plays Wilma Francis. Look for Anthony Zerbe, Lucy Liu, and Erik King (Sgt. Doakes on Dexter) in small parts as well.

Letters from Iwo Jima

4. Letters from Iwo Jima (2007) – “As tens of thousands of Allied troops push further inland, the Japanese troops defending Iwo Jima during World War II prepare to meet their fate in this Clint Eastwood-directed Oscar nominee, a companion piece to his hit film Flags of Our Fathers. Ken Watanabe stars as a Japanese general who knows his men are outnumbered and, with no hope of rescue, that most will eventually die in battle — or end up killing themselves”

Please note that this film is directed but does not star Clint Eastwood. It is also, except for a few very brief moments, in Japanese with English subtitles so bibliophobes need not apply. Clint Eastwood shot this at the same time as Flags of Our Fathers. This epic story told from the Japanese point of view flew by. The performances are uniformly excellent especially by the two leads Ken Watanabe (Last Samurai) and Kazunari Ninomiya. The script is wonderfully detailed and balanced, creating not so much an atmosphere of despair as one of resignation. The bled out color palette works quite well and a particular series of deaths is quite haunting. The film strikes a nice balance between personal story of war (Saigo/Ninomiya) and overview of the preparation, fractured command structure, and battle (General Kuribayashi/Watanabe). I highly recommend this film if you like war movies and don’t mind subtitles. My favorite quote from this movie is “Kashiwara died of honorable dysentery” (in response to a comment about how death is honorable).