Saturday, February 03, 2007

Thoughtful "Letters"

You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Matthew 5:43-45

I’m putting off writing an English essay right now because my head is spinning with thought after going to see Clint Eastwood’s Letters from Iwo Jima. The film is about the battle for Iwo Jima told from a Japanese perspective and is a perfect example of how a war movie should be made. Eastwood has made an extremely profound film and has done some of the best directorial work of his life. This is the best war movie I have ever seen.

Clint Eastwood is a director whose films always make me think about life and tough issues to the point that I get a headache. Million Dollar Baby (one of my favorite films) made me think long and hard about the issue of assisted suicide and whether it is right in some situations. Letters from Iwo Jima is making me think about the horrors of war and all the people on both sides that have no choice but to be caught up in it. Some Christian reviewers are bashing this film, saying it is anti-American. Don’t listen to them. Sadly, they are often very wrong when it comes to films like this.

Although told from the Japanese perspective, Letters does not shy away from showing some Japanese soldiers murdering wounded American soldiers in cold blood. Then again, it also showed some different Japanese soldiers helping a wounded American and nursing him to health. The film shows ruthlessly evil American soldiers killing two surrendered Japanese, but then shows merciful Americans who do the right thing toward the Japanese in rougher circumstances. Eastwood shows us that there are good and bad men on every side, something we rarely see in American war films that usually end with broad strokes of American Patriotism. I don’t think that Patriotism is a bad thing … I just think we tend to have too much of it sometimes.

There were so many good things about this movie that it’s very hard for me to comprehend. Universal themes of grace, mercy, honor, and justice abound in this fantastic film. Out of all the nominees for best picture this year, this is the best and most meaningful. It’s a morally uplifting movie that I would strongly recommend to anyone who can stomach a bit of war violence.

After the Japanese rescue a wounded American, they find a note in his pocket from his mother that says, “Do what is right because it is right. Always.” Toward the end of the movie a Japanese soldier tells his friend that those were the exact same things his mother told him before he left for war. We are different, but essentially we are all the same. We are all human beings. We all feel pain, love, joy, fear, and hatred equally at points in our lives. This is what Letters from Iwo Jima shows us and this is why it is better than any other war movie I have seen.

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