January 08, 2007 12:00 PM

Ken Watanabe, Kazunari Ninomiya

CRITIC’S CHOICE

DRAMA

Talk about being on a roll. Director Clint Eastwood just makes one masterful movie after another. His latest is a moving companion piece to his recent Flags of Our Fathers, which focused on American soldiers who fought at Iwo Jima. In the Japanese-language Letters from Iwo Jima, he shows the epic World War II battle from the perspective of their opponents. Main characters include a brilliant, innovative commander (Watanabe), a fanatical officer (Shidou Nakamura) and a slacker foot soldier (Ninomiya, a beguiling sprite). All know the battle for the tiny Pacific island is hopeless but fight on bravely for love of country and their fellow soldiers—just as the victorious Americans did. Like President Richard Nixon going to China, it took Eastwood, a bona fide American icon, to break through years of Hollywood war-movie clichés and build a bridge to the other side. (R)

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