LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA Director: CLINT EASTWOOD U.S.A. 2006 SUBTITLED COLOUR DOLBY DIGITAL STEREO 141 MIN. Book cinema tickets If you’ve ever seen any of the 1940s Hollywood propaganda flicks about the Pacific campaign’Bataan’, say, or even ‘Sands of Iwo Jima’the racist invective often seems quite startling to modern ears, even if it accurately reflected the psyche of a nation at war. In comparison, Clint Eastwood’s portrait of the Japanese defenders of Iwo Jima stands as an extraordinary act of imaginative compassion, and a fitting counterpart to ‘Flags of Our Fathers’, his nuanced appraisal of the uses and abuses of heroism on the US side during the same bloody stand-off. It’s sad, in a way, that it’s taken decades after the conflict for a film magnanimous enough to admit that these former foes are just like ‘us’, but as the under-equipped, under-fed Japanese await the inevitable American onslaught, there’s more to it than that. First-timer Iris Yamashita’s screenplay also shows up the absurdity of the traditional Japanese codes of honour which valued heroic suicide over human survival. As the title suggests, the story takes authentic inspiration from the surviving correspondence of Lt General Tadamichi Kuribayashi, whose cunning strategy inspired a formidable act of defence even if it bristled with his own conservative officers. He’s played by Ken Watanabe with a determined sensitivity and charisma not unreminiscent of Clint himself in his prime, and if Eastwood the director at times allows the odd contrivance to intrude on his desire to shape commonality between the opposing sides, his stately, big-hearted film is still a model of affecting humanity, unfolding in images of commanding near-monochrome starkness.Trevor Johnston. Director: CLINT EASTWOOD U.S.A. 2006 SUBTITLED COLOUR DOLBY DIGITAL STEREO 141 MIN.