Two acting legends – Clint Eastwood and Robert De Niro – have their director’s hat on this week but the honours have to go to Mr Eastwood.
Letters from Iwo Jima is the ‘companion film’ to Flags of Our Fathers – Clint Eastwood’s other film about the Battle for Iwo Jima. It is a beautifully crafted and moving portrayal of the Japanese soldiers during that conflict. Turning the usual depiction of the Japanese in World War Two on its head, it becomes an affecting mosaic of the different soldiers fighting on the island. Ken Watanabe plays General Kuribayashi – the man charged with defending the island – and he gives a compelling portrait of a man on a doomed mission. Subtle, moving and beautifully shot it is Eastwood’s best work as a director.
The birth of the CIA is the subject of The Good Shepherd – Robert De Niro’s second film as a director. Matt Damon stars as Edward Wilson (loosley based on James Jesus Angleton) a young man recruited by the newly founded Office of Strategic Services. He soon becomes a Cold War warrior and a key member of what becomes the Central Intelligence Agency. Slowly his murky career starts to take over his life, at the expense of his wife (Angelina Jolie) and family as he gets drawn deeper and deeper into the paranoia of the age. Although much of the story is fascinating (and the depiction of US foreign policy is admirably pessimistic) the narrative is too tortured and complex. Shifting between different time periods the core themes of the story get lost amidst a series of unconvincing subplots.
FILM OF THE WEEK: Letters from Iwo Jima