Directors seem to get more conservative as they get older - Clint Eastwood takes more risks (although he still seems unable to edit his films down). This is a remarkable story, a look at the Battle of Iwo Jima from the Japanese point of view. A companion piece to Flags of Our Fathers, it's actually a better movie because the story is more focused - it deals with the Japanese defence, and thus flows to its inevitable tragic conclusion.
The lead characters are very sympathetic - the smart, kind commander (superbly played by Ken Watanabe) who has spent time in America, the former Olympic Gold medallist who has spent time in America, the former baker who is drafter, the former member of the secret police (whose backstory is revealed too late).
I'm surprised there wasn't more cross over with Flags of Our Fathers - I kept expecting Jamie Bell to turn up to be tortured here. There's some brilliantly effective sequences such as the Japanese suicides; Iwo Jima itself of course is a battle field like no one, with his lunar style landscapes. It does drag on at times, but was very moving.