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Movie review: 'The Wind Rises' full of flight, fantasy and facts

The Wind Rises


The Wind Rises (opening today) is an important film, because it is the supposed last film by the legendary Japanese animator/writer/director, Hayao Miyazaki. Miyazaki has been in animation for over 50 years and has created several film that have gone on to incredible international success and acclaim. The Wind Rises, in fact, was the highest-grossing film in Japan in 2013.

"The Wind Rises."
2014 Studio Ghibli/Touchstone Pictures

But on its own, The Wind Rises is also a very interesting animated tale, that flips genre and convention on its head. Most people think of animation as something meant for kids or families, but even if you're into more adult-oriented animation, you probably have never seen a feature-length animated film that is actually a biography.

(A Quick Note: The version that I screened was the English sub-titled version. The version that will hit theaters in the U.S. features dubbed voices of many well-known Hollywood celebrities, listed below).

This is the fictionalized biography of Jiro Horikoshi, who is remembered as the inventor of several aircraft used by Japan during World War II. In other words, Horikoshi invented the kamikazi. The story follows a young Jiro as he dreams of flight, idolizing an Italian plane designer, whom he meets and has adventures with in his dreams.

We then see Jiro as a grown man, attending college and still pursuing his childhood dreams. He meets a young girl, Naoko, and the two lock eyes. But an earthquake leads to Naoko being injured. Jiro helps her and the two go their separate ways, only to be reunited by chance years later.

The Wind Rises is a tale of two love stories: Jiro's love for flight and Jiro's love for Naoko. The two tales intersect, weave and bob and ultimately end in some pretty heavy territory.

Animation is the perfect format to tell this story, a story that requires that we jump inside the head of our main character. These fantasies are easily realized when animated, not so much if this were to have been adapted as a live action film.

In closing one door, Miyazaki seems to have opened another one. I was left wondering which other famous real-life people in history would benefit from an animated biography? It could be a growing trend.

The Wind Rises is a bit breezy at times, but the wind never leaves the sails.

Genre: Animation, Biography, Drama

Run Time: 2 hour, 6 minutes, Rated PG-13

Starring (voices of in American version): Joseph Gordon-Levitt, John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Martin Short, Stanly Tucci, Mandy Patinkin, Mae Whitman, Werner Herzog, Jennifer Grey, William H. Macy

Written and Directed by Hayao Miyazaki (Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, Ponyo)

Opens locally on Friday, Feb 28, 2014 (check for show times).

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How to read Tom Santilli's "Star Ratings:"

  • 5 Stars: Exceptional, must-see movie
  • 4 Stars: Very good movie, not without flaws
  • 3 Stars: The movie was just OK, leaves a lot to be desired
  • 2 Stars: Pretty bad, a let-down, disappointing, but with some redeeming qualities
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