Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki
Here is an interesting animated film from Hayao Miyazaki, who gave us (among many other wonderful animated films) Howl's Moving Castle, and Spirited Away, has now delivered to us his final film, a fictionalized account of the real-life Jiro Horikoshi (Gordon-Levitt, voice) who was the chief designer of Japan’s notorious WWII airplane the Mitsubishi A6M, also known as the Zero; which for the early days of WWII dominated the skies over the Pacific. The film begins as does most any film with the dreams of a young boy wanting to build a beautiful flying machine, then morphs into a love story, and finally winds up being this true-life adventure, making this a truly wonderful film.
The film starts out with Jiro as a young lad dreaming of flying and designing beautiful airplanes, inspired by the famous Italian aeronautical designer Giovanni Battista Caproni (voiced by Tucci) whom he meets throughout the film in a number of inspired dream sequences. Being that Jiro is nearsighted, he knows that he will never become a pilot, he goes on to study aeronautics and, upon graduating from university, joins a major Japanese engineering company eventually going on to become one of the world’s most innovative and accomplished airplane designers. While the film chronicles much of his life, depicting key historical events, including the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, the Great Depression, Japan’s tuberculosis epidemic as well as the country’s plunge into the second World War, it does so in such a fanciful, lighthearted way, that it wasn’t until midway through this film that we were even aware that it was based on actual events.
During the course of the film Jiro meets and falls in love with Nahoko (voiced by Blunt), and grows and cherishes his friendship with his colleague Honjo (voiced by Krasinski). This film is writer and director Miyazaki final film as he is now retired from the industry to which he contributed so much. Chosing to go out paying tribute to engineer Jiro Horikoshi and author Tatsuo Hori (Miyazaki ‘s script is based on Hori’s short novel Kaze Tachinu (The Wind Rises)), delivering to us a epic tale of love, perseverance, and the challenges of living and making choices in a turbulent world.
The animation is lushly wonderful, and while not quite the photo-realistic computer-generated animation that U.S. audiences have come to expect, is so realistic that it often makes you forget that you are watching a cartoon. The film is wonderful and is well worth seeking out to view.
Robert J. Sodaro has been reviewing films for some 30 years. During that time, his movie reviews and articles have appeared in numerous print publications, as well as on the web. Subscribe to receive regular articles and movie reviews.