Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Wind Rises

The Wind Rises is an animated film which tells the story of Jiro Horikoshi, the man who designed the Zero, which was quite possibly the best plane in the air at the beginning of World War II. The film is written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, who also wrote and directed Howl's Moving Castle, Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, and many other wonderful movies. This is his last feature film. Miyazaki's films frequently include flight, so this is an unsurprising subject for him.

Above all else, this is a beautiful film. It is done in the same cel animation style as all of Miyazaki's films, with clean lines and bright colors. Studio Ghibli films are distinctive and gorgeous.

This is a movie based on the life of an actual person, but it is a fictional account of that life - it wouldn't be a Miyazaki movie without something trippy happening. In this case, this largely manifests in beautifully surreal dream sequences in which Jiro flies airplanes and talks to Count Caproni, a leading Italian aeronautical engineer. It is unclear how much of the rest of the events depicted actually happened, though it may be worth noting that the film is based on a manga which is based on a story that was written before World War II and which, as far as I can tell, had nothing to do with Jiro Horikoshi.

Your appreciation of this film will likely depend pretty heavily on who you are and what biases you bring with you. For an American audience, it is impossible to ignore the fact that Horikoshi's airplanes killed an awful lot of Americans during World War II. The film does not dwell heavily on this, though it does refer to his awareness (and regret) that his planes were necessarily going to be used to kill. The film spends most of its time instead emphasizing Jiro's obsession with making beautiful airplanes, and on his relationships with the various people in his life. There is no apologetic tone, nor should there be in a Japanese film which celebrates the life of one of Japan's greatest engineers. I imagine, though, that there are some people who will dislike the way this movie depicts events in Japan leading up to World War II.

That issue aside, this is a charming film. The characters are likable, the scenery is beautiful, and the love story is sweet. It is not possible to talk too much about the plot without venturing into spoilers, unfortunately. The music is great, as is usual with Miyazaki films, with an added bonus - the sound effects for most of the airplanes are done with human voices rather than mechanical sounds. This is a beautiful touch.

The Wind Rises is being released in both dubbed and subtitled versions in America. The dub is extremely faithful to the original dialogue, and loses only a few nuances, such as a couple occasions when the characters are actually speaking English. The voice acting is quite good.

Performance: 3.5/5
Plot: 3.5/5
Production: 4.5/5
Overall: 4/5
Bechdel: Pass
Reverse-Bechdel: Pass
Mako Mori: Fail
What are these?

1. Lone Survivor
2. The Wind Rises
3. The Lego Movie
4. Lust For Love
5. Pompeii
6. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
7. I, Frankenstein
8. Monuments Men
9. Knights of Badassdom
10. RoboCop
11. Winter's Tale
12. The Legend of Hercules
13. 3 Days to Kill

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