The Watchers

The Watchers

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Review: The Wind Rises (UK Cert PG)

The Wind Rises is the eighteenth film from famed Japanese animation studio Studio Ghibli and is the final film to be directed and written by Hayao Miyazaki, one of the studio's founders and the visionary mind behind such Ghibli classics as My Neighbour Totoro (1988), Princess Mononoke (1997) and Spirited Away (2001). It was nominated for the Best Animated Feature Oscar this year, but lost to Frozen.

Taking its name from a line in a poem by French poet Paul Valery ('The wind is rising!... We must try to live!'), The Wind Rises is a fictionalised biography of Japanese aircraft designer Jiro Horikoshi, who built the first airplane bombers used by Japan in the Second World War. From an early age, Jiro had an interest in flight but was unable to become a pilot due to his poor eyesight. He instead decided to build planes and went on to study engineering at university. He then starts to work for an unnamed aeroplane manufacturer (in real life, Mitsubishi) and travels to Germany in the 1930s to see how German technology was advancing. In 1932, Jiro meets and falls in love with a young woman named Naoko Satomi (whom he aided years before when they were caught in the Great Kanto Earthquake). Their relationship blossoms but there's a problem: Naoko is unwell... It is a fitting salute and a elegant swansong for one of the world's best animators.

There is a choice on how you can see this film: you can watch it in the original Japanese with subtitles, or you can watch an English-language dub of it. I opted for the dubbed version. 

The English-language voice cast is absolutely sterling. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is great as the adult Jiro, whilst there's great support by John Krasinski as Jiro's friend Honjo and Martin Short as their boss Mr. Kurokawa. Emily Blunt gives a wonderfully moving turn as the adult Naoko, and there's a great performance by Stanley Tucci who plays the Italian aeronautical engineer Giovanni Caproni (a real person) who appears to Jiro in his dreams and acts as a kind of mentor to Jiro. These dream sequences are vivid and beautifully done, and it is through these that Jiro often reconciles his desire to create something beautiful, with the fact that his planes will be used as instruments of war. 

Jiro Horikoshi once said "All I wanted to do was to make something beautiful". It is this quote that inspired Miyazaki to make the film. And in the poignant, funny and moving story he's created, Miyazaki has indeed made something beautiful.  Highly recommended.

Rating: 5 out of 5


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