Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Wind Rises ★★★★

    "The Wind Rises" is a Japanese animated historical drama that centers on the personal life of Jiro Horikoshi and his career as an aircraft designer in World War II-era Japan. This film features wonderfully hand drawn animation, along with a beautifully executed film score. With legendary filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki lending his hand at writing and direction, this fictionalized tale of accomplished dreams and true love will leave you with a magical feeling of complete exuberance.

    This film begins with one of numerous spellbinding dream sequences that are to grace our presence. Young Jiro has a dream that introduces him to his love for planes and aviation. Astounded by this new found ambition, Jiro borrows an English aviation magazine, in which he diligently studies with an English dictionary to help translate. This leads into a second dream sequence that introduces us to one of the film's most convivial characters, Caproni, an Italian aircraft designer who is seemingly at the top of his game.

    Jiro has entered into the dream realm of Caproni, which is filled with phenomenal aircraft designs, friendly faces, and a backdrop of an endless green pasture and dazzling sun that will have you begging for spring. It is here that Caproni influences this young "Japanese boy" to follow through on his ambition and to become an airplane designer much like himself. In addition, this realm becomes the meeting place for these two friends, who have been fatefully brought together to express their passion and ideology for airplane mechanics.

Young Jiro with the great Caproni
    Accordingly, our story jumps ahead five years as Jiro is traveling by train back to Tokyo while on a break from his engineering studies. After briefly meeting a young girl named Naoko, the train and surrounding areas are hit with the devastating Great Kanto earthquake of 1923.
This scene will become the catalyst for the rest of the film and ultimately displays Miyazaki's brilliance in hand drawn animation. Naoko's maid suffers a broken leg in this traumatic event and, with the help of Jiro, she arrives safely back to her family. Jiro leaves and goes back to school where he eventually graduates and begins his work at an airplane manufacturer. Jiro's legacy will be defined by his devotion to this love for creating beautiful airplanes and his love for the young girl whom he met on the fateful day of the earthquake.

    The casting of voicing talents in this film are spot on and include some actors that you would never associate with Japanese animated characters. Joseph Gordon-Levitt provides the voice for the young protagonist of Jiro Horikoshi. Levitt executes this role brilliantly and for the duration of the film, you would never expect his voice to be behind this lovable character. Stanley Tucci lends his voice to the character of Caproni, who is very instrumental in guiding Jiro to the accomplishment of his goals as an aircraft designer; subsequently, helping Jiro discover himself.

    Hayao Miyazaki is a master at hand drawn animation. He displays a certain sense of elegance with the depiction of his characters, both internally and externally. (The faces and movements of the surrounding characters in the earthquake scene are proof of this.) The dream sequences complement this film exceptionally well and provide a much-needed release for our main character. Personally, I feel the scenes between Jiro and Caproni make this film and help to showcase the magic that you would normally expect from a Miyazaki production.

    "The Wind Rises" is a delicate and heartfelt film that will aspire even the most mundane of existences. The film sits just over the two-hour mark and will test the patience of the average moviegoer; however, it is well worth it. If you have never experienced the sensation of a well produced Japanese animated film, then this film would not be a bad start to begin your journey. It is exceedingly refreshing to see a two-dimensional film make it into the theater, even if it is not well received by mass audiences. We have become too accustomed to computer-generated films that try to replace story and character with over-the-top visuals and stunts.

    This film breathes new life into the world of animation with its marvelously inspiring symbolism and undertones. It may not possess the unique and extravagant worlds presented in other Miyazaki films, such as "Spirited Away," yet it is a picture to cherish, and it only adds to the legacy of one of the greatest animated film directors to ever engage the medium of film, Japanese or otherwise.

    "Airplanes are beautiful, cursed dreams, waiting for the sky to swallow them up."

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