After a lifetime of work that has revolutionized the animation industry — not only in Japan but the world over — Hayao Miyazaki has released his 11th and final film. The Wind Rises is a fictional biography of Jiro Horikoshi, the man who invented the fighter plane used by Japan in World War II. How does a peaceful man who only wants to create cope with the realization that his inventions will be used to cause untold death and destruction?
The film starts with Jiro in his youth, showing where he found his inspiration. Though always dreams of flying, he realizes it’s not possible due to his poor eyesight. He reads an English magazine and learns of famous Italian plane designer Giovanni Caproni (Stanley Tucci), whom Jiro dreams about. Caproni tells Jiro he can still love aircrafts though he can’t fly them, and encourages him to make his dreams come true. The film jumps to 1923, where we follow Jiro as he finds love and creates the work of his life.
Jiro is portrayed as a typical genius, slightly detached from the world around him. His biggest (and only) concern is solving the tasks given to him — designing a new plane for the Japanese military. At the time, Japan was not a world power, still far behind other dominant countries. The planes they initially tested were still made of wood and were brought out to the testing ground by oxen. After years of thought and testing, Jiro finally creates the plane that many are familiar with: the Mitsubishi A5M.
My only complaint with the film is that it felt a little long with its just over 2-hour run time. Act 2 in particular dragged down the experience. A great deal of time passed with nary a word spoken, and little action occurring. The animation wasn’t poor, the action was just slow. Everything preceding and following was thrilling and soulful. This part only slightly brought down the experience.
In what has become standard for Miyazaki films, this features a star-studded voice cast that wonderfully brings the film to life. Joseph Gordon-Levitt voices Jiro, who has a quiet reservation to him that perfectly captures his genius. Honestly, I had a difficult time recognizing his voice. Emily Blunt voices Naoko, Jiro’s eventual spouse. She gives a solid performance as a girl full of life but marked for death, stricken with tuberculosis. Following in tow, Blunt’s husband John Krasinski voices Jiro’s friend Honjo. He was the weakest performance for me. The rest of the cast embodied their characters, while Krasinski noticeably sounded like himself. Martin Short, William H. Macy, Mae Whitman, and Werner Herzog all gave terrific performances, with Stanley Tucci easily being the best aside from JGL. His turn as Caproni was inspiring.
I was a little sad that Miyazaki’s latest and (possibly not) final film eschewed the typical fairy tale slant that his previous entries have taken. While I did miss that fantastical element, this was still a great film. Though it’s animated, this isn’t a movie for kids — not because the content is inappropriate but because they would likely find the material boring. Anyone with more than a passing knowledge of WWII history, particularly that of Japan, will find a great deal more to enjoy.
What did you think of The Wind Rises? Miss the fantasy elements? Comment below!
Tony writes for his own site, thecredhulk.com, about comics, video games, movies, TV and more, six days a week. You can follow his updates on Facebook or Twitter. Drop by and tell ’em hi.
Can the man be stopped?