MRR Review: "The Wind Rises"

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A look at the life of Jiro Horikoshi, the man who designed Japanese fighter planes during World War II.
3.5

Rating: PG-13
Length: 126 minutes
Release Date: February 28, 2014
Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki
Genre: Animation / Biography / Drama

"The Wind Rises" uses a fascinating combination of lovely, spare animation with loud scenes of great destruction to tell the dramatic story of a real historical figure. Highly acclaimed Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki uses the unlikely vehicle of animation to take a look at the life and times of fighter plane designer Jiro Hirokoshi. Fans of Japanese anime will be especially interested in the visual effects used in the creation of "The Wind Rises."

Jiro Hirokoshi is the man responsible for the design of Japan's entire fleet of Zero fighter planes, which were used by Japanese fighter pilots during World War II. This is the type of biography that you would expect to be full of black-and-white film footage from the 1930s and 1940s. Somehow, instead of a film filled with stern voices reciting grim narration, Miyazaki effectively fills the screen with beautiful, and sometimes heart-breaking, animation.

The original title in Japanese for the film "The Wind Rises" is "Kaze Tichinu." The movie tells the story of how the winds of inspiration rose in the young Jiro Hirokoshi after he was exposed to the work of renowned Italian airplane designer Giovanni Battista Caproni. Jiro's dream and life's ambition became to design beautiful airplanes. Like the wind, or any inspiration, a dream's final landing place and ultimate outcome is impossible to predict.

The casting for the voicing performed in the film is very well done. "The Wind Rises" features the work of several major stars, including Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Jiro Hirokoshi, John Krasinski as Jiro's close friend Honsho and Emily Blunt as Jiro's love interest Nahoko Satomo.

It is quite fascinating to listen to human voices cast as the sounds of things as varied as airplanes and earthquakes. Some of the distinctive and very effective voices in the supporting cast include those of William H. Macy, Martin Short, Stanley Tucci and Jennifer Grey.

It is amazing to discover that the young Jiro bears quite a striking resemblance to the young Harry Potter, right down to his owl-eyed glasses. And in fact, Jiro takes the audience on a stirring adventure filled with many dangerous twists and turns, not unlike the adventures of Harry Potter. However, Jiro Hirokoshi's life and many adventures are filled with scenes from world history, which always includes both beauty and chaos.

World renowned film director Hayao Miyazaki makes wonderful use of his large talent in the "The Wind Rises." The Academy Award winning Japanese director reaches a creative peak in his directing career with this truly unique movie. The film has won several major awards and has been nominated for many others. The wins include the 2013 New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Animated Film and the 2014 Annie Award for Writing in an Animated Feature Production. "The Wind Rises" has also been nominated in the film world's premier event, the 2014 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.

Conductor Joe Hisaichi deserves special recognition for his work on the film's terrific and emotional soundtrack, which brings the viewing audience too many emotional highs and lows. This movie soundtrack beautifully matches with the film's emotional landscape and enhances its effects on the audience.

The animation and development of each of the film's major characters is highly imaginative and very well portrayed on screen. The talented animation specialist Katsuya Kondo is responsible for the movie's one-of-a-kind character design.

Credit director Hayao Miyazaki for making an astonishing film that defies any of the preconceived notions of its viewing audiences. However, if you are looking for an accurate biography of Jiro Hirokoshi, you definitely need to look to another source. This beautiful animated film is a far cry from any kind of actual history of World War II or the part Japan played in the war and its outcome.

"The Wind Rises" succeeds at a much different level. For one thing, the film is a gorgeous adventure for those who love anime. It also provides an intelligent, creative look at the world for a more general audience. The film and its message are constructed in a way that combines elements that movie fans are not used to seeing together. It is the type of creative endeavor that warrants further exploration.

If you enjoy animation that tells a tale with subtle beauty, lots of loud noises and glorious music, make sure to include "The Wind Rises" on your list of must-see movies. It is the kind of film that invites a long conversation with your friends after you have enjoyed seeing it together.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5