VOCAL WORK BY (AMERICAN VERSION)
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, Elijah Wood, Stanley Tucci, Jennifer Grey, John Krasinski, Darren Criss, Martin Short, Mae Whitman, Mandy Patinkin, William H. Macy, Werner Herzog, Zach Callison, Mirai Shida, Hideaki Anno
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
Inspired by the life of Jiro Horikoshi Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the man who designed Japan's fighter planes during World War II, The Wind Rises is sadly said to be the last film of legendary animator/writer/director Hayao Miyazaki, creator of such animated masterpieces as My Neighbor Totoro, Ponyo, Howl's Moving Castle, Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, and Castle in the Sky.
Inspired by the Italian aeronautical designer Caproni (Stanley Tucci), Jiro dreams of flying and designing airplanes. Because he is nearsighted, Jiro is unable to become a pilot. Instead, he joins a Japanese engineering company in 1927 and rises to become one of the most widely recognized and respected aeronautical designers. The Wind Rises follows his story, at times controversially so, through key moments in history such as the 1923 Kanto Earthquake, the Great Depression, a tuberculosis epidemic and, of course, World War II.
It should be noted that I have had the privilege of seeing both the original Japanese language version of The Wind Rises, which I believe more effectively captures the story that Miyazaki wants to tell, and the American-language version being released in the United States. While I am a diehard fan of Joseph Gordon-Levitt's work, there's simply no questioning that seeing a film as it was created is a preference.
It is rare for Miyazaki to place a film so clearly within the "real world," but even amidst its extraordinary and fantasy-like images, there's no questioning that The Wind Rises may be the closest Miyazaki has ever come to creating a "real life" film. Strangely enough, however, it's far from his most accessible film with a fairly lengthy segment that may very well give you more insight into Miyazaki's love for airplanes than it does into the film's mostly fictionalized story.
The film begins with what many regard to be a Miyazaki signature, a fantastical sequence filled with vibrance and imagination and wonder. From there, however, the structure of The Wind Rises is far closer, maybe too close, to that of a traditional biopic. In replace of fantasy, Miyazaki gives us remarkable period detail and cinematic drama including, with simplicity and honesty, the darkness and detail that comes with acknowledging that an engineer, in Miyazaki's eyes an artist, dedicated to creating beauty was also responsible for creating Japan's Zero dogfighter, a plane most famous for having been used in kamikaze missions. While Miyazaki doesn't emphasize this dark use of what was intended to be a thing of beauty, he also doesn't minimize it.
Miyazaki has never quite attracted the same level of box-office success in the United States as he has worldwide, though you would be incredibly hard-pressed to find any credible animator who would not acknowledge the trail that he has blazed as one of the world's most respected and easily the most consistently brilliant animator. While The Wind Rises isn't likely to be mentioned alongside his greatest works, it somehow feels like an appropriate film should it truly be his final production because it feels like as his final act we have the master acknowledging that which has inspired his greatness.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic