The Wind Rises (2013)

Note: I have only viewed the Japanese version of The Wind Rises with English subtitles. While I haven’t seen the English version, I will trust the word of many that the voice-work is great.

Everybody has to retire at some point, but it’s always a sad day when you learn that one of the all-time greats has decided to throw in the towel. Of course, retirement does have a funny way of making one work their hardest on their last project and filmmakers are no exception. With this film as his farewell, legendary director and animator Hayao Miyazaki is saying goodbye with perhaps his most personal film to date. He’s given the world a lot to love and his films stand-off in a world of their own. He and his style will certainly be missed, but let’s focus on the joy this man has brought to the film industry and dive into his last film.

Jiro dreams of flying over the Japanese countryside,
Jiro dreams of flying over the Japanese countryside,

Jiro Horikoshi (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) was a child whose dreams of being a pilot were foiled by his poor eyesight. Regardless of that setback, his love for all things aviation set him on the path of an engineer who saw planes as works of art and true craftsmanship. In his dreams, he met with Caproni (Stanley Tucci), the world’s greatest airplane designer and his friend who was always there for advice. As Jiro grew up, he and his friend Honjo (John Krasinski) designed planes for Mitsubishi and spent many a night trying to design the next fighter plane for Japan to use in WWII.

For Jiro, planes were always for creation and not for causing destruction and the pressure from his bosses (Martin Short & Mandy Patinkin) to create a war machine weren’t helping his thoughts. It’s after Jiro meets Nahoko Satomi (Emily Blunt), a girl from is past, that he sees the real beauty in life and is able to reach his full potential. Unfortunately, Nahoko is slowly dying and Japan is failing at advancing in the war. Jiro does his best to fix everything and in the process, creates the Zero Fighter aircraft. He’s told that artists are only creative for ten years and he can only hope that he used his ten years wisely.

Jiro studies his failed plane and looks to improve upon it.
Jiro studies his failed plane and looks to improve upon it.

The Wind Rises is a stunning and breathtaking final effort from master director, Hayao Miyazaki. Miyazaki, known for his picturesque animated films, has really put his heart and soul into this film and turns an interesting premise into something magical. Based on a synopsis alone, this film may not sound too appealing to most and many people will, unfortunately, disregard it. However, if you’ve seen any of the films from Miyazaki (Spirited Away, Ponyo, Howl’s Moving Castle, My Neighbor Totoro), you’d know that his films aren’t really films, but are actually works of art. The Wind Rises is as beautiful as it is amazing and should not be missed.

Jiro’s life is something out of fairy tales, or so it appears that way. Jiro is such a unique character, as he seems to be the only person passionate about creating planes for the sake of creating something wonderful. His imagination and dreams lead him to think-up wonderful designs that are equal parts elegant and inspiring. The inner artist inside all of us can appreciate Jiro’s efforts and his journey. His disapproval of planes being used for war ostracizes him in a time of war, yet he remains determined to change the skies. He does find love and that does come to affect his work and emotions, but everything is handled very delicately. At the end of the day, Jiro is like anyone who wants to do something great with his life and help others in the process. He’s a very respectable character and watching him and his talents grow is delightful.

Jiro and Nahoko stare lovingly on the stairs.
Jiro and Nahoko stare lovingly on the stairs.

While this story is more grounded in reality than Miyazaki’s other fantastical films, that’s certainly not a bad thing. This story gives a perspective of WWII from the Japanese and more specifically, their aviation advancements. While most of the world had metal planes, Japan was still using wooden planes. The war involvement never gets offensive to any party and it’s riveting to watch people butt heads over the future of airplanes. The construction and trail and error of the planes is enjoyable and it gives you a lot of great background info on how things work. Whether or not you’re a plane enthusiast, there’s enthralling history to be learned and it’s conveyed wonderfully.

We live in a time where CGI rules the world and that can be good and bad. As cool as animation can be, there’s something so alluring about the artistic detail that goes into a drawing or a painting. The look and feel of the art (because that’s what it is) is so authentic and you can’t help but admire it in awe. The Wind Rises is one large work of art that appears to be moving as the film goes on. The amount of detail within the characters and the settings is bewildering and it’s clear that this type of art is unparalleled. The planes look real, the characters and their expressions look real, and this film looks real. The animation in The Wind Rises is simply captivating and it’ll make you want to watch the film all over again just to appreciate the artwork.

Jiro marches out to the testing field with his new Zero Fighter.
Jiro marches out to the testing field with his new Zero Fighter.

Sound also plays a large role in this film and the sound effects and music are just as stimulating as the animation. Much of the effects used for the planes come the mouths of humans. The whistling of the wind and the humming of the planes is all done by people who wanted to be a part of the film. This not only makes what you’re hearing more intriguing, but it speaks words about what people will do to be involved in a Miyazaki film. The soundtrack, composed by Joe Hisaishi, is poetic and enhances the visuals at hand. The orchestra responsible utilizes every possible instrument at their disposal and in turn, produces many sweet melodies that will induce euphoria.

The Wind Rises is as unconventional as most animated films will ever be and that’s the reason it stands out, especially among Miyazaki’s other films. The art in this film is nothing short of substantial and it’s hard not to re-watch this film over and over again. After seeing this film once, I absolutely knew that I had to see it again and again. It’s such an enchanting film that finds a way to connect with the human spirit. Miyazaki has really outdone himself and has ended his career with a bang (of artistic sorts). It may take a while for larger audiences to value this film for all it’s worth, but I’m confident that this is a film that won’t leave anyone’s minds after they view it.

The Wind Rises Trailer
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=imtdgdGOB6Q

5 STARS!!!

5 / 5 stars     

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