Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Writer: Hayao Miyazaki
Starring in the English dub: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Martin Short, Werner Herzog, William H. Macy
The Wind Rises is the most recent film from legendary director Hayao Miyazaki, and was at one point going to be his final film before he came out retirement for the upcoming How Do You Live?. The Wind Rises is based on Miyazaki’s manga that he loosely adapted from the 1937 novel The Wind Has Risen, and tells a fictionalised history of Jiro Horikoshi, an aircraft designer who designed the Mitsubishi A5M.
Jiro Horikoshi (who is voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt as an adult and Zach Callison as a child) has dreamed of designing airplanes since he found out that his poor eyesight would mean he can’t be a pilot. While he is travelling to Tokyo Imperial University by train, an earthquake hits stopping the train. Trying to help out other passengers he meets Naoko and ends up carrying Naoko’s maid back to her home, as she’s injured her leg. He leaves without giving his name. Years later after he’s graduated and is promoted to chief designer, he bumps into Naoko again and a romance between the pair starts to blossom.
Miyazaki’s film mixes true history, fantasy and dramatization together throughout it’s story. Jiro Horikoshi is a real person, who did design airplanes, but Naoko isn’t. She’s completely fictional, even though their relationship feels incredibly real and transcends the screen. Less surprisingly are the dreams that Jiro has where he meets and gets to know Giovanni Battista Caproni, an Italian designer who Jiro looks up to. Over the course of years Giovanni gives Jiro the motivation he needs. It’s that perfect blend of fantasy and grounded storytelling that Studio Ghibli has always made work so well.
Both sides of this story are engrossing and very well told. Both the designing of the planes as well as the relationship between Jiro and Naoko are engaging. Their relationship is tragic and heart-breaking. Even if you’re not interested in planes, that side of the story is still entertaining. You can feel Jiro’s passion for his designs and the backdrop of the looming war makes things feel a little tense at points.
The animation, as you’d expect from Studio Ghibli, is stunning. It always looks beautiful to watch, especially the dream sequences and parts of nature that look vibrant and colourful. It’s the kind of world that you just want to escape into. The perfect setting for a story that is pure escapism that’s easy to watch. Even with Jiro himself, who designed planes that were used for the second World War, while this is mentioned it’s not the focus on the film. Besides the last few moments, the film is more about the planes themselves than what they are used for. Which is probably what we would all expect from Miyazaki, who is a pacifist himself.
The Wind Rises is a spellbinding film. Through telling the story of Jiro Horijoshi, it becomes a love letter to aviation, with a small undercurrent of anti-war. While it’s departure from the truth may put some people off, if you can get over that then the film is a magical masterpiece that’s captivating from start to finish.
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