It is often said that you won’t get much done with your head in the clouds. But when you dream about creating airplanes for a living, it may just be a good place to start.
In The Wind Rises, director Hayao Miyazaki’s final feature film, a boy named Jiro Horikoshi (Zach Callison, Joseph Gordon Levitt), dreams of one day designing planes. His eyesight prevents him from being a pilot, but his lofty ambitions are encouraged, through these dreams, by an Italian plane designer named Caproni (Stanley Tucci). This film is a tale based on the history of Japanese aviation leading up to World War II.
As he grows older, Jiro travels to Tokyo, which is almost completely demolished by an earthquake. It is here he first meets Naoko Satomi (Emily Blunt) and her mother, who’s suffered a leg injury. He assists them to their destination and heads on his way without giving his name. At the factory Jiro is hired, his boss Mr. Kurokawa (Martin Short) sees nothing special in him, but over time is very impressed with his attention to the smallest of details. His colleague Honjo (John Krasinki) accompanies him on this journey of many failed attempts to build a faster, stronger airplane, which will someday be used for war.
Jiro meets Naoko once again in the countryside at a hotel owned by her parents. They spend time together which later blossoms into romance. Romance soon interrupted by the realization that Naoko is suffering from a serious illness and must remain at the hotel while he goes back to Tokyo to resume his work. Jiro struggles between fulfilling his lifelong dream and being with the love of his life who may not have much time.
The film balances these two stories very well. We continue to see Jiro’s work improve over time, the painstaking calculations he makes and the flaws he envisions in his dreams as they meet their fiery end, while also seeing his love story with Naoko become more pronounced. An emotional sincerity most times reserved for live action films and not animation.
What is most interesting about The Wind Rises is not only the terrific storytelling, but also the philosophical motivations the movie raises. You are destined to develop planes, but in the back of your mind you know ultimately they will be used as weapons. In spite of this, and for the sake of that hopeful, yet uncertain, future, you continue on cause you know that flight is a dream that should cannot be denied to the world.
The story is very straightforward and favors a realistic approach as opposed to the fantasy elements and magical creatures you would normally see in Hayao Miyazaki’s other works (Howl’s Moving Castle, Spirited Away). The imagery is as brilliant as ever breathing life into the most inanimate objects. The wind especially plays a significant character with its presence in several scenes pronounced by the blowing of an umbrella or the dance of a paper airplane.
The actual history laced within this fictional film is enhanced by the contemporary atmosphere and you begin to share that acute sense of enthusiastic progress the aviation engineers feel when their efforts are finally rewarded. In fact the character Jiro Horikoshi is named after an an actual chief engineer during World War II.
A strong story, beautiful visuals, and a brilliant voice cast which also includes Mae Whitman, William H. Macy and Elijah Wood as well as several others. I recommend this movie for all these reasons, and perhaps to relive your own childhood dreams of flying. It teaches us that we may endure many failures and setbacks to realize our dream, but every one of them is an important lesson to be appreciated. The Wind Rises is another wonderful work of art that Hayao Miyazaki can hang his hat on.
11 out of 11