“All I wanted to do was to make something beautiful.”
- Jiro Hirokoshi (1903-1982)
It’s the early 1900s in Japan. Jiro Hirokoshi (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a young boy with the dream of flight. His head is filled with gusting winds and soaring wings. He wants nothing more than to fly. Unfortunately, he has terrible eyesight and will most likely never become a pilot. But this changes when he has a lucid dream with famed italian airplane designer Caproni, who inspires him to build planes instead. So, the adventure begins with Jiro studying hard to create what will become the famous Zero fighter plane. Along his journey he struggles through the 1920s Great Depression, the looming threat of yet another world war, and love.
Written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, this was supposed to be his final project before retirement. However, he has since recanted that announcement. The film is actually loosely based on a short story. While Jiro is a historical figure and his designs and accomplishments are well represented in the film, his personal life is highly fictionalized in this movie.
Miyazaki has created a name for himself in the modern world of animation. His art style and fantastical imagination continue to shine with magic in this film. Avid fans will recall that a majority of his work centers around an imaginary world or elements of a magic realm hidden in the real one. The Wind Rises is surprisingly the most grounded in reality out of them all. There are no princesses (Princess Mononoke), no witches (Spirited Away), nor any castles walking across the land on steam powered tarantula legs (Howl’s Moving Castle). The Wind Rises is a biographical, historical film. The fantasy comes in the dream sequences when Jiro thinks or sleeps - and they are gorgeous.
Those hoping to go on one last adventure through a unique kingdom will be disappointed. The story is slow and deliberate, rather than adventurous. This is a story about a man. A creative, inspired man, but a normal man nonetheless. Jiro grows up, he has friends, he has problems, and, probably the biggest part, he falls in love. Jiro falls for Nahoko Satomi (Emily Blunt) a beautiful woman whose ill-fated timing will bring many romantics to tears.
Nominated for Best Animated Feature of 2014, The Wind Rises is a film recommended for an audience looking for a more mature animated story and for those ready to cry.