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Review

‘The Wind Rises’ closes legend’s career

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March 14, 2014

The legendary Japanese animation director Hayao Miyazaki has left the house of cinema, but he left us one last gem through his imagination in the animated historical period piece, “The Wind Rises.”

Jiro Horikoshi has dreamed all his life of taking to the sky in planes of fine craft but, due to his poor eyesight, he must keep his head to the ground. Despite this, his dreams still lie in the design and creation of beautiful aircrafts to be flown with majesty and grace, though in the face of World War II.

Movie poster for "The Wind Rises."
“The Wind Rises” is directed by Hayao Miyazaki.

Through the course of his career, he discovers opportunity awaiting him, passion in a lost love and the fact that his dreams may only be in service to feed the fires of war. Jiro’s airplane might never soar for pleasure, but the wind is rising so he must live on.

I never thought that I would see the day when the great Miyazaki, who gave us “Spirited Away,” “Howl’s Moving Castle,” “Princess Mononoke” and many others, would make his last film. This made it a priority to see in theaters and an obligation to do a review on it.

After driving 40 minutes to a theater that actually screened it, I experienced a great send out for the man who gave so much to us. The one thing you could always count on with Miyazaki was to send you on a magical journey that only he could pull off. Even when his movies dealt with reality, there was always that underlying feeling of the enchanting and fantastic. “The Wind Rises” delivers this feeling in full force, making you fall for the starry-eyed ideals and worlds the characters crave, before you realize you have believed these things all along.

The direction is everything you would expect from Miyazaki, with great fantasy moments crossed with the real world to make for a whirlwind of emotion and awe. The characters and environments move as smoothly as ever, the planes whir and breathe like people, with every frame of the film delivering as much meaning and care that Miyazaki can pack in. Call it nostalgia on my part, but it feels like visiting an old friend seeing this kind of lovely animation.

The music, like so many of Miyazaki’s other works, was done by composer Joe Hisaishi, and like every other time, he pulls the audience further into the film. From soft, subdued piano tones to lifting string sections, Hisaishi does “The Wind Rises” musical justice. For many past works, Hisaishi has been the net that Miyazaki uses to capture all of us.

The acting for the film is fine as well. Granted, there is only so much that American voice actors can give to a dub of this film. They each do their part, though Joseph Gordon-Levitt may not have been the best choice for our main character.

The actors make such a minor difference in enjoying this movie that it is hardly necessary to talk about. The meat of Miyazaki’s films have always been the animation, imagination, and no less important, the themes he inserts. “The Wind Rises” contains themes that have been prevalent in his past films; war’s effect on art, the true intentions of technology and love’s enduring nature are the foundation of the work that Miyazaki chose as his last, and I am glad that he still managed to deliver something new for this last round.

“The Wind Rises” is an endearing and timeless work that serves as a final goodbye from Miyazaki. As he once quoted the real person our main character inspired, “All I wanted to do was to make something beautiful,” and he gave us beauty in a million frames.

At the end of it, I found myself crying at a movie for the first time in quite a while. Not only because it was a beautiful film, but because it was the last time this great auteur of animation would give us a glimpse of his wondrous and sincere mind.

Ryan Funes is a lover of all things movie, TV, video games and stories and wants to become a television writer someday. In his spare time he enjoys hanging with friends, tapping into his imagination, and watching cartoons of all kinds.