The Wind Rises

Mar 3, 2014

A beautiful animation worthy of its Oscar nomination.

The Wind Rises

Grade: A

Director: Hayao Miyazaki (Howl’s Moving Castle)

Screenplay: Miyazaki

Cast: voices of Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Don John), Emily Blunt Looper)

Rating: PG-13

Runtime: 126 min.

by John DeSando

"The wind is rising! We must try to live!" Paul Valery

The Wind Rises has two stories: the story of Jiro Horikoshi (voice of Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who designed the Japanese Zero, arguably the most effective fighter plane in WWII, or at least the most feared; and the story of love for his tubercular young wife, Nahoko (Emily Blunt). The animated planes soar like beautiful birds, and his love soars in a similarly graceful, albeit short, arc like a sweeping wing.

The genial director, Hayao Miyazaki, who has so imaginatively shown us flying pigs and castles and other unworldly things, comes down to earth with a gentle bio and a love story so unlike Frozen it’s no wonder Wind did not beat it in the Oscar race. The slow pace of the film, so different from our quick cutting, cookie cutting stories, gives everyone a chance to think about the deep issues in the film, but it could make American audiences squirm with impatience.

The real world of Japanese war mongers who used Jiro’s design to foment war contrasts with the idealism of a gifted aeronautical engineer who loved only flight, not fight.

Miyazaki’s recent death, making this arguably his last work, highlights his brilliance:  Cat buses can give way to airplanes, from a director whose dad owned an airplane factory. Miyazaki left a legacy of intelligence and romance for animation. Perhaps the wind rises is also the story of the director himself, whose spirit rose like a prevailing wind.

The genius Italian flight designer Caproni (Stanley Tucci) best expresses the film’s amalgam of romance and realism:

“Airplanes are just cursed dreams, waiting for the sky to swallow them up.”

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at