The news that The Wind Rises would be Hayao Miyazaki’s final film signalled the end of a significant era in animation. With his collection of beautiful and dedicated work stretching right back to the early 70s, a lot rests on its shoulders, sealing the legacy of this renowned and respected director.
Certainly one of Miyazaki’s more mature pieces of work, leaning more towards the complex machinery of Castle in the Sky than the irresistible charm of My Neighbour Totoro, this is the account of Jirô, a young and hopeful engineer who pours his talents into designing fighter planes during the Second World War.
Set against a canvas of economic disarray, horrendous natural disasters and the pressures of war, Jirô escapes his daily woes by slipping into a dreamland and visiting his idol, Italian engineer Caproni, where they spend their time exploring his astounding creations.
Closer to home, Jirô’s new wife is suffering from tuberculosis and chooses to stay with him rather than recover in a sanctuary. It’s a tragic strand of the story that tinges everything in the film’s final chapters, but is never the less poetic and served justice under Miyazaki’s skilful direction.
Predictably stunning, The Wind Rises secures Studio Ghibli as the leading name in animation. Gloriously intricate aircrafts dive through watercolour landscapes, while characters move to a dreamlike rhythm. True to the title, the wind serves as a character in itself, moving fabrics, hair, planes and plot alike, giving and leaving the impression that the entire film is floating. It makes for captivating viewing, complimented perfectly by Joe Hisaishi’s score.
The dubbed version, as with all dubbed features, runs the risk of clunky vocals and a mixed tone to its original, subtitled partner. This is fortunately not the case for The Wind Rises, as Joseph Gordon-Levitt effortlessly fills the boots of Jirô without sacrificing the subtlety of the character. Jirô is a reserved and well-intentioned character and whereas Ghibli fans may favour the subtitled version, credit is due for his efforts. Major cast also include Emily Blunt, donning an American accent for Jirô’s wife Nahoko, John Krasinski as a fellow, less subtle engineer and Stanley Tucci is the moustachioed Caproni, laying on the Italian accent with aplomb.
Running at just over two hours this is one of Miyazaki’s longer pieces, and doesn’t rush to the climactic final instalments of Jirô’s story. Every minute however uneventful though is filled with a dedicated elegance that you will struggle to take your eyes away from. This is a triumphant parting gift from Miyazaki, who will leave a gaping hole in cinema that will be hard to fill.