In what is rumoured to be Miyao Miyazaki's final film before he retires, The Wind Rises is a dreamy biopic of aeronautics engineer Jiro Hirokoshi who designed the Zero, the fighter that played havoc with the Allied campaign in the Pacific during World War II. When his dreams of becoming a pilot are dashed because of near-sightedness Jiro turns to designing planes and perfecting the fighter...
A beautiful dream sequence opens proceedings and sets up what is to follow: the joy of flight and its use in war, both of which will dovetail throughout. It also sets up the stunning visuals one is in store for; up there with anything Studio Ghibli (Spirited Away, Howl.s Moving Castle, Arrietty) have released Miyazaki goes all out here. It doesn.t let the side down when it comes to character either. Jiro could have easily been one-note but in the engineer’s quiet confidence Miyazaki cleverly avoids the hurried bluster of Di Caprio in what was a similar role in The Aviator.
In dealing with a peacnik and his creation of a devastating instrument of war, the seventy-three-year-old's last film is found wanting however. Jiro is brought up by a mother who tells him 'fighting is never justified,' this after saving a boy from some bullies. There are scenes of the aftermath of an earthquake, one of several breath-taking sequences here, which deliberately foreshadow Hiroshima's devastation. Miyazaki constantly draws attention to the duality of Jiro’s position but never has anything to say about it. He has Jiro concentrate solely on the design of his planes, how to perfect perfection. But the war and what the planes will be used for? Well, that's something over there, something that doesn't concern him. The navy are just another potential contractor that will help fund his dream: 'We're not weapons makers... we just want to build great planes.' Not so sure about that.
The decades-spanning romance takes over in the final third, oddly distracting the Jiro/Zero main thrust just as it reaches its final stages of testing, and The Wind Rises just dribbles towards the end credits, like letting the air out of a balloon.