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Snow Falling on Cedars Reviews

Flawed, but fascinating, this somber adaptation of David Guterson's award-winning novel is sometimes sluggish and difficult to follow, but it's also unexpectedly poetic. Nine years have passed since the bombing of Pearl Harbor, but on a small island due north of Seattle, the wounds are still fresh. Early one frozen morning, the dead body of local fisherman Carl Heine Jr. (Eric Thal) is found, overboard and tangled in his net, with a nasty gash over his ear. The most likely suspect is Kabuo Miyamoto (Rick Yune), a Japanese-American who was seen fishing the same fog-bound waters as Heine just hours earlier. And Kabuo has a motive: To circumvent laws preventing non-citizens from owning land, Kabuo's father (Akira Takayama) once made arrangements to secretly purchase seven acres of strawberry fields from Carl Heine Sr. (Daniel Von Bargen). But before the final payment could be made, the Miyamotos -- and every other islander of Japanese descent -- were sent to California's infamous Manzanar internment camp, and the land was sold out from under them. As Kabuo stands trial for murder, local reporter Ishmael Chambers (Ethan Hawke), an embittered veteran who lost an arm to a Japanese bullet and his childhood love (Youki Kudoh) to Kabuo, takes his place in the courtroom with more than purely journalistic interest. SHINE director Scott Hicks improves on Guterson's novel by focusing less on the book's weak mystery plot and more on its real subject: how the pain surrounding a particularly shameful chapter in American history lingers on. Suffused with dark, shifting shadows, the film is handsomely shot by Robert Richardson, the extraordinary visual stylist behind most of Oliver Stone's films. But it's far more Terrence Malick than Stone, and hardly the crowd-pleaser one would expect in a bestseller-to-screen adaptation. The storyline is fractured by multiple flashbacks that echo, overlap and collide with the illogicality of memories in a beautifully cinematic attempt to capture the brooding heart of Guterson's tale.