A fanciful flight, rather than a flight of fancy. Largely ditching the magical and spiritual aspects of his other works, aspects which have defined his career, Miyazaki Hayao grounds his reportedly final film in the sky. And dreams. And a vibrant, wandering mind. And so, for all its ostensibly human concerns, and its foundation in historical fact, The Wind Rises is not so much a departure for the great animator. The tone, this time, is measured and melancholic, with the spirited vigour of Miyazaki's style giving way to a contemplative mood that, by necessity, he cannot temper with optimism this time out. The film is punctured with jolts of horror, rendered in abstract, heart-stopping brutality. Combined with a newfound need to develop his plot, due to its roots in reality, Miyazaki denies himself the whimsy that audiences expect from him, though not the wonder. Seldom has he discovered so great a canvas for exploring the beauty of nature, realised here in a mix of photo-real vistas and a vivid colour palette, masterfully applied to create spectacular animated imagery. Even for Miyazaki, these are breathtaking designs, and while they may be mere ornamentation upon his more stoic, stable narrative structure, they serve as gracious artistic interludes, brief but brilliant. His eye cast inward, onto himself, The Wind Rises is actually one of Miyazaki's most sedate, restrained films, despite its expansive settings both in place and time. What he is able to achieve, then, is an emotional intimacy he's rarely even considered before; a bedside scene in the film's final stretch is one of the most touching he's ever done, not despite its lack of trickery and wizardry, but due to it. In the final stretch of his career, Miyazaki Hayao has located his ability to induce wonder without whimsy. And it's with that small, satisfying revelation, on a note of tonal ambiguity, that he closes.