Here’s our review of Clint Eastwood‘s Flags of Our Fathers. Contains Spoilers.
I had high hopes going into this one. I am a big fan of anything having to do with Clint Eastwood but unfortunately, this movie was a bit of a letdown. While the premise to uncover the truth behind the raising of the flag at IWO JIMA was definitely interesting, the non-linear form of storytelling using flashbacks from past to present left me feeling kind of dizzy.
This is mainly due to the fact that the movie tries to tackle two major issues at once. On the one hand, it is a detailed recounting of one the bloodiest US invasions, namely the assault on the small Japanese island of IWO JIMA during the end of World War II. On the other hand, it is a retelling of the experiences of a few returning soldiers and the American government’s efforts to manipulate them into financing and furthering their war campaign. This is achieved chiefly through the distortion of facts (sound familiar?) by using the newfound celebrity status of the flag-raising soldiers to sell bonds to an eager and patriotic American public.
For example, in a crucial scene, which is pivotal to the story, the remaining flag-raisers are asked to re-create the iconic flag-raising event in front of a sold out crowd at a stadium back home. The feeling is one of surrealism, as the naivete of the public is juxtaposed with the soldier’s knowledge that their comrades are still being slain on the battlefield. Complicating the plot is the photograph of the actual event itself and the mystery surrounding the identities of those who actually participated in the raising of the flag.
As for the actors, much has been made of the casting, which I feel is just average. Ryan Phillippe portrays the story’s central character “John H Bradley”, and although he tries his best, I found his performance to be a little flat. Besides, I don’t know what all the fuss is about him. Maybe everyone is getting on the Reese bandwagon (at least she was great in “Walk the Line”). In all fairness though, I did like him in last year’s Oscar winner “Crash”.
Phillippe’s character is also accompanied by fellow actors Adam Beach (“WindTalkers”) and Jesse Bradford who portray two soldiers at different ends of the spectrum. Jesse Bradford’s character, “Rene A Gagnon”, returns home as a bitter soldier who disapproves of the public’s treatment of war veterans while Beach’s character (“Ira Hamilton Hayes”) portrays a native American Indian who is consumed by the racism surrounding him and who wants nothing to do with the fame and fortune that the world has bestowed upon him. His character is the most tragic and his performance the most noteworthy as he slowly descends into the bottle and seeks solace in alcohol. The one thing that all three “heroes” share is their unbridled passion to re-join their fellow soldiers at the front. Paul Walker also turns in a solid performance as a battle-hardened marine commander.
In conclusion, if anything, the film deserves to be seen for it’s historical accuracy and depiction of the assault on the island (amazing CGI) and its intended relevance to the present war in IRAQ. Also, credit has to be given to Eastwood for not glorifying war and restoring honour to the true (and often times forgotten) heroes of war; the slain unknown soldiers on the battlefield (albeit in gruesome detail).
Finally, the most powerful and moving scenes in the film appear during the end credits in which real photographs of the depicted event are displayed on screen. These images reveal the many faces and horrors of war. I have never attended a screening where EVERY single person stayed to the very end of the credits. This was an exception. Looking at the powerful images as they were being displayed, one could not help but think about the brave soldiers fighting and dying in another conflict with the hopes that they all return safely home. All in all, Eastwood has made a very good film, but it’s not the best WWII film. In my opinion, Saving Private Ryan did it slightly better.
Note: Eastwood is set to release a second film of the same events from a Japanese point of view, sometime next year.
Agree or disagree? Let us know your thoughts on the film.