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In 1945, the Marines attack twelve thousand Japaneses protecting the twenty square kilometers of the sacred Iwo Jima island in a very violent battle. When they reach the Mount Suribachi and six soldiers raise their flag on the top, the picture becomes a symbol in a post Great Depression America. The government brings the three survivors to America to raise funds for war, bringing hope to desolate people, and making the three men heroes of the war. However, the traumatized trio has difficulty dealing with the image built by their superiors, sharing the heroism with their mates. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The original of the top photograph in the stack of Japanese atrocities is held in the Australian War Memorial. It is dated 24 October 1943, was taken in Aitape, New Guinea, and shows Sergeant Leonard G. Siffleet, about to be beheaded with a sword by Yasuno Chikao. See more »
In the "Bond Tour" scenes involving old-time microphones, only once is the microphone positioned correctly. When the "Andrews Sisters" vocal trio sings and the men later speak, the black-and-silver RCA 77 ribbon microphones are positioned backwards. They should have been rotated 180 degrees, so that the microphones' fronts and tops would tilt slightly away from the singers/speakers. The same is true for a later scene with one of the men speaking at a lectern with a large gray Altec microphone - it, too, is positioned backwards. See more »
Corpsman! Corpsman! Corpsman! Corpsman! For God sakes, corpsman! Corpsman! Corpsman!
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There is an additional short sequence after the credits have ended. See more »
Clint Eastwood is currently undergoing a renaissance in film-making. In Hollywood, he is one of the most surprising, challenging and honest filmmakers today. Therefore it was with great curiosity when he announced that he would tell the story about the battle on the island of Iwo Jima, February 1945.
The main theme of the story is what makes a hero? Do they exist in war? Eastwood examines this theory in the battle of Iwo Jima. A flag is raised on top of Mount Suribachi that signifies peace and an end to the war. A photo is taken, and it is a symbol of freedom.
The story exists on several levels. There is the battle on Iwo Jima, told in flashbacks, the reception of the three main characters - John Bradley, Rene Gagnon, and Ira Hayes - and the recollection of these memories in present day to James Bradley.
In the story of Iwo Jima, we see the battle through the soldiers eyes. They set out for the island in their buoyant, expectant spirits. We face their anticipation once they touch down on the beach. And we are unsettled when we realise in war, things don't always go to plan. In fact does the "good" side win, furthermore do they exist?
Running concurrently to the account of the battle on Iwo Jima, the three "heroes" of the flag raising are welcomed back home as heroes. Do they deserve such a title? In fact they say they do not. Who has the right to be a hero and what kinds of power do they have? The war had long lasting effects for all of them, sometimes it was the memories that destroyed the men.
The third strand exists in the present day. James Bradley is the author of the book on which the film is based. He is listening to accounts of the battle from war veterans. His father John, played by Ryan Phillipe, was in the battle and forms most of the flashbacks that tell of the combat on the island. We already learn much from history and past evils that it is impossible not to appreciate the power we have today to ensure peace and economic stability in the world.
Because the film is told in flashback, some viewers may find the non-linear structure unsettling and disorienting. The process of deciphering what we see on screen is meant to emulate the way our memory is structured. Just as John Bradley finds it difficult to relive the atmosphere of Iwo Jima due to traumatic experiences, we have to question, what effect does war have on people many years later? Does it change into the person we have become? And how do we live with ourselves after experiencing horror of the worst kind?
The acting is admirable all around: Ryan Phillipe creates a honourable figure persevering throughout war time while his friends fall away. Jesse Bradford copes best after the war but fame is short-lived. And Adam Beach is a man tormented by the effect of war; a man who has lost his personal identity. He struggles with the concept of "we are what we do".
Eastwood's direction is outstanding. He has managed to create a film that makes no judgments, preserves the integrity of these people yet examines their life in war. The screenplay by previous collaborator Haggis, is insightful, thought-provoking and poignant. He takes no simple sides on the good and bad of war but meditates on what it means to the individual. How does a country sustain itself during war. Can a war be entirely truthful?
He finds shapes and patterns in war, that suggest the uncertainty of battle, the serenity of the landscape, and the meaning of victory. The music scored by Eastwood is heartfelt, non-intrusive yet elicits shades of heroism and hope. The use of lighting in the film suggest different ways of looking at the battlefield.
The scenes involving "the three" when they return home are heartbreaking. To protect the identity of their fallen mates, they are forced bend the truth to their parents and the public. People are willing to accept heroes but only under fanfare and while they are still the flavour of the month. Ira Hayes' fall as a hero fades as quickly as his life situation.
It is absolutely refreshing to hear from Eastwood his reflections on war without resorting to boisterous patriotism or feel-good sentimental endings. Such is his take on this turning point in war history, that the film is not primarily about the war, but the effects of it on those who served. We discover there are no heroes. The final scene is a revival on the idea of war and this great American director. This one stayed with me for a long time.
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