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Should have won a bigger prize. Ironically the Japanese gave it Best
Foreign Picture! _Letters from Iwo Jima_ is of course the companion
film. Not as complex, but more so a traditional WWII film, except told
from the p.o.v. of the Japanese. Based on actual letters.
Eastwood ought to be recognized as the first director to issue a duet on war, looking at the same battle from both sides. Haven't seen enough critical discussion here about the results of this very interesting experiment. If anything, the American film (Flags) is about political wrangling over the power of an image turned into a media circus quite literally so, but how this process damages the individuals involved i.e., the death of the Native American soldier who is wracked by guilt. Meanwhile the Japanese film (Letters) is an exercise in empathy for the enemy, who are shown to be trapped in circumstances beyond their control, facing certain death stoically, yet with occasional hysterical panic. This one, _Letters_, got an overall higher rating on IMDb, again ironically, probably because is is simpler in narrative form. The obviously more complex interweaving of three narratives in the companion film (Flags) along with an ambiguously dialectical view of the relative rightness and wrongness of the characters was all clearly too much trouble for most of the commentators collected on this website. Against that rather dubious trend, I give the more complex "Flags" a higher rating than the more macho-sentimental "Letters".
First, there was the short documentary, To The Shores of Iwo Jima
(1945), which showed it as it really was. Then came Sands of Iwo Jima
(1949), a fictionalized and romanticized - account of the invasion
with John Wayne and other stalwarts of the time. Finally, with Clint
Eastwood's direction of this non-fiction narrative, we have a
combination of both as a statement about how it was and, primarily,
how it affected the men who raised the second flag that was
photographed, and which was transformed into the crowning symbol of
victory that helped re-energize a dispirited and almost bankrupt
Flags Of Our Fathers is not an anti-war movie; quiet to the contrary. If you want that, see Paths Of Glory (1957), a Kubrick classic or Terrence Malick's lyrical masterpiece, The Thin Red Line (1998); and, for the ultimate absurdity about war, see Dr Strangelove: or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb (1964), another goodie from Kubrick.
No: Flags of our Fathers is a panegyric to the honour and courage of those who suffered at Iwo Jima and all the other Pacific places of horror; and who then came back to suffer even more at the hands of the misguided, the misbegotten and the miserly. Three men 'Doc' Bradley, Ira Hayes, and Rene Gagnon - are paraded around and across America, for the purpose of selling the war even more; not surprisingly, there are anguished moments as they re-enact the flag raising or eat ice-cream in the shape of that iconic moment, laced with blood-red strawberry sauce. These, and other metaphors, abound in this well crafted movie.
To carry those metaphors on and through rammed through, you might say Eastwood very cleverly interlaced the events at Iwo Jima with events before and after, thus comparing the collective trials on the island with the trials experienced by each of the men as an island unto himself. Some might find that narrative technique distracting, even confusing. But, that's how war is
No man is an island? Eastwood blows that to pieces, showing how so many died all alone, even surrounded by others, and later, in America, how the three men became ghosts of themselves, the horrors trapped inside minds shattered beyond belief, almost. Undoubtedly, we're all alone when we die, just as we all die when we're alone
Technically, the filming is up to Eastwood's high standards: the battle scenes are gruesome; the chaos of action is extant; the acting, at times, achingly superb.
If there is a message, it is this: war is sometimes necessary, and it must be carried out to the bitter end; but there is only heartache for all and, ultimately, glory for none.
If you see this one, or have seen it, then I'd just like to add that Eastwood's companion piece is Letters from Iwo Jima (2006), which looks at the Iwo Jima battle from the Japanese perspective. Being two very different narratives, it's unfair to compare one with the other; from a technical and production perspective, however, there is no difference. Having said that, I liked the latter better from the perspective of the overall battle.
Both, however, are worthy of your time to see and think about.
I am not a fan of any kind of war movies. But I just ended up watching this yesterday. It grabbed my attention immediately, my eyes were glued to the screen. It really got to me. Let me say that it was under great direction. I must also say that all the cast was chosen well. The actors played their characters very well. The movie wasn't just on the surface like many movies are. It digs deeper, into the lives of the people in the movie and you really start to care for these people. I think everything was nearly perfect to the very point. It was great to see a movie that can change the way I think in the slightest ways, and can leave you sitting there awhile after the movie ended. It was so beautiful and good that the movie still goes on long after it's finished. I can watch it again and feel the exact same way.
I liked this movie because it had an interesting story to tell: what
happened to the men who put up the flag at Iwo Jima? While not quite as
intense as other movies that Eastwood has made, it was still a good
Basically, the story is about the men involved in the famous photograph of several marines raising a flag atop the island of Iwo Jima. The movie is mostly focused on the aftermath of the event and the surprising story of how the men's lives changed as a result of being there.
The movie has an 'old' war film look - the colors seem slightly faded and flat (almost approaching black and white). No doubt this was intentional effort. It was effective in evoking the idea of the past. Lots of well-done visuals were also present with depictions of the naval fleet and island invasion.
One key to this movie understanding the emotions involved in the lead characters. While the emotions were communicated well, it was hard to become heavily engaged in any one character. The problem may have been a lot of shifting back and forth in time (interruptions), not enough focus on any one character, and not enough of a story to tell to strengthen the emotions. Whatever it was, the overall experience was still good, but short of being great.
This is an above-average film - not quite as engaging as other Eastwood films, but not so bad either.
This film walks a multi-tight rope between telling the historical, tactical facts of the WWII battles on the island of Iwo Jima, and a small group of American soldiers who eventually get pushed into the propaganda fund-raising machine of 1940's U.S.A., and a follow up on those soldiers men - who survived the war. It is thoughtful, with extremely graphic images, yet left me wanting more after the first viewing. It tries to address so many levels, and therefore cannot delve as deep into any. It IS a good film, despite my being unable to call it the most informational film I've seen about WWII era experiences. I've seen it twice this year. Its power is hidden in the camaraderie of the young men together in war, and the laid-bare memories of older men finally willing to talk about what it meant to them. This was very moving. Their truth was found in dirt holes with bullets screaming over head and dead friends next to them.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Iwo Jima is probably the most famous battle of the Pacific Campaign in
World War II. The casualty rate was extremely high. (Close to 100
percent for the Japanese.) Aside from that, it's hard to know why it's
so famous. There was virtually no room for maneuver, no tank action to
speak of, no bayonet charges, American artillery, naval gunfire, and
air attacks had little effect on the Japanese who had had months to
prepare for the assault by building tunnels and underground bunkers. It
was a necessary battle but not a cinematic one. (Even "Sands of Iwo
Jima" spent more time on Tarawa than on Iwo Jima.)
Well, maybe it wasn't cinematic but it was certainly well covered by the politicians and the press. The ships were loaded with august people expecting a quick and colorful victory against a softened target. Instead they got one (or two or three) iconic movies and still photos of flags being raised on top of Mount Suribachi. The pic that made the papers seemed made for public consumption. Five Marines of varied backgrounds, including a Pima Indian, plus a Navy corpsman. It doesn't get much better than that.
Clint Eastwood's movie tells us about the tribulations of the guys who raised the flag, during and after the battle, by means of multiple flashbacks. The framing story is that of the sailor's son, who visits some witnesses and records their memories during interviews. The battle scenes are realistic in the way we've come to expect since "Saving Private Ryan," with gory wounds, decapitations, and desaturated color.
The story of the post-battle War Bond tour by the three survivors of the battle is equally well told, and just as painful as the battle scenes. It's not really Eastwood's kind of movie. As a director he prefers scripts with considerable humor and irony -- but not bitterness. And this is one bitter film. The heroes tour the states pimping War Bonds and it's a travesty. The War Bond tour was required to fund the war partly because, though the film doesn't tell us, by 1944 the country was growing tired of the war. The black market was flourishing. The populace was largely spent out. Some people were making a good deal of money while most were giving up sons. Yet the showmanship behind the tour -- the restaging of the flag raising on a papier-mache mountain at Soldier Field -- is positively revolting. Two of the heroes get through it by gritting their teeth. The third, Ira Hayes, the Indian, is driven to drink and ultimately dies from it.
You know what these guys needed? Not a tour in which they garnered handshakes, groupies, and free drinks. Like all other servicemen exposed to transcendentally ugly experiences, they needed a peaceful transition period of at least a few months so that they might gradually be reintroduced into a social milieu in which not everybody was trying to kill them. Then, perhaps, a mandatory six months parole with effective counseling, and voluntary counseling thereafter.
I've interviewed Vietnam veterans 15 years after their return, at a VA hospital in Palo Alto, some of them weeping, who had been within one or two steps of suicide and were still haunted by nightmares. It's called Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome now. In 1945 it wasn't recognized. Audie Murphy, our most decorated soldier, suffered from it all of his life and finally took to sleeping with a pistol under his pillow. In retrospect it seems like a miracle that it only claimed one casualty more out of the three heroes.
A well-done film, tragic and, frankly, educational if we're open to the lesson it teaches: war is pretty hard on people, even after the smoke clears and we raise the flag.
After hearing what critics said about this film, I got it out from the
library and watched it. Clint Eastwood directed this film
fantastically! Even script is quite decent.
This movie tells the story about the battle of Iwo Jima, but also about the flag-raisers, how they have memories of their time on the Island, showing flashbacks. This movie is portrayed so beautifully. I just love the cinematography. I like some action and I think there is enough in this film, though the screenwriters may have spread them out a bit too much, making them appear only occasionally. Another thing I do not like about this movie is that it tells more about the American flag-raisers of the Island being honoured for putting up a flag, less about them at Iwo Jima. This film's review is 7.3 stars. I believe it deserves much more, like 8.3, but it would probably have got it if action sequences were longer and they revealed more of Iwo Jima.
I would recommend this highly to fans of Clint Eastwood's films. I love it, though there could be a bit more improvements to the script. Then I would give it 10/10 stars.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The manner in which this story is told is creative although that creativity makes it just a little hard to follow. Told in the flashback and time line varying manner that it is has a distinct creative flare that gives the story a greater touch of reality but does cause a bit of confusion as to what character is experiencing the flashback or who is talking etc. The cinematography and imaging is excellent. The sound quality good. The themes bring wonderful insight. The fact that war is not a heroic effort and the hurt all around that war brings, the catch-22 of success in war is demonstrated in the movie through the parallel indirect and similarly devastating fallout among the families at home and military that survived the battle. It's not a place of joy for anyone in any time or place. It serves as a great piece to motivate consideration of a host of topics; the media's role in the opinions of military pursuits; the military's support of it's own; the political machine of battle; what is a hero?; how a moment in time defines or changes a reality etc.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
First off, I'd like to make it known that I did like the movie. In
fact, I've watched it several times and I like it more with every
viewing. I actually think 7 is a fairly high rating, seeing as there
are very few movies I consider 10 worthy.
Clint Eastwood had a challenge on his hands from the very beginning, because he was basing a film off of an absolutely amazing book. The book is an 11 out of 10. The book is so detailed, powerful, and well-written that there was no way a movie could ever measure up. Flags of Our Fathers could have easily been a mini-series. Movies could be made individually about each six of these men (and in Ira's case, they have been). But there's no comparing to the kind on insight a book can give you. If you haven't read the book, you should. Magnificent doesn't even begin to cover it. But, I'm not here to advertise for James Bradley. So on to the movie:
I could deal with the over-dramatized war bond tour and the jumbled time-line. I thought Ryan Phillippe and Adam Beach did very well as their roles as John "Doc" Bradley and Ira Hayes. I could have done without Jesse Bradford, but I think he did play Rene like he was instructed to. He succeeded in making about everyone want to strangle him, which was probably the objective. I always saw Rene as more naive and less of an opportunistic idiot, but I could see where this interpretation of him came from.
However, I would have rated this movie as an 8 or maybe even a 9 if it wasn't for the fact that it gives next to no insight on the other three flagraisers. These three men were just as heroic, just as dynamic, and just as fascinating as Doc, Rene, and Ira. Also, I think we would have found they were cast extremely well if we would have had more of an opportunity to meet them. I personally adore Barry Pepper, and was very excited when I found out he'd be playing Mike Strank, the flagraiser whose story affected me the most. Joseph Cross was perfect as Franklin Sousley, and I really wish we could have seen more of him. In the very few lines Benjamin Walker has, he seems to have been a pretty good match for Harlon Block as well.
But in the movie, we never learn what makes these men tick. How Czech immigrant Mike could have avoided military service all together, but instead became the only one of the flagraisers to enlist before America entered the war. How Harlon joined the Marines with his high school football team, despite his religious beliefs objecting to war. How both of these men correctly predicted that this time, they wouldn't be coming back. We never learn how the other boys loved Franklin for his country humor, brewing moonshine in his tent and proudly telling anyone who would listen how happy he was to be a Marine. Harlon's mother had more screen time than him! The last straw for me was when Harlon and Franklin's pictures weren't even included in the ending credits. They at least deserved that tiny honor.
As for the positive aspects of this film, and there were plenty, the battle scenes were amazing. The musical score was also outstanding, and the filmmakers really outdid themselves at the end. The scene with the men swimming, the last moment of carefree fun for many of them, while Captain Severance looks on and James Bradley gives his final narrative, was nothing short of powerful. And the line, "They fought for their country, but they died for their friends," is perfect.
So, 7/10. If you haven't read the book already, please do so. I think it will make you appreciate both the movie and the sacrifices these men made a lot more.
A humble portrayal of war and an unflinching look at the
behind-the-scenes business process, Clint Eastwood's 'Flags of our
Fathers' isn't so much a war epic than it is about the brave souls who
fought and lost their lives to its cause. With beautiful art direction,
cinematography, a strong ensemble cast, fine direction, and intelligent
script, 'Flags' is a sweeping and meaningful masterpiece.
The turning point of World War II is right around the corner as the United States prepares to invade the volcanic island of Iwo Jima as apart of their Pacific offensive push. Yet many of those who will fight for America will not be war-torn military veterans, but teenagers. As young as eighteen-years-old. Preparing for the heat of battle, many of these soldiers will lose their lives on that desolate island. But for those who do survive, the road to recovery will be just as difficult. For those captured in one of history's most famous moments, the raising of the American flag at the top of the island, they will be launched on a whirlwind of promotion back in their homeland. All the while, separated from their men who still fight, and deeply troubled with their 'hero' status.
Though 'Flags' portrays events that happened over fifty years ago, much of it still rings true today, as barely legal adults continue to fight and lose their lives in overseas conflicts. This isn't an anti-war statement, but rather a critical look at a less glamorous side of war the public often never sees. That, and the after effects of war of those survivors happen to be the main focus of 'Flags'. Those expecting a picture in the footsteps like that of 'Saving Private Ryan' will be in for a rude awakening. The war scenes are told primarily through flashback sequences, which involves breathtaking scenery created to convey the desolation, and desperation, of a place like Iwo Jima. These scenes are brutal and painfully realistic, and is one of the film's many strong points.
Eastwood takes on a vastly different tone when he takes the audience away from battle and into the shoes of those young soldiers caught in a media frenzy as a result of one remarkable photograph. It casts America as a giant business selling a product that could either make or break them. Is it critical? Yes. The Japanese aren't the enemy this time, only ourselves. Its message of what it means to be a hero hits hard, because it's very true. These were young souls fighting our war, and when they fought, the weren't dying for their country. They were dying for their friends.
'Flags of our Fathers' asks a lot from their mostly young cast, and they all perform wonderfully. Ryan Phillipe, 'Flags' is told mostly through his eyes or through the narration of his character's son, is remarkably good. His ability to carry a movie is becoming stronger, and he fits into his role perfectly as a usually reserved and soft-spoken man caught in the middle of unwanted fame. Jesse Bradford follows up his performance in 2005's best film, 'Heights', with another demanding role, this time as a goof who's more than willing to give up his weapons for fame. But the performance of the film unquestionably goes to Adam Beach, who comes face to face with his inner demons along the way.
In the end, 'Flags of our Fathers' is a film that overwhelmingly succeeds as a group effort. Masterful direction on the part of Clint Eastwood, a smart and powerful script from 'Crash' writer Paul Haggis, a talented young cast, and a dedicated team who works to make 'Flags' a visually stunning film with a fantastic vintage look. An underrated and must-see film, 'Flags' is an admirable dedication to the greatest generation who were forced to grow up all too soon. The war is history, but the message conveyed still runs through our history even today.
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