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Flags Of Our Fathers

  • Film

Time Out says

Given the current, artistically impoverished state of the Hollywood machine, the announcement of a new project about the US forces’ taking of the Pacific island of Iwo Jima in 1945 would normally have made you fear the worst – save that the director was to be Clint Eastwood. With Altman gone and Malick making films far too rarely, Clint’s is about the most dependable pair of hands you could wish on such a subject – dependable not in the sense that he’s predictable (other than predictably good), but precisely because he’s one of very few around with sufficient clout, nous and courage to go down unexpected paths.

Hence we have a war-is-hell movie; a tribute to soldierly courage; an analysis of the role of imagery in both propaganda and private and collective memory; a scathing portrait of political exploitation and deceit; a study of social upheaval and injustice; an interrogation of notions of heroism; and an extremely moving account of the sacrifices stoically made by an entire generation, all cohering in one magnificent film. The pivotal narrative moment is the raising of the US flag by a small group of soldiers on Mount Suribachi during the hellish campaign to wrest the isle from 20,000 Japanese troops; but from those few seconds, famously photographed by Associated Press’s Joe Rosenthal and plastered on enough front pages to revive enthusiasm for a flagging war effort, Eastwood’s film radiates in all kinds of directions in terms of character, chronology and theme.

Which means the precise details of the story are sometimes tricky to follow; that’s normal in a genre with endless blood- and mud-spattered young men shouting and struggling their way through noisy carnage, but accentuated here by Eastwood’s typically nocturnal lighting, by the fragmented, multi-perspective narrative, and by many characters being shown both in callow youth and mutely haunted old age. But three soldiers stand out: Doc Bradley (Ryan Phillippe), Rene Gagnon (Jesse Bradford) and Ira Hayes (Adam Beach), rushed home by the government to reenact the flag-raising for a hero-hungry public expected to buy war bonds. Switching between their experiences in Iwo Jima and back home, the film probes the gulf between the horrific realities of war and the expedient lies perpetrated by the authorities and temporarily welcomed by a supportive but gullible public an ocean away.

The relevance of all this to today’s situation is crystal-clear, but like everything else in the film, it’s handled with an understatement characteristic of Eastwood at his very best. The movie could hardly be more different from the pat(riotic) sentimentality of ‘Saving Private Ryan’ (even though Spielberg here co-produces); here, the feelings run very deep, and dark as dried blood, with Clint aware that some things don’t need to be said and others shouldn’t be shown. Eastwood’s ‘Letters from Iwo Jima’, treating the same conflict from the Japanese perspective, is eagerly awaited.
Written by Geoff Andrew

Release Details

  • Rated:15
  • Release date:Friday 22 December 2006
  • Duration:131 mins

Cast and crew

  • Director:Clint Eastwood
  • Screenwriter:Paul Haggis, William Broyles Jr
  • Cast:
    • Jamie Bell
    • Adam Beach
    • Paul Walker
    • Barry Pepper
    • Ryan Phillippe
    • John Benjamin Hickey
    • John Slattery
    • Jesse Bradford
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