Flags of Our Fathers

Film
SOLDIER OF MISFORTUNE Phillippe, left, braces himself for another bond drive.
SOLDIER OF MISFORTUNE Phillippe, left, braces himself for another bond drive.

Time Out says

Clint Eastwood really doesn’t have to be this impressive at this point. His Fordian Flags of Our Fathers is his largest production to date, half a humongous-feeling battle epic about the American sacking of Iwo Jima—complete with digital fleets of warships and zinging artillery—and half a surprisingly stinging drama about the fabrication of Joe Rosenthal’s iconic photo of six soldiers hoisting the flag (actually the replacement flag). The random snap ended up fueling a massive bond-selling effort, with the surviving three men exploited as reluctant celebrities. Only Nixon could go to China, and only Eastwood could get a film in malls with dialogue such as “Heroes are something we create, something we need.” Print the legend, indeed.

Like many war-film directors, Eastwood stumbles slightly on the battlefield, his dozens of speaking parts occasionally blurring into one indistinguishable dogface. (Cinematographer Tom Stern’s beautifully desaturated grays and blues compensate nicely.) But once Flags of Our Fathers arrives at its middle section, an extended sequence of the glitzy stateside publicity tour and its attendant mania, the film revs into high gear. Now Eastwood’s understated attention to performance shines, with Adam Beach forging the deepest impression as Native American Ira Hayes, haunted by the memory of his dead compatriots as he drunkenly mounts a papier-mch Mount Suribachi in Chicago’s cavernous Soldier Field for thousands of screaming patriots. Such pageantry rears its head with every conflict (“Mission Accomplished,” anyone?), but to situate it in the context of greatest-generation saintliness—and Rosenthal’s holy image—may be the most provocative act of Eastwood’s career. (Opens Fri; Click here for venues.)—Joshua Rothkopf

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