I saw this film when it first came out in the theater and still consider it one of the best movies made in 2006. Director Clint Eastwood brings a new light not one often seen or even heard of when war movies concerning WW2 are made. They say the fog of war can confuse, but for those on the home front, that fog can conceal as well. Flags of Our Fathers isn't about the battle for Iwo Jima or Mount Suribachi; it is about the men who came back home and what happened to them after.
The acting was magnificent on the whole. Adam Beach's portrayal of Ira Hayes was incredible, sincere yet strong. He gave Hayes well deserved respect. The same goes for the performances of Ryan Phillippe, who played John Bradley, and Jesse Bradford, who played Rene Gagnon. These three men were the story’s stars, but the film contained outstanding performances all the around. The movie starts out with Tom McCarthy as writer James Bradley who only after the death of his farther John asks that unnerving question, "Dad, what did you do in the war?" Eastwood then takes us on the path of that question and hence we follow these men from the landings at Iwo Jima to a desolate road in nowhere, U.S.A. where John and Ira cross paths one more time, yet it is only a fleeting glimpse.
If you think the politicians now in D.C. are spinmeisters, you should have been living back in the '40s. FDR was the master and at that time this country needed it, providing something to grasp onto, a light we could see at the end of the tunnel. It had already been four long years of war, and though the county itself hadn’t been attacked since 1941 with the exception of the Japanese balloon-bombs, people we starting to ask questions. Back then there was a government program everybody had to sign up for, be you rich or poor, it was called rationing. People had not been asked but pretty much ordered to give up certain things like butter and gas. So after four years of going quietly without, Americans were wondering if what was going on overseas was worth it. They saw the graveyards increasing but couldn't see the hope. The flag being raised on Mount Suribachi became the symbol of true American heroism. Hope exploded across the country and the three survivors are now asked to serve again, but this time in a road show of victory.
These men, who had been fought the toughest battle of World War Two were now asked to participate in a "dog and pony" show so the American people would reach deep into their pockets and buy war bonds. Based on the book by James Bradley and Ron Powers, Eastwood follows this part of the war story. What happens to these three men will dishearten the sternest patriot. To think this is the way we treat our real heroes, not the ones in the capes or those on the silver screen, but the men who give their lives to secure the freedom of this country, particularly back when heroes were definitely in demand during the Cold War peace. Eastwood doesn't come off trying to highlight this part of what happens, he follows the truth of where these men went after in what is still today one of the most recognized pictures the world over.
I have friends over in Afghanistan and Iraq and the one thing I have learned not to say to them when they come back is "I know what you must be going through," because I don't. No one knows what soldiers go through during war. Unless you have been there yourself, you have no idea what it is like. Eastwood goes for that feeling, the feeling that the rest of us cannot connect with, he tries to show that while we who have not been there can imagine, those who have been there can never shake it, no matter how hard they try.
For those of you who do not understand what the big deal is about I would suggest a viewing of this film followed by Letters From Iwo Jima for both movies give a chilling account of the scars of war. Eastwood doesn't forget his history either. He reminds us that yet this picture of the flag raising is the most famous, it wasn't the first. The original flag was hoisted at 10:20am of the same day, Feb. 23 1945, but the battle for the whole island was still underway and wouldn't end until March 16, 1945. These stories are here to remind us of the sacrifices others have made for us, but they also warn us of the risks we face when we blindly follow without knowing why.
Thank you Mr. Eastwood for making this movie and giving respect to those who honestly deserve it. Please see these movies.
The DVD contains only the movie. Hopefully, a special edition filled with archival material is in the works.
Written by Fumo Verde