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Review: Flags of Our Fathers

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Eastwood scores another winner with Flags of Our Fathers, solidifying him as one of the great filmmakers of our time. Read on:

Hey, everyone. Capone in Chicago here. Whenever a film is released that seems so obviously aimed at winning awards, my defenses rise up and my cynicism kicks into overdrive. But the simple fact remains that some “event” films are actually good enough to deserve every last accolade they will inevitably generate.

The undeniable fact remains that Clint Eastwood is one of our greatest living filmmakers, and never has he been so clearly angling for awards as he is with Flags of Our Fathers. Does that mean the movie is not good? Absolutely not. The story behind the six men who raised the flag at the Battle of Iwo Jima, which resulted in the single most famous wartime image in history, is beyond fascinating. Eastwood has gone the extra step to tell this story right by hiring two-time Oscar winner Paul Haggis (Crash, Million Dollar Baby) to co-write the screenplay (with William Broyles Jr.), and the results are largely phenomenal and endlessly fascinating, especially to those who know nothing about the true facts behind this legendary flag event.

The battle scenes–and there are many of them–are some of the bloodiest a studio film has ever released, and I applaud Eastwood and Co. for giving an unflinching look at how dirty, gory, and borderline unmentionable this part of WWII really was. But fighting isn’t what this movie is about. Flags of Our Fathers is about manufacturing heroes during wartime. There is absolutely no doubt that the men in the flag-raising photo are heroes (three of them died on that same battlefield), but as the truth is revealed to us about the circumstances of that event, one can’t help but be reminded of the military repeatedly inventing or exaggerating events during wartime to generate support for causes and wars that may not have been popular at the time. For those who don’t know the details, I’ll let the movie tell the facts. Part of the entertainment value of the film is learned piece by piece the truth. But the rest of the film follows the three surviving soldiers in the photo as they are sent across the country to drum up support for the war and drive war bond sales.

The events these three men attend are often embarrassing and troubling to them, as they are faced time after time with the image of them with that flag. What troubles them the most is that one of the men who died was misidentified in the original photograph, and the family of the real sixth man don’t find out for many years that it was their son in the photo. But more than that, the three men feel more like mascots than soldiers.

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