I’m right down the middle on “Flags of our Fathers”
There’s some good stuff in here but there it’s over edited. It’s like Eastwood wanted to shoot a war movie but later realized that the point was real heroism verses heroism by fame. So he chopped it up. There are two other, more likely, reasons for the strange flashback/flash forward style. The first is that all the stuff on the home front was dramatic but boring and the interjected, slowly evolving, war story helped break up the potential monotony.
Another possible reason is that Iwojiima didn’t lend itself to story. Like most major battles there are a thousand stories and you have to pick one and follow it. Unlike the war in Europe much of the fighting in Asia wasn’t witnessed by a civilian population (millions of empathetic peers). Another difference is that wars are fought differently in Asia. Secret societies, assassins, psychological warfare, and guerrilla warfare were perfected throughout Asia. In some ways we were as surprised by the way war happens in the orient as the British were by the way war is fought in America during the revolution. Viet Nam proves this point.
In Viet Nam however the controversy became a huge target for movies. The entire Japanese front in WWII was the victim of the glorious early days in Europe. From General George C. Marshal turning a 40 thousand man army into a 5 million man army in time for D day, to the creation of new paratrooper divisions, our entry into a war and drive for quick victory against the back drop of our own ancestral homes makes an easy story. The Japanese were considered a strange enemy with a strange culture. We fought for desolate piles of rock in the middle of the pacific. It was tremendously expensive and it was the bitter end of our resources and resolve. It was a tough story.
What about the “R” Rating?
This is a war movie and it is graphically violent. You either like this kind of film or you don’t. If we look at “Saving Private Ryan” as the benchmark this movie is roughly equivalent. Unlike Ryan this movie breaks up the fighting scenes giving us a chance to be re-shocked with each scene of violence.
This one thing is noteworthy. There is a character that was taken prisoner and tortured by the enemy. His remains are found, but not shown. We are only shown the response of another character when he sees them. My hat is off to Mr. Eastwood for using this classic technique rather than trying to prove that modern special effects are up to any challenge. It allows our imagination to fill in the details and it relies on the actor to convey an emotion, ie act.
What if I hate Clint Eastwood?
Then you aren’t an American. Come on you’d hate Dirty Harry. That’s like hating Jimmy Stuart. He doesn’t appear in the film, but he seems to have done everything else including some of the music.
The major theme of the movie is heroism real and imagined. This movie has a lot to say on the topic and it’s interesting that it would be directed by Clint Eastwood—who doubtless wonders about movie “action heroes.” Most of the hero stuff in this movie is true and well stated. Unfortunately it’s berried a bit behind a very subtle anti-war theme.
The storyline of the film is a son having to go to great lengths to discover who his father is. He finds out that not only was his father set up as a hero but he really was a hero. Most importantly he comes to terms with the reason his father never opened up with the details of his life. It’s very likely that this movie will resonate with a lot of men and I have refrained from dogging it despite some of its aspects which failed. As a whole the picture worked.