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  Publicity Stills of "Flags Of Our Fathers"
(Courtesy from Warner Bros)

Genre: Action/Drama/History/War
Director: Clint Eastwood
Cast: Ryan Phillippe, Jesse Bradford, Adam Beach, Paul Walker, Jamie Bell, Barry Pepper and John Benjamin Hickey
RunTime: 2 hrs 12 mins
Released By: Warner Bros
Rating: NC-16 (War Violence)

Opening Day: 30 November 2006



Synopsis :

From Academy Award-winning director Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby, Unforgiven) comes the World War II drama Flags of Our Fathers, produced by Eastwood and Academy Award winner Steven Spielberg (Saving Private Ryan, Schindler’s List).

February 1945. Even as victory in Europe was finally within reach, the war in the Pacific raged on. One of the most crucial and bloodiest battles of the war was the struggle for the island of Iwo Jima, which culminated with what would become one of the most iconic images in history: five Marines and a Navy corpsman raising the American flag on Mount Suribachi.

The inspiring photo capturing that moment became a symbol of victory to a nation that had grown weary of war and made instant heroes of the six American soldiers at the base of the flag, some of whom would die soon after, never knowing that they had been immortalized. But the surviving flag raisers had no interest in being held up as symbols and did not consider themselves heroes; they wanted only to stay on the front with their brothers in arms who were fighting and dying without fanfare or glory.

Flags of Our Fathers is based on the bestselling book by James Bradley with Ron Powers, which chronicled the battle of Iwo Jima and the fates of the flag raisers and some of their brothers in Easy Company. Bradley’s father, John “Doc” Bradley, was one of the soldiers pictured raising the flag, although James never knew the full extent of his father’s experiences until after the elder Bradley’s death in 1994.

Movie Review:

There are some things which we have to remember for the rest our lives. As much as we want to forget, circumstances just do not allow us to. It does not help that these memories are not happy ones, and you’d have to live with them till a ripe old age.

Sadder still is the fact that sometimes, these haunting recollections have to hide behind a hero’s celebrated image.

This emotionally-draining film explores this bleak theme, focusing on the tormented lives of three surviving men who raised the American flag during World War II on the tiny island of Iwo Jima. These soldiers were made heroes upon their return to America, gracing countless publicity events to stir hope for their country. But these three men soon realize that there are personal demons to counter amidst all the splendor, fame and attention they are getting.

The real heroes of the war are either dead, or out there fighting battles. They are merely undeserving symbols.

As any respected history academic would tell you, the photograph of the six men raising the glorious American flag would go on to win a Pulitzer Prize, and become an inspiration to Americans. But what most people do not know is the desolate stories behind it.

Adapted from a book written by James Bradley and Ron Powers, this Clint Eastwood-directed feature paints a depressing yet thought-provoking picture about the notion of heroism. You empathize with the protagonists while watching the film, because you feel their helplessness. This strikes upon their individual realizations that they are not all worthy of the titles of being war heroes.

And to create that mood, the film clouds you with drab and bland shades of cinematography throughout its runtime of 132 minutes. This may be a test of patience and tolerance for some viewers who are more used to bright and cheery colors in their movies.

Another aspect of the movie that may put the mainstream audience off is its unhurried pacing. The plot takes its time to develop, switching between flashbacks and present, and is definitely not your typical war movie with lots of action sequences.

Not that this movie is without its gritty moments, because the war scenes do feature some of the goriest and bloodiest dead bodies we have seen in a war flick.

In our humble opinion, this is probably Eastwood’s intention to construct an unappealing style in this movie. This is evident from his recent unentertaining but critically-acclaimed works Mystic River (2003) and Million Dollar Baby (2004).

And like most of his movies, this one features a capable cast. The vulnerable Ryan Phillippe, the proud Jesse Bradford and the tragic Adam Beach play the three unwilling heroes with perfect ease. Other brief but impressive performances come from Barry Pepper, Robert Patrick and Jamie Bell, just to name a few.

Before you accuse this film of being pro-America, and is simply Eastwood’s Oscar bait for next year, you may want to watch his next film Letters from Iwo Jima, due in theaters early next year.

Told from the perspective of the Japanese about the same war that was fought on the island, it would be a perfect companion piece to this movie.

Given this one’s mood, we predict that the movie starring Ken Watanabe would be another showcase of how history has its unwelcome consequences on human nature, and how it has impacted how we live today.

Movie Rating:

(A gloomy but provocative movie about how we perceive heroes, and the possible personal demons they are battling)

Review by John Li

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