Unfortunately for Clint Eastwood he is almost hurt by the fact that he has directed three exceptional films in a row. "Unforgiven", "Mystic River" and "Million Dollar Baby" were all great films and so now we all have very high expectations when we hear that Mr. Eastwood has a new film coming out. The critics, even before one of his films is released, are proclaiming Oscar nominations picture-wide. All get really excited and tend to put the cart before the horse. With "Flags of Our Fathers" the cart runs over the horse, several times.
February 1945 the United States, even though it had joined the war long after many other countries, was a country that was broke and tired of war. The American Army was worried about running out of tanks, planes and ammunition and the American people were no longer giving money to fund the war. Everyone wanted it to be over. But it wasn't over. American soldiers were still fighting the Japanese. They had decided to attack the Japanese island of Iwo Jima, a small island that was significant geographically and as such the Japanese had 12,000 men defending it. The battle for Iwo Jima became one of the bloodiest, for both sides, during the Pacific campaign. Once the United States had gained a foothold on the island a troop was sent to the top of a mountain to plant the American flag. Hank Hanson (Paul Walker – The Fast and the Furious, Eight Below) was among the men that raised that flag. A Captain indicates that he wants the flag for a keepsake, so Captain Severence (Neal McDonough – Minority Report, Angels in the Outfield) sends John 'Doc' Bradley (Ryan Phillippe – Gosford Park, Crash), Rene Gagnon (Jesse Bradford – Bring It On, Presumed Innocent), Native American soldier Ira Hayes (Adam Beach – Windtalkers, Mystery, Alaska), Ralph 'Iggy' Ignatowski (Jamie Bell – King Kong, Billy Elliot), Harlon Block (Benjamin Walker – Kinsey), and Mike Strank (Barry Pepper – The Green Mile, Saving Private Ryan) to put up another flag. Photographer Joe Rosenthal (Ned Eisenberg – World Trade Center, Million Dollar Baby) takes a photo of the men raising the flag and it becomes the most famous American photo from World War II. Iggy, Harlon and Mike are killed during the bloody battles that followed, but Ira, Doc and Rene are shipped back home to be used to sell war bonds to the American people. They are sent all over the country and hailed as war heroes in order to get people to donate money to the war cause. This being used as spokesmen for all those fighting the war takes its toll on the three men.
The film is a long and thoughtful one told from the viewpoint of Doc's son writing a story about his father and the troops at Iwo Jima after his father has died. Most of the war scenes are told in series of flashbacks which occasionally renders it confusing as to who's who. Unlike most war films I found the film often long-winded and boring. Don't get me wrong, there are a number of battle scenes with plenty of blood and guts but it's really come to a point where I've seen it all before. You have to do more than that to keep me interested; I need the film to tell me something new and I don't think this film did that. Eastwood does do a good job not glorifying war; he really shows it in all its glory and horror. War is not pretty or glorious and he does well illustrating that point. Even in war there are people who will make the most of the opportunities given to them, whether on the battlefield or off. The film is all about how war is about heroes and bad guys and the marketing of the heroes in order to forward your side. In actuality the photo, since it was really the second raising of the flag, was a phony, but that did not stop the businessmen who saw their opportunity to make money. Heroes and patriotism was sold to the American people in order to fund the war. If this was the message of the movie then how come so much of the film was about the battles at Iwo Jima? Why did we need to see so many? I found that Eastwood did not really know what to say so he kinda meandered around for 2 hours. The honesty of the film also makes it all that more plodding. This is not a good thing for a war film to be. For me, "Flag of Our Fathers" is a rare miss for director Clint Eastwood as he jumps around a lot without really making any point with the film.
-Available Subtitles: English, Spanish