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"Flags of Our Fathers"

Directed by Clint Eastwood.
Written by William Broyles, Jr. and Paul Haggis.  Based on the book by James Bradley and Ron Powers.
Starring Ryan Phillippe, Jesse Bradford, Adam Beach and Barry Pepper.
Release Year:  2006
Review Date:  10/25/06

Folks-- 

I feel like you can't pass through a given month anymore without running through some kind of World War II media, be it film, TV show, book, video game, you name it.  "Flags of Our Fathers" is another long, bloody WWII epic...but, why is this one so different?

Well, whenever you attach Clint Eastwood to a project, you know you are going to get quality, and in "Flags of Our Fathers", the angle that is taken with this war isn't so much the presentation of combat realism or unit camaraderie but instead...political fundraising?!  On Imo Jima near the end of the war, U.S. forces were charged with storming a strategic small island to capture one of the more important forward bases in the Japanese regime...and, to great fanfare, the capturing of the island was the impetus for lawmakers back here in the States to change strategy and use a single photograph as the initial step in marketing war bonds as the most important financial investment Americans could have.  At the front of the marketing campaign were three of the six soldiers that helped hoist the flag that fateful day on Imo Jima--soldiers "Doc" Bradley (Ryan Phillippe), Rene Gagnon (Jesse Bradford) and American Indian marine Ira Hayes (Adam Beach).  Skipping back and forth through time, we meet the recruits, see them in action on the island, hoisting the flag, living with fame once returning from action and living life as senior citizens flashing back to all of the above.

It's a new twist on this format, one hinted at during the seminal WWII work of the last ten years, "Band of Brothers"; instead of just one flashback from a surviving soldier to start an episode, we get a three-headed monster--recollections of the critical participants told to the son of Doc in the present (Thomas McCarthy), action on the island, and the many weeks spent on tour with the three men as they played along with Uncle Sam to promote the war bonds in order to raise money for a war that ultimately was almost over.  This works masterfully; although the acting of our principals is a little stiff in the bond promotional tour sequences, the story that is being told is interesting as a domestic snow job on the part of government officials, as we find out over the course of the film that these men weren't even the ones that hoisted the "real" flag on the island (and you have to see the flick to know what I mean).  Further, it's intriguing that the flag hoisting is done at a point where the island hasn't even been fully captured yet--over the course of the next week or so, U.S. troops eventually overtake the Japanese but not before heavy casualties take the lives of a few other men who hoisted the flag in the first place.

The combination of a story that I was unfamiliar with alongside another WWII experience with strong, brutal, harrowing war action sequences made "Flags of Our Fathers" a great viewing experience.  As usual, two or three more insights into what it must have been like to fight a war like this were interesting; I never get tired of watching the tough guy about to be slaughtered bits, this time featuring Barry Pepper and Paul Walker as two of the men who ultimately will bite it while fighting the "Japs" (this is not a surprise, as you are told this early in the film); Eastwood does a great job of illustrating what it might be like to live in constant fear after coming home from a war where you just barely dodge death about a dozen times a day.

As I mentioned, the acting just feels more wooden than would be expected of the three leads; also, the film doesn't wrap as well as I had hoped.  Otherwise, "Flags of Our Fathers" is a strong, solid work; knowing the Academy's love for Clint, I could imagine this puppy being included in Oscar talk.  Check it out...good stuff.

Rating:  $9.50 Show

 

Comments?  Drop me a line at justin@bellviewmovies.com.

 

Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/bellviewmovies.com except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09