Shot Seen Around the World

In an age where pop culture relegates heroism to having super powers, it’s nice to have films like “Flags of Our Fathers” that elevates the term to a human level. Clint Eastwood’s war drama takes a look behind a famous snapshot: six soldiers raising an American flag in Iwo Jima. Half of these young men never made it back alive. The movie gets its deets from three surviving soldiers: John “Doc” Bradley (Ryan Philippe), Rene Gagnon (Jesse Bradford), and Ira Hayes (Adam Beach).

Remember “Saving Private Ryan”? At the time, we’re in awe at the way Spielberg puts us right in the middle of a hellish battle. “Flags” follows suit and it doesn’t skimp on the torrential rain of bullets, booming explosions, and display of carnage. To my surprise however, “Flags of Our Fathers” accomplishes more than “Saving Private Ryan.” The latter mostly takes place within battlegrounds, while the former expands its story beyond battlefields and remains to be still powerful and gripping. The story after the war, with its compelling tale behind the picture, is fascinating to me. The film also enlightens us on war propaganda and the unspectacular journey of heroic soldiers after the war. Eastwood and his writers admirably combine the horrors of war and its traumatizing aftermath really well. This might be the most complete war movie I’ve seen.

Actors Ryan Philippe, Adam Beach, and Jesse Bradford are all fine. Bradford, with his boyish grins and suppressed cockiness, makes a nice contrast to Beach’s haunted and miserable visage. Philippe, meanwhile, keeps a steady face and demeanor, perhaps numb from shielding away memories of horror. Having read some people’s reactions, I honestly expected to be bored but I found “Flags of Our Fathers” to be a powerful film. Clint Eastwood is my hero right now. The man has been consistent lately in delivering powerful motion pictures. While “Flags of Our Fathers” is an emotionally complex film, Eastwood has a way bringing home its point with staggering minimalism. War might be this significant and grand event in history, but it’s nowhere near compelling next to the simplicity of a man.

Grade: A

Ryan Phillippe, Jesse Bradford, Adam Beach, Barry Pepper, John Benjamin Hickey, John Slattery, Paul Walker, and Jamie Bell
Based on the book by
James Bradley and Ron Powers
Screenplay by
William Broyles Jr.
Paul Haggis
Directed by
Clint Eastwood
Rated R or sequences of graphic war violence and carnage, and for language