© Warner Bros. Pictures Germany

Flags of our Fathers
U.S.A. 2006

Opening 28 Dec 2006

Directed by: Clint Eastwood
Writing credits: William Broyles Jr., Paul Haggis
Principal actors: Ryan Phillippe, Jesse Bradford, Adam Beach, John Benjamin Hickey, John Slattery

One war photo from World War II told a thousand words, each different depending upon the viewer. It depicted six brave soldiers raising an American flag over a pile of rocks and looks as if they are risking death under the rockets’ red glare, the bombs busting in air. Not true. The film tells the real story.

The initial surge onto the Japanese island of Iwo Jima by 33,000, and later 73,000, American soldiers was temporarily over. There was a lull in the fighting when soldiers leisurely raised a flag. It was so peaceful that a politician visited the battle field. Seeing Old Glory flapping from the highest point called Mount Suribachi, he desired it for a souvenir. The soldiers agreed to keep it themselves (who knows where it is today) and raised a second flag to fly “for the politician’s den back home.” This event was photographed by Joe Rosenthal for Associated Press. The fighting continued 30 more days and three of the six died. The remaining three were sent back to the U.S. to sell war bonds to supplement the American treasury which had a 14 billion dollar deficit. People cheered the heroes in huge football stadiums, heroes who became more and more uncomfortable in the role forced upon them.

The story, told in flashbacks, is too long and confusing. Perhaps readers of the bestseller of the same name by James Bradley will find it easier to follow. It is filmed in grey, white, and black to look like an old 50s film, with endless scenes of yet one more soldier’s eyelids fluttering to a close as he sinks into merciful death, his intestines oozing onto the ground. In spite of the weaknesses, director Clint Eastwood is to be admired for slaving away at yet another blockbuster (the scenes of thousands of ships is impressive; an old-fashioned war is a relief from the current conflicts on TV). He’ll probably be up for some more Oscars for this one, after MillionDollar Baby, as it declares “a hero is somebody we create, who acts not for his country but for his buddies.” Europeans will decide it is rah-rah Americanism, but you can’t please everyone. Ryan Phillippe is a sight for sore gay eyes in his little sailor suit, looking like he came straight off the stage with the Village People; at least you can differentiate him from the other soldiers, who, Japanese as well as American, all look alike. (Becky Tan)

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