I had missed the press screeening of Flags of Our Fathers, so I took advantage of my PGA membership and hit up an awards screening this afternoon. The film focuses on the battle of Iwo Jima in World War Two as seen from the side of the American’s. The film is told in flashbacks as James Bradley (Thomas McCarthy) is researching what his father did during the war. Apparently his father, John “Doc” Bradley (Ryan Phillipe) was one of them men that supposedly were in the famed photograph of the marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima, along with Rene Gagnon (Jesse Bradford) and Ira Hayes (Adam Beach). The film ultimately tells the tale of the battle of Iwo Jima, as well as the propoganda campaign afterwards using the flag-raising photograph, and the three men who were supposedly in it, to help the war effort.
The film was directed by Clint Eastwood, and he does a very solid job with the pacing and direction of the film. He solidly conveys the messages about heroism – and the appearance of heroism – through the primary characters, as the struggle with the horrors of war, and the guilt of their fallen comrades. The controversy over the actual flagraising is addressed as well, as it turns out there were two flags raised. Eastwood’s depiction of war is brutal and unforgiving, and it’s not for the faint of heart.
The visual effects were handled by Digital Domain, and they did a kickass job for the most part. Some of the best shots involving the battle were the aerial shots of the entire fleet converging on Iwo Jima. It felt so natural and unobtrusive, but was significat and expansive in it’s scope. One thing that didn’t work for me was the music. Eastwood wrote the score (with Lennie Neihaus orchestrating and conducting), and it’s a rather simplistic tune that reminds me a lot of the beginning of “America the Beautiful”. It works the first few times, but by the end of the film, it’s been so hammered into you that it loses the impact. Still, the end credits of the film are necessary to sit through, as archival photos from Iwo Jima – and the flag raising – are shown. It’s a powerful and moving tribute to the men who fought on that rock to protect us from the Japanese.
Some moments of the film hint at events that will undoubtedly be fleshed out in the companion film that Eastwood directed, Letters from Iwo Jima. That film will be out in February, and show the Japanese side of the battle. I look forward to seeing how it intersects with Flags of Our Fathers, although I know it’s going to be quite a tragedy of a story. Produced by Eastwood and Steven Spielberg, this film is sure to get a lot of notice, and it’s definitely worth checking out.