(Review originally written at 13 July 2007)

No doubt that this is the biggest and most ambitious directing project of Clint Eastwood so far. People were already screaming for an Oscar win, before the movie was even being shot. Also not in the least because Steven Spielberg was producing and the story was being written by Oscar winner Paul Hagis. Eastwood + Spielberg + WW II seemed like real Oscar material.

I won't go as far as calling "Flags of Our Fathers" a failure, since it's definitely a well made movie but it's also definitely a over-ambitious project that tried to capture too much into the movie with as a result that nothing really fully works out. The movie does not only focus on the large American invasion but also on its aftermath with the 3 surviving flag raisers of Iwo Jima, of whom the famous photograph was taken, returning back to the United States, to raise money for the war-cause. The contrast between the battlefield sequences and the one's back in America is too big and it doesn't blend in very well. It makes the movie unbalanced. On top of that the movie is told non-linear and keeps switching back between what happened during the battle of Iwo Jima to the main characters and the events involving them back in the United States. It makes the storytelling even more unbalanced. The mixture of war elements and serious drama in this movie unfortunately does simply not work out. Spielberg's hand is also definitely present. Obviously the landing sequence on Iwo Jima reminded very much of the one in "Saving Private Ryan" with its style but the movie is also filled with some typical Spielberg sentiments, which is not necessarily a positive thing.

What also bothers me is that it nowhere in the movie fully gets explained why Iwo Jima was so important for the Americans to overtake and so important for the Japanese to defend. It also doesn't become clear in this movie why the battle of Iwo Jima is now know as such an important and well known one. So as a resource on the battle of Iwo Jima the movie just isn't much good. If you want to learn anything more about the battle of Iwo Jima this movie won't be the best resource for you.

This movie made me realize that Clint Eastwood just isn't the best action director in the business, which is sort of ironic, considering his own acting past. All of the war sequences are impressive looking and the scale is large but it's mostly just 'impressive' looking instead of 'shocking' or anything of that sort. Not sure if this was the approach they had in mind. It's perhaps also a reason why you don't ever really feel involved with any of the main characters. The actual battle is also told in a very desultory way. You just don't know who is fighting were at the moment and for what. And apparently the battle lasted 35 days, in the movie it seems 2 days at most.

The concept of the movie is great and intriguing. I mean, basically everyone in the world knows the famous photograph of the six soldiers raising the flag but few know the actual story around it. The photograph was back in the United States used as a symbol for hope and inspiration and to also show that the Allies were on the winning hand. This all very much to the displeasure of the surviving flag raisers, who were being shipped back to the United States to use their fame and reputation of 'heroes' to to raise money for the war-cause. The movie shows how one photograph can have an huge impact and change an entire countries perspective on WW II entirely, while in fact the symbol itself was a 'false' one.

The main actors were obviously cast because they looked like the real actual persons. It's probably the reason why the supporting cast is also far more interesting and better, with actors such as Robert Patrick, Neal McDonough, Harve Presnell, Gordon Clapp Jamie Bell and Barry Pepper.

But yes I probably make the movie sound worse than it actually is. "Flags of Our Fathers" is a good and interesting watch because of its concept. I however wish the execution of it all had been better, that way the movie would had been among the best of the year, no doubt.


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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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