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Flags Of Our Fathers (2006)   rating

Review: written 2008

Worthy effort, scattershot result

 Flags Of Our Fathers (2006)

This is one of those movies of which each of the ingredients makes your mouth water, yet the sum of the parts leaves a slightly flat taste.

First of all, let’s say, this is a film worth watching, with an interesting message, great cinematography and terrific acting. However, the decision to straddle two types of story weakens the stories impact, and the end result feels just a little too unfocussed to really work well.

The story follows 3 of the surviving men of the famous photo of raising the flag on Iwo Jima. The photo becomes an iconic image of victory, and the government seizes the opportunity to use the survivors to tour the US exhorting the public to buy War Bonds. To understand the film a little better, it is necessary to go in realizing that this is not a historical dramatization of the Battle of Iwo Jima in the traditional war movie sense, although scenes from that conflict are brutally and realistically portrayed, in true post-Ryan terms. It really only shows those war scenes as scattered flashbacks of the veterans as they are paraded around America to help sell the war. In using the flashbacks to show the battle, we are being led to understand not what the moment of war itself is like, but how the memories of certain moments within a war can stay with you and haunt you, or in the case of Ira Hayes, drive you to drink. It's a different way of looking at the horror of war than we usually get - however the effect of that is weakened by layering another level of flashbacks to the same events, viewed as the son of one of the men interviews his fathers friends to find out more about what happened to him. It's an unnecessary complication which weakens the movie. A second theme is the obvious one about the role of propaganda - how the act of allowing a lie to sell the truth becomes its own form of corruption.

And so, we go bouncing between these two central ideas as we see how the 3 survivors react differently to their new found `fame'. The leads are all fine, and the cinematography as we have come to expect in an Eastwood movie is great - but the end result feels like it has just a little too much baggage to work efficiently - but flawed as it is, it is still worth a look.

 Flags Of Our Fathers (2006)

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