Saturday, October 28, 2006

Flags of Our Fathers

After seeing Flags of Our Father — directed by Clint Eastwood and produced by Clint Eastwood and Stephen Spielberg — this afternoon in a theater, I now finally understand and appreciate Johnny Cash’s "The Ballad of Ira Hayes” (1964). Ira Hayes was one of the U.S. Marines who raised the flag atop of the Japanese Island Iwo Jima in February of 1945.

Flags opened in theaters on October 20, 2006. It was filmed very much like Tom Hanks and Stephen Spielberg’s Band of Brothers. Overall, I enjoyed Flags of Our Father. It was worth its R rating. The violence and language was harsh at times but not gratuitous. The action was very much in keeping with Band of Brothers (2001). (I read somewhere that Stephen Spielberg is preparing a “World War II Pacific theater” version of the “European theater” Band of Brothers.)

The battle scenes in Flags showed vividly the horror of war. Its was not on the war in the Pacific or even on the Battle of Iwo Jima, but rather both served as a backdrop to the story of the particular men who raised the flag. It alternated between the events on Iwo Jima leading up to (and shortly afterwards) the flag raising, and the heroic acclaim that the survivors of the flag raising received as part of a campaign to raise War Bonds to support the United States' effort in World War II. John "Doc" Bradley (Ryan Phillippe), Rene Gagnon (Jesse Bradford), Ira Hayes (Adam Beach) and Keyes Beech (John Benjamin Hickey) were the central characters. The ordinariness, duty, heroics, and deference to the men who lost their lives at Iwo Jima make these characters noble. Adam Beach should surely get a supporting actor nomination for his portrayal of Ira Hayes!

War is real and the Iwo Jima story is real. Flags was especially edifying because it stuck to the “war and flag tour story” and did not get wrapped-up in any particular ideology as contemporary war-themed movies tend to. This movie is not for the “faint of heart”. If one is squeamish or otherwise would have trouble digesting the violence in the context of a battle, then perhaps another movie would be a safer bet. If you really enjoyed Band of Brothers —as I certainly did — then Flags of Our Father should be on your "must see" list.

Clint Eastwood's companion movie Letters From Iwo Jima will be released in Japan on December 9, 2006.

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