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</script></div>{/googleAds}How do you even begin to dissect and critique a film like Flags of our Fathers? Clint Eastwood's adaptation of James Bradley's novel is heartfelt, insightful, and incredibly faithful to the original events as described both in history, and in the book. So why am I beginning this way? Because Flags of our Fathers is good... but it never even comes close to achieving greatness.

Eastwood seems to be striving for Oscar gold here, but instead comes up with a decent war film that won't stand the test of time like, say, Saving Private Ryan. Maybe it's unfair to draw comparisons, but Spielberg's involvement as a producer here, as well as his aforementioned accomplishment with Ryan, make it inevitable and only highlight the flaws of Eastwood's film.

First the positives:

Employing many of the same crew as he has on his last few films (such as Editor Joel Cox and Cinematographer Tom Stern) Eastwood has captured probably the most dazzling technical accomplishment of his career with this film. Some of the shots and POVs that Clint employs (especially during the battle scenes) are breathtaking, and even trump Saving Private Ryan in terms of visual poetry. The directing is to be commended all around in this regard.

The war scenes (what few there are) are also especially brutal and matter-of-fact in their depiction and serve to capture the dizziness and frustrations of war to great effect. Also, the closing moments of the film and the ultimate fate of some of the key characters speak volumes of Eastwood as a visionary storyteller. There is beautiful filmmaking at work here, and some of the effects are undeniable.

On to the negatives:

The acting. The casting. The structure of the storytelling. All of these (rather large) factors equal up to a most disappointing missing piece of this wartime puzzle. Of the three leads, Ryan Phillipe, Jesse Bradford, and Adam Beach, it's Beach who fares the best. He brings true pathos and sincerity to his portrayal of Ira Hayes, though his previous casting in John Woo's Windtalkers is unfortunate because it constantly pulls you out of the film. In the same vein, the great Barry Pepper also draws comparisons to his Saving Private Ryan character by being cast in a supporting role here as well as Lt. Mike Strank. Are there no other actors in Hollywood that were available and weren't in another war film in the last several years?

Ryan Phillippe (who has admittedly done some good work) is flat and emotionless here, as is Jesse Bradford. In fact, the way the film is structured, with flashbacks upon flashbacks (both the flag raising, its after-effects, and the present day story) doesn't do the actors any favors. I swear the middle section of the film seems to consist of the three leads repeatedly getting out of vehicles to attend some ceremony or event over, and over, and over... usually with Beach's character vomiting at the end of every scene from drunkenness. While there is some emotion to be drawn from these scenes, some of it comes off as being very... acted.

Still, as stated earlier, it's extremely hard to simply dismiss Clint Eastwood's take on Iwo Jima and the famous resulting photo as simply â"just another film." It is a reverent and, at times, visually arresting piece of filmmaking with possibly some of the best behind the camera work Clint has ever done. I'll also admit that the photos of the actual events (that play over the closing credits) almost make you appreciate the film more than you originally might have when you realize how close Eastwood got with his recreations.

Flags of our Fathers is not a terrible film by any means, nor is it a mediocre one. But it does suffer greatly from some odd acting and casting choices and a jumbled screenplay. These elements don't sink the film, but they do hobble it quite a bit. Perhaps Eastwood's take on the Japanese perspective (Letters from Iwo Jima) will mask this film's flaws a bit more when taken as a whole.


DVD Details:

Screen formats: Widescreen Anamorphic 2.35:1

Subtitles: English, Spanish

Language and Sound: Closed Captioned; English: Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround; English: Dolby Digital 5.1; French: Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access.

* No extra features

Number of discs: - 1- Keepcase Packaging


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