February 21st: Picture Perfect

53. Flags of Our Fathers (Clint Eastwood, 2006)

I decided that I’d had quite enough horror for the time being so a switch was necessary. Clint Eastwood prepared a sort of double bill between this and Letters From Iwo Jima and I’ll be reviewing that film shortly. Flags of Our Fathers tells the story of the most infamous war photo from World War 2, the six American soldiers raising their national flag atop the sulphurous Mount Suribachi. As you’d expect it is a melancholy story, the three men from the picture who survived Iwo Jima were brought back to America to help drive on the bond effort as the US was running out of money. They find their celebrity very difficult to deal with, repeatedly stating that the men who didn’t make it back were the real heroes. The film flits back and forth from the island back to the publicity tour all framed by the story of the one son who decided to piece together the history of his fathers involvement in the picture. The story is treated with a sober hand by Eastwood, there’s no room for sentimentality in his portrayal of real human lives. It’s interesting to note that the media manipulation that took place in this story foreshadows the current media battle that currently rages over every story that emerges from the warzones of Iraq and Afghanistan. Because of this Flags of Our Fathers is a more intelligent and challenging war film than many others even if the action lacks a little of the bombast.

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