Flags of Our Fathers - Stars and Strikes

Duration: 132min
Category: war
Available: On DVD
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The one thing I can say for certain about Flags of Our Fathers is that itís the movie Saving Private Ryan should have been.

Otherwise, I am torn about so much of the film.

Clint Eastwood is one of the best filmmakers working today. While I donít always love his films, I love what he does with film. With Flags of Our Fathers he gets under the skin of what it means to be a hero. Flags of Our Fathers isnít really a war movie as much as itís a rumination on the nature of heroism.

It concludes that heroes donít really exist and that they are the creation of media, religion, politics, community, etc. This may seem pessimistic but that would be misreading the film. Really, heís saying there is something beautiful in our flawed humanity. We do the best we can, we do it for reasons that are both selfish and altruistic, and this is what defines our humanity.

As I said, this is not a war film. War is just the backdrop to Flags of Our Fathers. Sure the battle scenes are there and they are spectacular. They make Saving Private Ryan look like a training film. However, the real story has little to do with war and how horrible it is. Eastwood makes that point ancillary to his main thesis but again, thatís not really the point.

Even with all this interesting stuff going on about the ambiguity of right and wrong, Eastwood starts to sentimentalise too much. He starts slipping into the Ryan and Band of Brothers territory which starts to take away some of the real poignancy that he was getting around to. Okay, he doesnít do anything super cheesy like the old man breaking down in the graveyard scene but he starts to push the boundaries a little.

Then there is the cast which feels completely out of their depth. Ryan Phillippe is as wooden and bad here as he was in Crash. Jesse Bradford is weak too although he doesnít stand out as being quite so flat. Poor Adam Beach is given a crying speech that almost invoked giggles itís so over the top. Round out a cast that includes such thespians and Paul Walker and you get the point I am making. Eastwood is way above the level of his cast and they donít rise to the occasion.

Therefore, Flags produces mixed results. Certainly not one of Eastwoodís strongest but still worth experiencing. I hope his Letters From Iwo Jima is a stronger film.

Review By: Collin Smith

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