FILM SYNOPSIS: February 1945:even as victory in Europe was finally within reach, the war in the Pacific raged on.One of the most crucial and bloodiest battles of the war was the struggle for the island of Iwo Jima, which culminated with what would become one of the most iconic images in history: five Marines and a Navy corpsman raising the American flag on Mount Suribachi.
The inspiring photo capturing that moment became a symbol of victory to a nation that had grown weary of war and made instant heroes of the six American soldiers at the base of the flag, some of whom would die soon after, never knowing that they had been immortalized.But the surviving flag raisers had no interest in being held up as symbols and did not consider themselves heroes; they wanted only to stay on the front with their brothers in arms who were fighting and dying without fanfare or glory.
The ensemble cast of Flags of Our Fathers includes Ryan Phillippe (Crash), Jesse Bradford (Happy Endings), Adam Beach (Windtalkers), Paul Walker (Into the Blue), Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot), Barry Pepper (Saving Private Ryan) and John Benjamin Hickey (Flightplan). Clint Eastwood directed Flags of Our Fathers from a screenplay adapted by William Broyles, Jr. (Cast Away) and Oscar winner Paul Haggis (Million Dollar Baby,Crash). Eastwood also produces, along with Steven Spielberg (Saving Private Ryan, Schindlers List), and Rob Lorenz (Mystic River).
I understand one of the weakest areas of education in America is the study of history. You keep hearing these horror tales where high school seniors can't name the father of our country or tell you where the Civil War was fought. So when Hollywood reenacts a time in our past, well, let's just say, the medium redeems itself.
Mr. Eastwood and Mr. Spielberg can sleep well, knowing they have made a masterpiece that succeeds on many levels. First, they further point out the message that much of history is built on, a theme John Ford addressed in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, "When the legend becomes fact print the legend." The legend here is the famous photo of the flag-raising on Iwo Jima. In reality, the propagandistic photo was the second picture taken. According to the film, the first flag, placed by other men, was taken down and given to a politician. As the second flag was hoisted, the perfect picture was taken, sending waves of patriotic hope throughout America.
Second, the artistic and technical merits stand out as the screenplay scrutinizes the guilt-ridden lives of those in the picture. Mr. Eastwood's vision gives us a thoroughly involving examination of men taken over by war and publicity.
Thirdly, the filmmakers justly inspect the nature of heroics. At first, the viewer may think the film is another in a long line designed merely to correct history books by tarnishing American folklore. But I dont believe that's the film's intent. While it blows away a fairytale definition of heroism, the film really exposes the heroics submerged in the average person.
In WWII, Americans had to put their own interests on hold, along with the rest of the world, in order to defeat evil's obvious effort to destroy the soul of man. (Since then the father of all lies has become more savvy.) The film makes it clear that in battle a man is not fighting for his country. He's doing his best to stay alive. That said, the majority of men in battle press forward while still trying to stay alive. They aren't running back. Indeed, they press forward, stopping just long enough to help others begging for comfort.
And lastly, the film justly declares war to be a tragedy. While one side may win, everyone involved pays a life-long price. Those who go to battle are destined to be scared whether physically injured or not. It's bad luck to have to go to war. It's easier to be born at a time when your character doesnt have to be tested under the fire of machine guns and hand grenades.
Trouble with this antiwar message, it's normally viewed in movie theaters by those who don't start the conflict. The madmen of the world are not affected by such sentiments or realities. So the lives of Average Joes are forever altered by madmen they've never met. They no longer control their own destiny. Madmen do.
Films such as Saving Private Ryan, We Were Soldiers and now Flags of our Fathers remind us of how lucky we are for seasons when madmen do not rule and how grateful we should be for Average Joes, the heroes, who defend us when madmen do.