IMDb calls “Flags of Our Fathers:” “The life stories of [three of] the six men who raised the flag at The Battle of Iwo Jima, a turning point in WWII.”
Moments of brilliance pervade Eastwood’s WWII epic about the Marines who raised the flag at Iwo Jima, but for the most part it is disjointed and mawkish. The combat sequences on Iwo Jima are quite good; the executive producer is Steven Spielberg and I wish the movie had been content to be a “Saving Private Ryan Jr.” kind of thing. Although, for a film about destroying the myths of heroism, Eastwood shoots many action sequences with the same framing as the famous flag-raising photograph, that is, a safe distance from the side, so we don’t feel so much in the action as swept along by iconography.
But every time “Flags” builds up dramatic steam we cut forward in time, either to the heroes’ fund-raising campaign (kinda boring), or the present day (real boring). The script is co-written by (ug) Paul Haggis (“Crash,” “Million Dollar Baby”), who never came up with a theme he didn’t want to spell out through dialogue, narration, or, in this case, both. The fund-raising campaign is simply not very interesting, way too long, and is punctuated with Haggis’s contrived confrontations. The central conflict (if you can call it that) is not the battle on the island at all; the powerful combat scenes are essentially filler. The central conflict is that the guys tour the country raising money for war bonds and feel kind-of bad about it.
The present day stuff is simply lame and syrupy, culminating in an old man’s out-of-the-blue death-bed apology to his son: “I’m sorry I wasn’t a better father!” My wife wanted to yell at the screen: “What the hell?! That hasn’t been in the movie AT ALL!!”
Plenty of good supporting performances, although the three leads seem unfocused, as if each thinks the movie is really about the others. Maybe the film might have worked better in chronological order. I would have been happier with 60 minutes of battle and a 30-minute fund-raising epilogue, with nothing in the present day. As it is, I couldn’t keep straight which soldier was which in each time zone. My wife and I argued about who narrated what for about 15 minutes and couldn’t reach any conclusions. “Flags” runs over-long because it doesn’t know what point it’s making; or, alternately, it makes its point in about five minutes and spends the next two hours beating all the poignancy out of it through repetition and narration. Sometimes movies with the least to say take forever to say it, flailing their arms in place of depth.
The grayed-out photography is getting old. The CG cheese and the score is a little distracting, too. I’m so tired of solo trumpets being soldier music. It was cool when Aaron Copland did it. Flags of Our Fathers” felt like I was sitting in a movie theater listening to a lecture.
Finished Saturday, December 16th, 2006
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