Flags of our Fathers is a big mess and that’s a shame because the planned follow-up sounds extremely interesting. Since I’ve already teased it I’ll mention the “sort of” sequel is Letters from Iwo Jima, a war movie told from the perspective of Japanese soldiers that’s based on letters they wrote home. I can’t imagine how Clint Eastwood is going to pull that off so I’m highly intrigued with that project.
Back to Flags of our Fathers (sadly). The focal point of the story is the historic photo taken when American soldiers raised the flag over Iwo Jima in World War II. The photo was a rallying point for the American public; it might have even played a part in winning the war due to it’s fund raising importance. To this day the picture is still highly evocative and recognizable and Flags trades heavily on the idea that one image can turn a war (or at least tries to trade).
The problem is the film doesn’t have a central theme and the themes it does try to execute are convoluted at best and completely mangled at worst. I am fine with complicated storylines where “grey” is the word of the day but I can’t stomach the idea of a movie turning on itself and its own themes. Flags of our Fathers does this over and over. If one image can turn the war why show all the faults with the image? If the men who raised the flag aren’t heroes why let us in on the secret while they dupe the American public? If the whole thing was simply about money in the first place then what can we emotionally hang on to? If the “heroes” are just normal guys than why paint them as normal, then somewhat heroic before turning them back into average again? There are so many questions that come up short and unanswerable. Flags of our Fathers probably could’ve withstood one reversing of thematic course but the four or so presented sink it most definitively.
Even given a perfect world where Flags got its act together on the theme front the method of filming might have also doomed it. Flags tries to hold on to a bit of suspense and mystery by jumping back and forth through flashbacks from the war scenes to the “heroes of Iwo Jima” on their press / fund raising tour but it ends up choppy and unintelligible. Overall the war scenes are done well (hey a compliment) and the acting would have been good enough had the script been there. The script isn’t there though, and I can’t imagine how Eastwood even attempted to cobble this movie together.
I don’t think we’ve reached anything resembling the end of great war stories but we may be near the finale of the World War II ones. What’s left to say? Letters from Iwo Jima could be the last in the line of innovation and that’s only because it won’t be patrioticÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ well, at least not from the American side it won’t be. So that’s that, wrap up the WWII movie collection with a nice little bow and hide it away for a rainy day (but make sure you have Band of Brothers in that box). This one is a skip; Flags of our Fathers is a film that never should have been hoisted up in the first place.