FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS (2006) - (A Movie Review)
I tried to read FLAG OF OUR FATHERS when it hit the bestseller’s list a few years ago. It wasn’t easy. Instead of coherent story about the men in the battle and the aftermath, it was too much about the son’s journey to get to know his father. I thought the grown kids in Eastwood’s BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY were discordant and worried that I’d be in a similar fix here. Luckily, Eastwood and/or Haggis did a great thing by minimizing the role of the son. It probably saved the film because the story of these men is really powerful emotionally and it benefits from Eastwood’s subdued manner. The battle scenes are the believable hell. The army politics seem right-on. The national war-bond drive politics seem authentic too. The juxtaposing of War Bond Drive with flashbacks of their action on the island is well done and reveals character information as the right times.
Also a big help are the great cast of character actors throughout. Guys like Barry Pepper as a tough but kind Sergeant, Gordon Clapp as an officer working in the invasion plan, and even John Polito as Mayor Laguardia seem like real people although in minimal screen time. The three “heores” of the film played by Ryan Phillipe, Jesse Bradford and Adam Beach seem just as real.
Critics tend to see what they want to see in Eastwood movies. They’ll applaud what they see as an enlightened “right to die” message in MILLION DOLLAR BABY, but ignore his message about welfare cheats and personal responsibility in the same film.
Here they get locked into the politics behind the war bond drive and the phony hero aspect trying to make correlations to Iraq although the film never takes a definite stand like most Hollywood lore. It’s just presented. Yes, raising that flag was not heroic and yet you’re treated like a hero, but listen up son, you have a chance to be a hero by helping raise money in the war bond drive or we’ll otherwise lose the war. It’s hard to make an argument that they didn’t do the right thing.
FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS is a winner every step of the way and I think it’s Eastwood's best movie this decade.