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Flags of our Fathers & Letters from Iwo Jima (2 Disc Special Edition) [2006] - 16.98

Thematically ambitious and emotionally complex, Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers is an intimate epic with much to say about war and the nature of heroism in America. Based on the non-fiction bestseller by James Bradley (with Ron Powers), and adapted by Million Dollar Baby screenwriter Paul Haggis (Jarhead screenwriter William Broyles Jr. wrote an earlier draft that was abandoned when Eastwood signed on to direct), this isn't so much a conventional war movie as it is a thought-provoking meditation on our collective need for heroes, even at the expense of those we deem heroic. In telling the story of the six men (five Marines, one Navy medic) who raised the American flag of victory on the battle-ravaged Japanese island of Iwo Jima on February 23rd, 1945, Eastwood takes us deep into the horror of war (in painstakingly authentic Iwo Jima battle scenes) while emphasizing how three of the surviving flag-raisers (played by Adam Beach, Ryan Phillippe, and Jesse Bradford) became reluctant celebrities - and resentful pawns in a wartime publicity campaign - after their flag-raising was immortalized by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal in the most famous photograph in military history.

As the surviving flag-raisers reluctantly play their public roles as "the heroes of Iwo Jima" during an exhausting (but clearly necessary) wartime bond rally tour, Flags of Our Fathers evolves into a pointed study of battlefield valor and misplaced idolatry, incorporating subtle comment on the bogus nature of celebrity, the trauma of battle, and the true meaning of heroism in wartime. Wisely avoiding any direct parallels to contemporary history, Eastwood allows us to draw our own conclusions about the Iwo Jima flag-raisers and how their postwar histories (both noble and tragic) simultaneously illustrate the hazards of exploited celebrity and society's genuine need for admirable role models during times of national crisis. Flags of Our Fathers defies the expectations of those seeking a more straightforward war-action drama, but it's richly satisfying, impeccably crafted film that manages to be genuinely patriotic (in celebrating the camaraderie of soldiers in battle) while dramatising the ultimate futility of war. Eastwood's follow-up film, Letters from Iwo Jima, examines the Iwo Jima conflict from the Japanese perspective.

Critically hailed as an instant classic, Clint Eastwood's Letters from Iwo Jima is a masterwork of uncommon humanity and a harrowing, unforgettable indictment of the horrors of war. In an unprecedented demonstration of worldly citizenship, Eastwood (from a spare, tightly focused screenplay by first-time screenwriter Iris Yamashita) has crafted a truly Japanese film, with Japanese dialogue (with subtitles) and filmed in a contemplative Japanese style, serving as both complement and counterpoint to Eastwood's previously released companion film Flags of Our Fathers. Where the earlier film employed a complex non-linear structure and epic-scale production values to dramatise one of the bloodiest battles of World War II and its traumatic impact on American soldiers, Letters reveals the battle of Iwo Jima from the tunnel- and cave-dwelling perspective of the Japanese, hopelessly outnumbered, deprived of reinforcements, and doomed to die in inevitable defeat.

While maintaining many of the traditions of the conventional war drama, Eastwood extends his sympathetic touch to humanise "the enemy," revealing the internal and external conflicts of soldiers and officers alike, forced by circumstance to sacrifice themselves or defend their honour against insurmountable odds. From the weary reluctance of a young recruit named Saigo (Kazunari Ninomiya) to the dignified yet desperately anguished strategy of Japanese commander Tadamichi Kuribayashi (played by Oscar-nominated The Last Samurai costar Ken Watanabe), whose letters home inspired the film's title and present-day framing device, Letters from Iwo Jima (which conveys the bleakness of battle through a near-total absence of colour) steadfastly avoids the glorification of war while paying honorable tribute to ill-fated men who can only dream of the comforts of home. --Jeff Shannon

Customer reviews (av rating: 3.0):

Rating: 4:
Good War Film dragged out too long. : What a great start to Flags of Our Fathers with the American's storming Iwo Jima in the style and brutality of Private Ryan. The casting is great and you really have some feelings for the characters. The film is recorded in part black and white and part color which makes it all the more dramatic. Had this film stuck to being a war film it may not have been much different to a lot of other ones but it would have been better than dragging on with the families and the flash backs to the scandal of the photo being used to win the war all being staged. I found myself fast forwarding the last 15 minutes or so.

Letter from Iwo Jima gets it spot on. Great war action,focused flashbacks that build our sympathy towards the characters and I feel it was much better made. The films do not try and point out good and evil but how similar both sides were and the determination of Japan to save their last few islands in the war.

Of the two Letters from Iwo Jima was much better and does not suffer from being in a foreign language.

Rating: 2:
Ain't War Heck ? : I had desperatley wanted to like these two entwined movies and on reading some of the five star reviews I eagerly awaited their arrival at my home. What a disappointment: Flags is an awful movie. I am very familiar with the story due to having read and loved William Manchester's account of the Pacific War. Here, however, we find ourselves with less than one dimensional characters begging for some kind of DC Comics credibility. The movie is way too short. No character gets a chance at being filled out. The worst offenders being the Senators ( snake oil salesmen )and the gold digging vainglorious girlrfriend who kept on popping up out of nowhere. The editing is juvenile.
Additionally, the sound quality of the battle scenes is very poor, and some howlers of mistakes are relentlesly repeated by Holywood as in the continual display of large entry wounds on uniforms, and the moronic bullet strikes at the feet of advancing soldiers; if a bullet misses in Hollywood, then it must be seen to miss, or, why do Japanese soldiers insist on shooting so low?!?
The CGI was a little on the cheap side, but was matched by the poor direction which telegraphed much of what was about to happen next in the action sequences, you just knew who was going to get shot next.
Dialogue reached the mundane on many occasions, and at one point I truly expected one youth to declaim, " Gee Pa, war sure is Heck ! "

On the topic of Letters, I agree that it is the better of the two movies, but that's like saying dysentary is better swamp fever. The earth shattering premise being that, "Hey,these guys are just like us!" Wow, that ought to keep the finest european philosphers up at night.

Another poor point is that on various occasions the moviesdisplayed true cowardice when depicting the horror of war: cameras gliding serenely skyward when soldiers died or commited suicide. When one thinks of what was achieved by Private Ryan in the first 30 minutes, when the viewer was left exhausted, or, in The Thin Red Line, where Mallick had us truly horrified, frightened, disturbed and rivetted by the utter absurdity of war ( here, think also, Paths Of Glory: Kubrick) these films achieved only a kind of spurios mediocrity.
Finally, the greatest disappointment was simply the lack of intelligence therein. There was nothing here to challenge or engage.
The collaboration here of Eastwood and Spielberg ( whom I hold solely responsable for all the gratuious sentementality )has produced something which is less than the sum of its parts.
Ask your self this. Why where these films now, and who are they aimed at?
There's the true horror of war.

Rating: 4:
The other Side of the Coffin : I would have given "Letters from Iowa Jima" 5* but I was slightly underwhelmed by "Flags of Our Fathers" and somewhat confused by the flashbacks.

However, "Letters from Iowa Jima" is a small masterpiece with excellent, thoughtful and delicate acting by it Japanese protagonists, giving the characters the necessary human empathic and sentimental edge over the brutality of war, its machinery and indoctrinated set-piece beliefs, both equally destructive in the face of life ongoing.

Both films are really about deception and discovery, self-deception and public lies, the other "I". In both films the struggle to free the individual (and to some extent the nations) from the straight-jacket of enforced and conditioning beliefs is the main theme; deftly and beautifully handled.

I would absolutely recommend both films - but start with "Letters from Iowa Jima" first, I have found it gives the twin movies more depth and background.

Rating: 1:
Hard Work : Being a formar combat soldier, this was a terrrible film blood and guts but nothing like how it feels to be in action the sound is terrible. Combat sounds like all hell has broke out. Shows the Americans for what they are false? Johnny Cash sang a song about IRA Hayes. If anything this film shows that civilians should have no control over the armed forces.
Avery poor and weak film best give it a miss.

Rating: 4:
Both sides of the coin : I started of with Flags of our Fathers and it was OK when compared to the likes of The Thin Red Line which is excellent and painfully accurate with respect to the horror of war. Overall this particular story was OK but did not grip me as much as Letters from Iwo Jima. It is refreshing to have the perspective of the Japanese in the caves surviving and dying and how they dealt with that side of warfare. You will be rooting for the main character to survive who is merely an ordinary human being in an imperial uniform. You can see how the military of the Japanese empire was ruthless and also doomed to failure and realise that a generation of ordinary Japanese men died for nothing.

Letters from Iwo Jima stands out as excellent and on its own deserves 5 stars. Brilliant! just Flags of our Father bring it down to 4 stars.

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