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Flags of Our Fathers (Widescreen Edition) (2006)

A movie directed by Clint Eastwood

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The Story Behind the Most Famous of Flag Raisings

  • Oct 16, 2007
  • by
Pros: Outstanding cinematography; compelling story-line; outstanding direction

Cons: Choppy narrative

The Bottom Line: In the end Flags of Our Fathers is a story of ordinary man who did what they had to do to survive and come home.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot.

On Feb. 23, 1945, after days of pitched battle five U.S. Marines and one U.S. Navy sailor—a Hospital Corpsman—planted a makeshift flagpole atop Mount Surabachi on the tiny isle of Iwo Jima in the Pacific Ocean. They were photographed and immortalized and thus the Battle of Iwo Jima became one of the most famous if not the most famous battle of World War II. But few know the true story behind the raising of that flag captured so majestically in a snapshot, Flags of Our Fathers tries to explain in the limited way a movie can about the men behind the flag raising.


Directed by Clint Eastwood (Bridges of Madison County, Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby), Flags of Our Fathers was adapted from a book (released in 2000) of the same name written by James Bradley and Ron Powers.

The movie travels along two story-lines; the actual invasion of Iwo Jima and the aftermath on three of the now historic flag raisers after they are sent home to drum up support for the war effort. The (un)lucky three are John "Doc" Bradley (Ryan Phillippe – Cruel Intentions, Crash Breach), Rene Gagnon (Jesse Bradford – The West Wing) and Ira Hayes (Adam Beach – Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit). The other three men depicted in the photo died in combat shortly after the picture was taken.

Flags of Our Fathers has no discernable pattern, no pat beginning, and no solid ending; the story jumps around, patching together memories from the past with those of the present—well the 1990’s. There are few straight lines in this film and unless you are a World War II historian who is familiar with the Battle of Iwo Jima and know the story of the six flag raisers, or you have read the book, the film's constant shifts in time will leave you befuddled at least once.

The movies starts in the 1990s when we get some help figuring out which of the young Marines are now the old men being interviewed by James Bradley (Tom McCarthy – Boston Public, Syriana), the son of Doc Bradley, as he researches the book upon which the movie is based.

Flags of Our Fathers does a decent job of chronicling the three surviving men’s story while on tour selling war bonds. Each in his own way is a hero, but all blanch whenever they are introduced as "the heroes of Iwo Jima" because to a man they know the real heroes are their fellow Marines and sailors who died on the island. And each handles the strain in his own way; Hayes eventually breaks down, drinking to excess. At one point he mutters through alcohol laced tears: "I can't take them calling me a hero, all I did was try not to get shot." And that is the underlying theme of Flags of Our Fathers, each man though fighting for his country, was just trying to survive the war by trying not to get shot, and looking out for his buddy next to him in the foxhole. Was is not glamorous, nor is it to be celebrated and lauded as a worthy pursuit. War is sometimes a necessary evil, but the cost in human blood and suffering, both physical and mental, is telling on man and society.

My Final Thoughts

By the time the credits rolled Eastwood, who is adept at exposing the emotional, had turned in another winning movie. The battle scenes in this movie are powerful and unflinching. Eastwood shoots the scenes with eyes wide open; he doesn't use the herky-jerky handheld cameras and quick-cut editing that have become the hallmarks of World War II battles scene ever since Saving Private Ryan. Think HBO’s Band of Brothers with its decided lack of color; in Flags of Our Fathers Eastwood shoots in monotone except for pinprick of color when explosions light the scene. The effect is a numbing almost shocking realism.

The opposing in this conflict is not villainized, or humanized, in fact they are hardly seen at all. For their story Eastwood created a companion film Letter From Iwo Jima, which I will review next. Of course the Japanese are spoken about, but they are by-and-large not given a persona.

In the end Flags of Our Fathers is a story of ordinary man who did what they had to do to survive and come home. It is a compelling movie one I would see again.


Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: None of the Above
Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age

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More Flags of Our Fathers reviews
review by . March 27, 2011
Pros: acting, story, background information     Cons: none for me     The Bottom Line:   "For all the ones who fought and died  To see Old Glory raised  To each and every hero  Who has ever come and gone  The flags of our fathers carry on"  ~Keni Thomas     I was a bit surprised after viewing Flags Of Our Fathers, directed by Clint Eastwood, to find out the well known photo was …
review by . April 04, 2007
With every intention of yet reading the book (books are almost always better than movies, I've found) to delve deeper into this piece of international history, I viewed this one of two movies, directed by Clint Eastwood, dealing with the horrific battle at Iwo Jima in February, 1945, a bloody part of World War II. The companion movie to "Flags of Our Fathers," also title of the book, is "Letters From Iwo Jima," which by now I have also seen.     Few if any Americans have not …
review by . February 10, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
To give a less than shining review of Clint Eastwood's FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS is tantamount to being labeled un-American. That is sad because for this viewer the result of the film is not whether or not Eastwood's nonlinear development of a story that bumps and spurts and reflects and meanders and shadows reality lets us get to know the 'heroes' cast in the roles of the three men who survived a single incident in the atrocity of WW II: this is a film that hopefully will be ultimately seen as one of …
About the reviewer
Vincent Martin ()
I am an IT Professional and have worked in the industry for over 20 years. I may be a computer geek, but I also like reading, writing, cooking, music, current events and regretfully, politics.
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Thematically ambitious and emotionally complex, Clint Eastwood'sFlags of Our Fathersis an intimate epic with much to say about war and the nature of heroism in America. Based on thenon-fiction bestsellerby James Bradley (with Ron Powers), and adapted byMillion Dollar Babyscreenwriter Paul Haggis (Jarheadscreenwriter 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, ...

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Director: Clint Eastwood
DVD Release Date: February 6, 2007
Runtime: 132 minutes
Studio: Dreamworks Video
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