1 Man 365 Films 365 Days – Day 49

#38 / 365 – ‘Flags of Our Fathers (2006) – 132 mins
IMDb Challenge #22 / 250 – not ranked – Via DVD collection

In February, 1945, one of the fiercest battles of the Pacific theater of World War II occurs on the tiny island of Iwo Jima. Thousands of Marines attack the stronghold maintained by thousands of Japanese, and the slaughter on both sides is horrific. Early in the battle, an American flag is raised atop the high point, Mount Suribachi, and a photograph of the raising becomes an American cause celebre. As a powerful inspiration to war-sick Americans, the photo becomes a symbol of the Allied cause. The three surviving flag raisers, Rene Gagnon (Jesse Bradford), John Bradley (Ryan Phillippe) , and Ira Hayes (Adam Beach), are whisked back to civilization to help raise funds for the war effort. But the accolades for heroism heaped upon the three men are at odds with their own personal realizations that thousands of real heroes lie dead on Iwo Jima, and that their own contributions to the fight are only symbolic and not deserving of the singling out they are experiencing. Each of the three must come to terms with the honors, exploitation, and grief that they face simply for being in a photograph.

Clint Eastwood breaks down his WWII drama “Flags of Our Fathers” into two main stories; the actual battle at Iwo Jima, the shell-shocked trio of soldiers dealing with their warm reception back home whilst their government uses that single iconic war image as cynical propaganda.

With Steven Spielberg installed as producer on this film, the battle scenes are portrayed with a great deal of authenticity and nearly on a par with ‘Saving Private Ryan’ but are just missing the overall brutal depiction of war that was displayed within that masterpiece.

Their are good performances all round, where Eastwood has delivered a good take on the war genre and the point that the film makes is important and true and needs to be told. My criticism of the film lies in its lack of emotional pull which was surprising given the screen writing talents of Paul Haggis (‘Crash’, Million Dollar Baby’) were on board, I guess Clint was saving the best for what was about to come…

#39 / 365 – ‘Letters from Iwo Jima’ (2006) – 141 mins
IMDb Challenge #23 / 250 – Ranked #233 – Via DVD collection

The island of Iwo Jima stands between the American military force and the home islands of Japan. Therefore the Imperial Japanese Army is desperate to prevent it from falling into American hands and providing a launching point for an invasion of Japan. General Tadamichi Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe) is given command of the forces on the island and sets out to prepare for the imminent attack. Kuribayashi, however, does not favor the rigid traditional approach recommended by his subordinates, and resentment and resistance fester among his staff. In the lower echelons, a young soldier, Saigo, a poor baker in civilian life, strives with his friends to survive the harsh regime of the Japanese army itself, all the while knowing that a fierce battle looms. When the American invasion begins, both Kuribayashi and Saigo find strength, honor, courage, and horrors beyond imagination.

Beautifully shot throughout with its desaturated, nearly monochrome look, Eastwood’s companion piece to ‘Flags Our Fathers’ digs far deeper of the two films, with its intense and unrelenting examination of unflinching horrors of war from the perspective of the Japanese soldiers sent to certain death on Iwo Jima, standing by their resolute code of honour. This is evidently displayed in one particularly distressing scene, where the soldiers forced to commit suicide by clutching hand-grenades to their chests.

Eastwood as really delivered a powerful masterpiece here where you care for the engaging characters, and the evocative story will stay with you long after the credits roll.

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