Ain't It Cool News (
Movie News


Hey, everyone. Capone in Chicago here. Whenever a film is released that seems so obviously aimed at winning awards, my defenses rise up and my cynicism kicks into overdrive. But the simple fact remains that some "event" films are actually good enough to deserve every last accolade they will inevitably generate. The undeniable fact remains that Clint Eastwood is one of our greatest living filmmakers, and never has he been so clearly angling for awards as he is with Flags of Our Fathers. Does that mean the movie is not good? Absolutely not. The story behind the six men who raised the flag at the Battle of Iwo Jima, which resulted in the single most famous wartime image in history, is beyond fascinating. Eastwood has gone the extra step to tell this story right by hiring two-time Oscar winner Paul Haggis (Crash, Million Dollar Baby) to co-write the screenplay (with William Broyles Jr.), and the results are largely phenomenal and endlessly fascinating, especially to those who know nothing about the true facts behind this legendary flag event. The battle scenes--and there are many of them--are some of the bloodiest a studio film has ever released, and I applaud Eastwood and Co. for giving an unflinching look at how dirty, gory, and borderline unmentionable this part of WWII really was. But fighting isn’t what this movie is about. Flags of Our Fathers is about manufacturing heroes during wartime. There is absolutely no doubt that the men in the flag-raising photo are heroes (three of them died on that same battlefield), but as the truth is revealed to us about the circumstances of that event, one can’t help but be reminded of the military repeatedly inventing or exaggerating events during wartime to generate support for causes and wars that may not have been popular at the time. For those who don’t know the details, I’ll let the movie tell the facts. Part of the entertainment value of the film is learned piece by piece the truth. But the rest of the film follows the three surviving soldiers in the photo as they are sent across the country to drum up support for the war and drive war bond sales. The events these three men attend are often embarrassing and troubling to them, as they are faced time after time with the image of them with that flag. What troubles them the most is that one of the men who died was misidentified in the original photograph, and the family of the real sixth man don’t find out for many years that it was their son in the photo. But more than that, the three men feel more like mascots than soldiers. An entire film could be made about the life of Ira Hayes (Adam Beach), the Native American Marine who was one of the bravest fighters at Iwo Jima (actually a film was made, called The Outsider with Tony Curtis). “The Ballad of Ira Hayes” is one of the greatest songs ever written, and was immortalized by the likes of Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan. Few life stories sum up the problems in America better that Hayes’, and Beach carries the weight like few actors could. But because the film’s source material is a book written by the son of the one of the men in the photo--John Bradley (Ryan Phillippe, giving by far the best performance of his career)--much of the film focuses on him. Eastwood’s only major misstep with this movie is framing the story as a series of flashbacks as told to Bradley’s son as he’s collecting details for his book. Watching an actor playing author James Bradley interviewing actors playing people who had information on these events adds nothing to the inherent drama of this story. The war bonds activities culminates in a humiliating event at Chicago’s Soldier’s Field, at which the three men much climb a paper maché mountain peak and plant a flag for the benefit of thousands of onlookers. Hayes is drunk off his ass, as he was often at the time; the guilt and horror of his experience was simply too much for him. The third man, Rene Gagnon (Jesse Bradford), seems the most eager to please. The film almost implies he’s overcompensating since he didn’t do much actual fighting at Iwo Jima since he was a message runner. The thing that Eastwood does best with Flags of Our Fathers is turn these iconic figures into real human beings eager to give credit where credit is due, and always ready to point out that the real heroes died on that battlefield. I’ll admit, the film didn’t stir up any heavy emotions in me, but it works as a storytelling exercise about an event that some may not want to know the truth about. What the film did generate within me is an extra level of enthusiasm to see Eastwood February 2007 follow-up, Letter from Iwo Jima, a look at the battle from the Japanese perspective. The fact that Eastwood is even making the film speaks volumes about just what a ballsy filmmaker the guy is, and it goes right to the heart of the point of what he is such a legend. Flags of Our Fathers is not his best work, but that doesn’t stop it from being endlessly fascinating, brilliantly acted, and breathtakingly realized.


Readers Talkback
comments powered by Disqus
    + Expand All
  • Oct. 18, 2006, 6:33 p.m. CST

    waiting for the superior Red Sun, Black Sun

    by Exeter


  • Oct. 18, 2006, 6:33 p.m. CST

    waiting for the superior Red Sun, Black Sun

    by Exeter


  • Oct. 18, 2006, 6:50 p.m. CST

    Why does he need awards anyway?

    by CherryValance

    He's Clint Eastwood. Isn't that enough for one person? I thought it was kinda weird when he was campaigning so hard for Mystic River.

  • Oct. 18, 2006, 7:03 p.m. CST

    I have yet to read a review for this film that

    by depalma25

    gives us an idea of how well directed the battle scenes are. Yes they are bloody, fine, but more detail would be nice. Does Clint use a lot of handheld like Saving Private Ryan, or more graceful steady cam like Mallick did for The Thin Red Line? Just curious.

  • Oct. 18, 2006, 7:14 p.m. CST

    Clints the Man!

    by islaymyself

    part 2 is where the emotion will be

  • Oct. 18, 2006, 7:16 p.m. CST

    Eastwood is bad with Flashbacks

    by BigTuna

    I thought Bridges of Madison County was a great, underrated film given it's sappy sopurce material, but Eastwood hurt it by the flashback sequences which weren't at all necessary.

  • Oct. 18, 2006, 7:34 p.m. CST

    Exeter: Red Sun, Black Sand

    by Det. John Kimble

    that was the original title. And Ken Kutagari is the man.

  • Oct. 18, 2006, 8:14 p.m. CST

    The Real Heroes Are The Dead Heroes?

    by uss cygnus

    "I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by "dying for his country". He won it by making the *other* poor, dumb bastard die for *his* country." -Gen. George S. Patton Jr. ^ "FIELD FU@K!!"

  • Oct. 18, 2006, 8:14 p.m. CST

    it's a shame they changed the title

    by dtpena

    from red sun, black sand to... whatever, anything is worse.. I mean anything without space and/or oddissey in the title. About the review, I just lost hope with this movie, there's no turning back, but the japanese one has to be better. Will see it in asap anyway, don't trust too much aicn critics on eastwood.

  • Oct. 18, 2006, 8:14 p.m. CST

    "Waiting for the superior Red Sun, blah blah"

    by Cruel_Kingdom

    (1) How do you know that movie will be superior when you haven't seen either of them? (2) The title has been changed, Mr. Know-It-All. Ha.

  • Oct. 18, 2006, 8:31 p.m. CST

    No, Ira Hayes was the MAN

    by Kentucky Colonel

    As posted in earlier reviews of this film on this site, I say again you could do a lot worse than to check out his story AND Johnny Cash's take on "The Ballad of Ira Hayes. Funny, I am not familiar with Dylan's version. Gotta run downstairs and vheck the Dylan discs I have and see if's I gots it....

  • Oct. 18, 2006, 8:31 p.m. CST


    by Alientoast

    "graceful steady cam like Mallick did for The Thin Red Line"...Ugh, lets hope it's as far from Thin Red Line as possible. What a self indulgent turd that was. The fact it was also very historically inaccurate didn't help things either. Hopefully Eastwood reverses the crappy Pacific theatre movies we've been subjected to this past decade.

  • Oct. 18, 2006, 8:35 p.m. CST

    Patton speech

    by Kentucky Colonel

    That's got to be the single best momologue used as a prolouge to a film ever. "I feel sorry for those hun bastards, I really do". I just watched that two days ago and it still is balls out one of the best pre-Private Ryan war films ever made. He's got a museum dedicated to him in (where else) Kentucky at Ft. Knox. His uniform, his pistols, the car he was in when he got 86''s all there at Ft. Knox. When driving through the Bluegrass, stop and check it out. It's about 25 minutes south of Louisville going down the Dixie Highway...just a little north from Cameron Crowe's Elizabethtown. And if you see Shelly Mann, tell her I said hello and no hard feelings!

  • Oct. 18, 2006, 9:51 p.m. CST

    War films...always fascinating

    by alienindisguise

    To see what people went to their graves for and what a shitty state everything eventually becomes, I'm glad I never signed up to serve because, in the end, the bodies pile up but the politics don't change. It ain't worth it.

  • Oct. 18, 2006, 10:05 p.m. CST


    by Chief Redcock

    If this gets any Oscar love, I will eat Gus Van Rant's coin purse...

  • Oct. 18, 2006, 10:06 p.m. CST


    by Chief Redcock

    If this gets any Oscar love, I will eat Gus Van Rant's hat...

  • Oct. 18, 2006, 10:35 p.m. CST

    So which is it?

    by El Scorcho

    The coin purse or the hat? Make up your fucking mind!

  • Oct. 18, 2006, 11:53 p.m. CST

    "single most famous wartime image in history"?

    by eraser_x

    I hope we can think of a better image that is more famous. I can't think of one, though. Darn. Especially since there is no single definitive "mushroom cloud" image, or smoking Pearl Harbor image, or Holocaust image. Some other memorable war images include the famous partial mosaic of Alexander, the Vietnam War's girl running from napalm, the photo of Anne Frank, the copy of Da Vinci's cartoon for his never-made battle-scene fresco, and more, but all those are not as famous. For Americans, the painting of Washington crossing the Delaware River is pretty famous, but still not as famous. Man, how I wish Da Vinci had actually made his fresco.

  • Oct. 19, 2006, 12:34 a.m. CST

    kutaragi is SEWER vermin compared to Miyamoto

    by Exeter


  • Oct. 19, 2006, 12:38 a.m. CST

    Cruel whatever

    by Exeter

    yeah no SHIngenius insight it was changed to Letters from whatever the fuck it's known now, however i'll continue to call it by what it was meant to be called: RED SUN, BLACK SAND. biatch.

  • Oct. 19, 2006, 8:20 a.m. CST

    eraser_x - equally famous wartime image.

    by Mr_Sleep001

    What about the image of Lord Kitchener pointing at the viewer with 'your country needs you' emblazoned underneath. It may not be a moment from war, but its iconically related to war and its been copied or played on hundreds of times. And more recently the image of the Saddam statue being pulled down or the tortured prisoner with the hood on became icons of the current war in Iraq

  • Oct. 19, 2006, 9:28 a.m. CST

    where is ANCHORITE when you need him???

    by Bill Brasky

    "…the military repeatedly inventing or exaggerating events during wartime…,” screw you Capone. You spineless hack; the hardest thing that you have ever had to do in your whole meaningless life is fight through rush-hour traffic. And yes, I am fully aware that the military did cover up the fratricide of Ranger Pat Tillman. I guess that instance fills in your requirement of proof that the uniformed services lie constantly just “to generate support for causes and wars that may not have been popular at the time.” Thanks for your broad, stereotypical opinion of those of us who serve. Bite your tongue you miserable bastard. You make me want to puke.

  • Oct. 19, 2006, 10:10 a.m. CST

    Wow Bill... that's quite the rant...

    by NateWave

    Unfortunalely Capone is right though... As far as the images of war... the iconic photo of Iraq is of a US soldier smoking.

  • Oct. 19, 2006, 10:12 a.m. CST


    by NateWave

    The article under that picture is rather inflamatory... I didn't bother to read the article, I just searched for the image on google and pasted the link.

  • Oct. 19, 2006, 10:55 a.m. CST

    Hey I know Bill Brasky!

    by JackSack

    Let me tell you about Bill Brasky! He's a ten foot tall beastman who showers in vodka and feeds his baby shrimp scampi We once had a bachelor party for Brasky. He ate the entire cake before we could tell him there was a stripper in it Brasky once hosted the Grammys and gave every award to Corey Hart He breastfeeds John Madden Did I ever tell you about the time he taught his son how to drive? He did it by entering him in the Indy 500. The kid wrecked and died. Brasky said it would've happened sometime

  • Oct. 19, 2006, 2:24 p.m. CST

    It's not Soldier's Field it's SOLDIER FIELD..

    by Borgnine JR

    ...Capone from CHICAGO!

  • Oct. 19, 2006, 2:43 p.m. CST


    by Charles Grady

    Clint is a GOD, but True Crime is a riot, centering on totally mundane plot points like A RACK OF POTATO CHIPS and whether or not Isaiah Washington WAS GOIN' TO BUY STEAK SAUCE, complete with close-up of an A-1 Bottle. HOW COULD YA SEE OVER THE POTATA CHIPS?????"

  • Oct. 19, 2006, 4:37 p.m. CST

    I Love Grandiose Pronouncements

    by Ill Clinton

    Anyone else catch the irony of Capone chastising the US Gov for exaggerating claims and then calling the photo the most famous wartime image ever? In other words, Capone's perspective is that of an American yet he has distrust of the perspective of the US gov. I know for a fact that this image is not THE most famous in say, China or India and those are just TWO countries I know of. And I'm a flag waving maniac and I still wouldn't float that out there. I admire yer balls Capone. Keep it up.

  • Oct. 19, 2006, 5:03 p.m. CST

    As a Brit and a film fan

    by DirkD13"

    I think Clint's the greatest living American icon, and one of the all-time great American icons. I can't wait to see this film and it's counterpsrt.

  • Oct. 19, 2006, 5:08 p.m. CST

    And I think the greatest ever war image

    by DirkD13"

    is the little dude defiantly standing in front of the tank that stopped instead of running him over. What do you folks think??

  • Oct. 19, 2006, 8:26 p.m. CST

    A more famous war image? & thanks Mr_Sleep001, DirkD13

    by eraser_x

    the dude with the tank is definitely one of the greatest images of all time, even if it isn't truly a wartime image. It is probably more famous than the flag-at-Iwo image. I just thought of a war image that may be more famous than the flag-at-Iwo photo: the one of the helicopter atop the U.S. Embassy in Saigon. The painting of the bare-breasted French woman leading the troops is another famous one. The image of Napoleon atop a rearing horse (is that from a painting or statue?) seems famous, too.

  • Oct. 19, 2006, 8:28 p.m. CST

    Another famous image

    by eraser_x

    The statue of Augustus in armor pointing with one arm is pretty famous, but like the Napoleon image, suffers from being merely a portrait involving a military uniform, and not being anything that comes close to a battle scene.

  • Oct. 20, 2006, 12:32 a.m. CST

    i like the ubermensch Waffen-SS high hiving each other

    by Exeter

    after an excellent 5 bolshevik kill. they're decked out in autumn camo too. badass.

  • Oct. 20, 2006, 1:59 a.m. CST

    Bill Brasky you ignorant slut!

    by Monkey Butler

    You're being glib. You don't know the history of propaganda. I do. Every single government or ruler since the dawn of time has made up lies about his enemy to sway public opinion. Reds under the bed, the yellow peril, Germans eating dogs, whatever.

  • Oct. 20, 2006, 7:38 a.m. CST

    Monkey Butler, I'm not quite as mad today.

    by Bill Brasky

    I honestly thought that I would get a bigger reaction from that post yesterday. Not from Capone; I know that he probably doesn't want to throw down on this. (see earlier post, i.e. SPINLESS hack) Monkey Butler, you are exactly right in what you said. Let me clarify my point: The GOVERNMENT may be in the business of propaganda, etc, but the military's only job is defeating its government's enemies. Capone paints the military with a broad, left-wing, conspiracy theory loaded brush here. Generals don't sit around in dimly lit offices, smoking cigars, talking about ways to take away civil liberties or how they can spin this battle or that photograph. You can thank your politicians or that.

  • Oct. 20, 2006, 7:47 a.m. CST


    by Bill Brasky This is another example of a photograph used to unjustly sway opinion of a war. Oh, I guess only 'the military repeatedly invents or exaggerates events during wartime.' Read this article about a true South Vietnamese hero and the rabid pro-communist response of the western media that followed.

  • Oct. 20, 2006, 8:35 a.m. CST

    Bill Brasky

    by JackSack

    Let me tell you about Bill Brasky! He did 3 tours in 'Nam...... I was in Corpus Christi on business a month ago. I had this eight foot tall Asian waiter, which made me curious. I asked him his name. Sure enough it's Ho Tran Brasky! Did I ever tell you about the time Bill Brasky went hunting?! Anyway.. Brasky decides he's going to hunt down all four of the Banana Splits! He stomps and chews every one of them with a machete. They all begged for their lives.. except.. Fleagle!

  • Oct. 20, 2006, 9:17 a.m. CST

    Politics and War

    by JackSack

    Some good quotes from Patton: Politicians are the worst; they'll wear their country's flag in public, but they'll use it to wipe their asses in the caucus room, if they think that it will win them a vote. ~~ Any politician should be put in jail who votes for an appropriation bill and fails to vote the tax to pay for it. ~~ There is something very phoney about all of our British and American efforts. Our strategy seems to be based on votes, not victories. ~~ Millions of pictures were taken and none for the glory of the troops, all for the glory of Roosevelt. It was very disgusting. ~~ Everyone seems to be much more concerned and interested in the effects which his actions will have on his political future than in carrying out the motto of the United States Military Academy; 'Duty, Honor, Country'. ~~ I wish to God that Ike were more of a soldier, and less of a politician.