A ‘Flag’ worth saluting

By Gus Bode

Directed by Clint Eastwood Starring Ryan Phillippe, Jesse Bradford, Adam Beach Running time: 131 minutes

Clint Eastwood’s latest, “Flags of Our Fathers,” is part human drama, wartime propaganda and outright chicanery. The film deftly illustrates the heroism and exploitation of American soldiers and serves as a wonderful alternative to other pandering World War II epics.

“Flags of Our Fathers” tells the story of the soldiers shown in Joe Rosenthal’s photo of Marines raising an American flag on Iwo Jima. Adapted from the best-selling book by James Bradley and Ron Powers, the film is a powerful and moving portrayal of the transition back into civilian life for soldiers returning as national heroes.


Rather than focusing on the horrors of war, Eastwood builds the film primarily around the emotional weight of characters. While the film’s battle scenes are graphic and engaging, it is the characters that provide real weight to “Flags.”

Adam Beach and Jesse Bradford play Marines Ira Hayes and Rene Gagnon, respectively, while Ryan Phillippe fills the role of Navy corpsman John Bradley. All three men appear in Rosenthal’s Pulitzer-winning photo and receive a true hero’s welcome when the photo galvanizes the public and renews American public vigor. Upon re-entry into America, the government commissions the trio to sell war bonds and make public appearances. The three men lament their newfound status, knowing that Rosenthal’s photo, and not any of their individual deeds, has made them a public spectacle at tawdry flag raisings and public appearances.

The greatest flaw of “Flags” is Eastwood’s bloated, ham-fisted directorial style. Stylistic flourishes such as using flashbulbs, rainstorms and extreme facial close ups as transitions are dramatically excessive. “Flags of Our Fathers” is a mixed bag of cinematic clich�s coupled with Eastwood’s attempts to balance storytelling with unadulterated heartstring tugging. When the film isn’t too bogged down in Eastwood’s direction, the story works well.

“Flags” does a superb job depicting the conflicting emotions of soldiers returning from battle, but the performances never elevate the film to greatness. Too many World War II films have already told similarly emotional stories and done a much more poignant job for “Flags of Our Fathers” to be anything but a decent but ultimately imperfect film.