The first movie in Clint Eastwood's planned diptych about the battle of Iwo Jima, Flags of Our Fathers is also the biggest physical production of the 76-year-old director's career, and one of his best -- a conflicted and searching deconstruction of the patriotic WWII movie and, with it, the mythology of America's "Greatest Generation." The film's chief concern is the iconic AP photograph of six U.S. soldiers planting an American flag atop Iwo Jima's Mount Suribachi and how the lives of the three who survived the battle (played here by Ryan Phillippe, Jesse Bradford, and Adam Beach) were irrevocably altered by their newfound celebrity. Flags of Our Fathers unfolds like a nightmare, jaggedly flashing back and forth between the charcoal sands of the battlefield and the clinking banquet rooms where the flag-raisers shill uncomfortably for the war-bond effort. Before long, it becomes clear that Eastwood is refuting an entire way of reading history, by which epic conflicts are distilled into simplistic heroes and villains, winners and losers. Flags offers us an all too timely reminder that in war, determining who is just and unjust depends entirely on where you're watching from.
Clint EastwoodRyan Phillippe, Adam Beach, Jesse Bradford, Paul Walker, Neal McDonoughPaul Haggis, James BradleyClint Eastwood, Steven SpielbergParamount