Flags of Our Fathers is based on the book of the same name by James Bradley and Ron Powers about the Battle of Iwo Jima and the famous raising the flag on Iwo Jima picture. It’s the second recently released movie about the Battle of Iwo Jima, the other being Letters from Iwo Jima.
Both films were directed by Clint Eastwood. Although both focus on the same event, they are quite different. Letters from Iwo Jima is from the Japanese perspective and Flags of Our Fathers from the Ame…ican. Also, Flags is more focused on the group of Marines that raised the flag, their efforts in selling war bonds back in America and their coping with the war. Having recently watched and enjoyed Letters from Iwo Jima, I eagerly anticipated this film.
In February 1945, the Americans landed on the island of Iwo Jima, the last stronghold protecting mainland Japan. What followed was a brutal battle with one of the highest death tolls in the Pacific Theatre, but what gained more publicity was a photograph taken atop Mount Suribachi, of six Marines triumphantly raising an American flag.
Back in America, this picture sent out a feeling of victory to the public and raised morale. The government, almost broke because of the war effort, called back the three surviving soldiers in the photo to help sell war bonds. The movie flashes between past and present throughout, focusing on the battle itself and its toll on the soldiers, the public relations tour to sell war bonds, and the current day interviews of the people involved back in 1945. More specifically, the book in which this movie was based was written by the son of one of the Marines, John Bradley (Ryan Phillippe), and he interviews the people surrounding the events as well as comforts his dad on his death bed during certain sequences of the movie. The main premise of this movie is the sudden fame and claim to heroism these three marines faced, and the way each dealt with it. John Bradley is modest and can’t get past the death of his war buddy. Ira Hayes (Adam Beach) is becoming an alcoholic and refuses to be called a hero. Rene Gagnon (Jesse Bradford) milks the publicity and tries to make a name for himself.
Flags of Our Fathers is a really interesting movie. I liked how it focused on the publicity tour of the three marines and their personal post-war struggles. It opened my eyes to matters I didn’t even know existed, like the fact that the infamous flag was really the second flag raised on the mountain; the group of marines who raised the initial flag upon capturing the mountain received no fame. I won’t delve into that too much as the movie speaks for itself on the subject matter, and is fairly interesting at that. The cast was rather well put together for this picture, and includes Paul Walker, Jamie Bell, Robert Patrick, and Barry Pepper. I will however warn you right now that if you expect to see a typical glorified American war movie like Saving Private Ryan, you might be disappointed. There are battle scenes, but the focus of the movie isn’t on the battle, so some of you might find it rather boring.
In the end, I preferred Letters from Iwo Jima in many aspects. Of course these are two very different movies, but they share one director and similar subject matter, so I thought I’d throw in my comparison. Check out Flags of Our Fathers if you’re curious about the Marine War Memorial and exactly how the statue that spawned from the picture took place, and how it affected all parties involved.
Presented in 1080p 2.40:1 and encoded in VC-1, Flags Of Our Fathers is a great-looking movie. At times VC-1 has come under fire for its softer appearance, but I can assure you this is not the case in this film. The picture is sharp and extremely detailed. This becomes apparent when the troops land on Iwo Jima. With the details of the explosions combined with the realism of combat, at times I felt like I was in the middle of the action myself. I was just as pleased with the sharpness in the facial details as I was with the landscape, as wrinkles and stubble can be clearly seen on the soldier’s faces, which is impressive when you take into consideration the filming conditions.
Beyond the crispness of the picture, I was especially pleased with the blending of visual effects and the actors during the action scenes. The picture never looked enhanced or digitalized and maintained a realistic look throughout. Initially the color pallet may seem washed out and dark, but it is clearly intended and it added to my appreciation of the transfer. Even the print was in perfect condition, leaving no artifacts or grain, which is impressive when considering the low lighting conditions for the majority of this picture’s duration. To sum it up, this movie looked perfect, and if you are a video nut, this transfer will definitely fulfill your needs.
DreamWorks has included an impressive 5.1 Dolby Digital Plus track, and although Flags Of Our Fathers wasn’t able to utilize my surround sound as well as the explosive Letters from Iwo Jima, it still managed to sound very impressive. Surprisingly, what stood out most for me was the very audible dialogue. It sounded very nice throughout the entire movie, with a whole whack of rear channel support for a good majority of the dialogue sequences. As well, the dialogue was surprisingly well balanced with the meshing action sequences, and not once was the dialogue muffled by the booming explosions during these action shots. While these action scenes didn’t take up an overly significant portion of the film, they all managed to use the channels very well. Rich and deep bass combined with effective use of rear support, created a perfect war atmosphere, with bullets whizzing through all channels for a great field of depth. Overall, this movie sounds nearly as good as it looks.
Flags Of Our Fathers comes with a handful of interesting features, all of which are worth a viewing whether you’re a fan of the movie or have even a vague interest in aspects such as the real life events, production of the film or cast interviews. As a nice bonus, DreamWorks presents them all in High Definition.
An Introduction By Clint Eastwood: A 5-minute introduction from Clint Eastwood by discussing various aspects of the war, the island of Iwo Jima, and the movie itself.
Words On the Page: 17 minutes in duration, James Bradley talks about childhood memories regarding his father, the sources of information of his writing, and various other topics regarding the novel. it’s an interesting view into the personal lives of the families of the flag raisers, and his motivations for the writings.
Six Brave Men: A 20-minute look into the real lives of the six soldiers who raised the flag. Each actor discusses the real-life person they portrayed, and Clint Eastwood reveals personal information about each person.
The Making Of An Epic: A half-hour, in-depth look into the whole process of making the film, starting with how Clint Eastwood landed himself in the director’s chair and his wide expectations of the film. In addition to production details, this featurette interviews various cast and crew members.
Raising the Flag: Clint Eastwood and the actors discuss the efforts behind the authenticity of the scene in which the second flag went up. 3 minutes in length.
Visual Effects: A 15-minute look into the efforts behind making this film as realistic as possible, citing pictures as references and on-set consultants.
Looking Into the Past: 10 minutes of real-life footage focusing on the American invasion of Iwo Jima. Seeing this footage makes you appreciate the depth of realism this movie has captured.
I generally don’t like Hollywood versions of America’s WW2 exploits, but Flags Of Our Fathers proved to be quite entertaining and educating. Although I liked Letters from Iwo Jima more, I still find this one a great alternative and would suggest you check out both if you get the chance. So the movie was pretty good, but it looked and sounded amazing, and to add to that there was a good selection of extra features making this an easily purchasable disc for fans of the movie.
Special Features List
- An Introduction By Clint Eastwood
- Words On the Page
- Six Brave Men
- The Making Of An Epic
- Raising the Flag
- Visual Effects
- Looking Into the Past