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Author Topic: Who saw FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS? (WARNING: SPOILERS ALLOWED!)  (Read 27662 times)
KC
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« on: October 16, 2006, 08:14:48 PM »

So who has seen Flags of Our Fathers?

In this thread, "spoilers" are allowed. Any Web Board Member who has seen Flags of Our Fathers and has more to say than can be safely posted in  the "No Spoilers" thread, please give us your thoughts, comments or full-fledged review!
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« Reply #1 on: October 17, 2006, 07:37:42 AM »

I think this is free of any major "spoilers", but I'll include it in this thread just the same...



Flags of Our Fathers[/font][/color] (Clint Eastwood)

Based on the stories of the soldiers who raised the flag in the most famous photograph of World War II, sadly it misses being the masterpiece it might have been. Adapted from the non-fiction best seller of the same name, a dying man's son researches his father's war experiences he never talked much about including being one of the six men who hoisted Old Glory atop Mount Suribachi during the battle for Iwo Jima. The photograph was so popular and instantly iconic back home that days afterward three of the surviving six men from the snapshot were sent back to the States for a whirlwind publicity tour to raise money for the war effort. And while you'd think those three plot strands of the investigation of the son, the battle itself and the subsequent tour would make for an interesting narrative, astoundingly Flags for Our Fathers can't make a consistently compelling movie from them. Segments of the film work wonderfully, and all the combat footage on the island is remarkable, but the structure is a mess. I'm guessing the idea behind the structure was to make the viewer as disoriented by it all as the men who lived it, to play up the insanity of being surrounded by the horrors of war one minute and parading around for pretend days later, and also to make what really happened with the flag raising a bit of a mystery and to show some of the son's process of discovery. Whatever the intent, the result of the badly paced and disorganized movie is no real emotional attachment to the core characters.

The three young leads are fine. Ryan Phillippe does good, quiet work as "Doc" Bradley, the Navy Corpsman who did his best to tend to the wounded during that horrific battle and Jesse Bradford is well cast as the good-looking Marine Rene Gagnon. But it's Adam Beach as Ira Hayes, the Native American Marine, who gets the most opportunites to stand out, and for the most part he does very well. Bradley and Hayes were both haunted by their experiences on Iwo Jima, though they dealt with it differently. Bradley buried it all inside himself while Hayes tried to dull the pain with alchohol. But as an example of where the film falters, Bradley's pain was centered around the loss of his buddy Ralph "Iggy" Ignatowski (played by Jamie Bell). Iggy was captured one night and found later in one of the island's many tunnels, mutilated in horrible ways. While it's understandable how that would haunt somebody, we really never get to see the bond between Bradley and Iggy, so there's no specific emotional attachment to the loss for the viewer. I mean it's obviously a horrible death among the many horrible deaths in that campaign, but the movie doesn't give any insight or even devote more than a minute or two to the men interacting as friends. Part of this is due to the disjointed structure, but even within the flashbacks the scenes of their friendship simply aren't there. There's also a hollow deathbed moment between Bradley and his son, but because we haven't really seen them interact either it's also one of those things where, yes, we can project a basic amount of empathy for the idea of a son losing his dad, but there's nothing in the body of the film to give any weight to these two specific characters.

And while the structure and the lack of emotional connections are the main problems with Flags of Our Fathers, there are also smaller issues that weaken the movie further. The one that I found most disappointing were a couple of minor roles that were very badly written and acted. Most specifically the General who after a bond drive event at Chicago's Soldier Field makes some racist comments about Hayes and his drunkenness and has him removed from the rest of the publicity tour. This character, though only in two brief scenes, is ridiculously over-the-top and arch, and frankly it isn't necessary for him to be so one-dimensional. This was the problem I had with Eastwood's last film, Million Dollar Baby, that Maggie's family was used as a bunch of White Trash stereotypes and a plot device rather than real characters. At least in that movie the main characters were portrayed with such grace, complexity and subtlety that I could get past the simplistic way her mother was drawn. In Flags the three main soldiers do not get the same level of care as the three main characters in Baby. And though the function of the racist and blustery General is not as key to the goings on, it's definitely a weakness just the same.

OK, enough of the flaws. What the movie does best is the chaos and Hell of battle. It doesn't do it any better than Saving Private Ryan's D-Day opening, but it is definitely on that level. The scale of the invasion and the confusion and blood of combat are all perfectly recreated. The black sand and jagged rocks of Iwo Jima will stay with you. The post-photo bond drive also has many highlights, and the points about the crass necessity of selling War to the public are well made and the deconstruction of the myth of the famous photograph is important. Flags of Our Father's ultimate theme of what makes a hero is earnest and certainly has darker edges than a typical John Wayne flick. The central performances are all good, and another melancholy musical theme by Eastwood is integrated very well. All of that is why is so frustrating that the structure is so unsatisfying and there isn't any emotional wallop brought out of the characters. Perhaps there was just too much story to tell? The movie is only two hours and ten minutes long, and I can't help but wonder if another forty-or-so minutes couldn't have fleshed out the characters more. Though frankly three hours with this flawed narrative structure still would have been disappointing.

You'll definitely want to stay all the way through the end credits. They start with a dedication to Phyllis and Bummy, being two longtime Eastwood collaborators who recently passed away: casting director Phyllis Huffman and legendary production designer Henry Bumstead. Then throughout the credits are photos of the actual men and the action on Iwo Jima, ending with the photo. As flawed as it is, I'm now even more excited about Eastwood's companion film, Letters from Iwo Jima, which will tell the battle from the Japanese perspective. Other than as the enemy seen briefly on the battlefield, Flags offers almost no glimpse of the 23,000 Japanese soldiers, though the discovery of Iggy's body and the noises Ira investigates in the tunnels atop Suribachi make me want to see the other movie even more.

Flags of Our Fathers has plenty to recommend seeing it, but it is flawed and simply isn't one of Eastwood's best works nor does it rank with the greatest War films.


GRADE: B
« Last Edit: October 21, 2006, 03:56:33 AM by Holden Pike » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: October 17, 2006, 02:49:37 PM »

Looking forward to seeing how others on the board react to Flags this weekend.
spare a thought for those that have to wait til december. you lucky people ;)
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« Reply #3 on: October 17, 2006, 04:00:24 PM »

Interesting Holden, I'm wondering if this is going to be a film that would ultimately benefit from a re-edit, incorporating Letters from Iwo Jima and by injecting some emotion via an accomplished composer. It's not that I haven't enjoyed Clint's last couple of movies, but I do tend to agree that emotional aspects sometimes seem almost "capped" by Clint's hesitance to let go when scoring. To be honest, I'm not a fan of Clint's contributions in the role as composer. In an ideal world, I'd love for him to employ the talents of a "John Williams" caliber of composer, maybe for just a spotting session and take on another point of view. It's surprising how the music score can shift the emotional aspect of a movie or a character. Clint's music is Melancholy, there's no better word for it, but I think that's due mainly to his lack of experience as a film composer, I'd much rather him stick to what he is best at, which is working behind or in front of the camera.
« Last Edit: October 17, 2006, 04:13:57 PM by mary mary » Logged
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« Reply #4 on: October 18, 2006, 04:58:15 PM »

Congrats on a very detailed and articulated review.

My initial response was WOW! What a buzzkill.

On the Rotton Tomatoes movie rating site, the movie has a 100% cream of the crop rating.

Just curious, have you read the book?

I believe that there should be two categories for reviewers,

{1} Have read the book,

{2} Have not read the book.

I would put more stock into reviewers that have read the book.
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« Reply #5 on: October 18, 2006, 05:08:04 PM »

I personally think movies should be judged on their own merits and for that reason I would prefer that reviewers do NOT read the book. If they read the book, they should clearly separate their opinion of the book from their opinion of the movie. Even better, critics should review the movie, then tell us in a postscript whether or not they believe it to be successful as an adaptation of the book.

Most U.S. critics who reviewed The Bridges of Madison County seemed to devote at least half the review to explaining how much contempt they had for the book, and only then got around to telling us what they thought of the movie.
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« Reply #6 on: October 19, 2006, 02:31:15 AM »

i agree wholeheartedly with KC, what most people seem to miss is that whats on the screen is an adaptation of a book, not a text to picture translation,it'll neverr be exactly the same as your imigination anyway. you can't always just stick a book on film for many many reasons, time being foremost most books would require 5 hour movies ;)
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« Reply #7 on: October 21, 2006, 09:32:06 AM »

My trip yo a local theatre started out with major dissapointment as all four theatres within a thirty mile radius were not showing Flags of our Fathers.

How the hell can that be? Anyway, I decided to drive the four and a half hours one way to a larger city {Portland} as I could not wait to see the film. I am glad I did as I thought the movie was great!

A little dissapointed with the turnout for the 7:PM showing as the theatre was only about a quarter full.

I read the book and thought the movie was true to the book. The battle scenes were amazing, especially the shots of Mt. Suribachi whan the blasting started. I believe Clint shot the back and forth to show what those kids must have felt like during the carnage.

I got a lump in my throat when they first landed and nothing happens, then you see the guns coming out of the pill boxes. They never knew what hit them.

I thought the three main characters were excellent. Gagnon, looking to cash in on his sudden fame, Doc, the understated all around good guy and Ira battling his demons. I really had a sense for how incredibly overwhelming it was for them during the bond drive.

A funny scene, where Sgt. Mike Strank walks in when there playing cards and asks if everyone has their masturbation papers in order, then Franklin goes to get them signed.

A lump in the throat moment when Ira meets Mike Stranks mom. You could see that Strank was a Marine's Marine. His men loved and respected him. Barry pepper was excellent.

I liked that there were no Tom Hanks type actors in the movie. Really strikes you how young and innocent these kids were going into this.

In the end I felt the movie honored the men who fought and told the story of how they really felt about the second flag raising. I wonder how many people never knew that the famous Joe Rosenthal picture was from the second flag raising.

Stayed through the ending credits and liked that they showed the pics of the flag raisers and the authentic pics from the battle.

Was hoping for a preview from Letters from Iwo Jima. Oh well!

I will see Flags again when it opens in this little one horse town.

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« Reply #8 on: October 21, 2006, 11:44:40 AM »

Flags of Fathers is a decent movie for Clint Eastwood's standards, but unique and different in its own way. The main factor that Flags distinguishes itself with other war films is its heroic concept, and how brilliantly it was used in the film. Not too much of a war film with action, but it is mainly the story of these soldiers you had to follow. Although not much war sequences, they are shot excellently well and to its full effect as Speilberg did for Saving Private Ryan.

There are many flaws to this movie however, because of the way the film was structured. Some scenes such as when the three surviving flag raisers were raising up the fake flag in Soldier Field, too many flashbacks occured, which became quite repititive. In a sense, there is a lot of material that needed to be covered in this film, but too much of it seemed to be all squished into the movie, which damaged the structure of the plot in a way.

However, this film is one of the most believable war films ever made in my opinion. This is a very important film, and one of the most important that Eastwood has ever made. Eastwood did quite a great job with the concept of heroism making sure that the audience remember the brave individuals who fought in the war. I loved the one of the last lines that James Bradley says in the film when he says, "they may have fought for their country, but they fought for their friends." That line almost brought me to tears, because of the absolute realness of the situations these men went through. This film is not the greatest war film and not one of Clint's greatest, but it is one of the most important films to watch this year, or ever by far. I cannot wait to see Letters from Iwo Jima because in my opinion, I think Clint will do much better in that film. An enjoyable film to watch, and I highly recommend it!
B+
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« Reply #9 on: October 21, 2006, 12:30:41 PM »

I was fortunate enough to see this movie opening day with my uncle.  He enjoyed it more than I did.  I did like it.  The movie was very well made. 
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« Reply #10 on: October 21, 2006, 02:18:39 PM »

Ok.. I saw the film yesterday at one of the areas nicest theatres and on a huge screen.. which really is the only way to see this unbelievable film.

I loved it ... the war sequences were very real, just as if I was sitting in a foxhole on the island.  There was actually more battle footage than I expected.. and the way the film went back and forth from what the 3 main characters were going thru State-side to their recollections of the horror that they had just recently witnessed was most effective.  I guess lots of people want just straight forward, linear filmmaking, but that would not have been nearly as effective as the way this movie was made.  Clint (and the screenwriters) made the audience completely understand the reasons that these 3 characters where most uncomfortable with their "hero" label back home.

The cinematography was the best, bar-none, of any war film ever made...  The long shots of the beach landing with all the battleships and airplanes flying over were amazing.

While war movies in general are not my favorite genre of film, this movie was so powerful in the way it blended the story back home with what these guys went thru on Iwo Jima.  Highly recommend everybody sit thru all the credits at the end to see the actual photographs of these guys and scenes during this battle.  It's amazing how this film duplicated the actual footage/photographs.

I just don't understand some people saying this film is "flawed" in certain ways... not flawed whatsoever imo....  All the flashbacks moved seamlessly back and forth just perfectly... just the way Clint did it with Mystic River.
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« Reply #11 on: October 21, 2006, 04:28:53 PM »

Brian, I'm curious to know if your uncle is old enough to remember World War II, or if he maybe even fought in it?
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« Reply #12 on: October 21, 2006, 06:39:59 PM »

I saw it this afternoon and I loved the movie!!

Several points I would like to make--

The three young men who starred handled their individual roles well, especially Beach who (I suppose) represented all the boys who actually did survive and came back alive (with troubles) and yes, the film was supposed to be ABOUT Phillipes character "Doc" Bradley-but his character did show the same humble spirit and team attitude he showed (on the island ) every time he assisted Hayes after they returned stateside. A job made more and more difficult as the hero worship and war bond drive began to wear on Hayes.

Don't listen to the critics...if you havent had tears well up in your eyes within the first half hour you should check your pulse.

The scene where Bud Gerber reveals to the men what was at stake in the war bond drive (raising 14 billion dollars for the war effort ( the SEVENTH drive in fact!) by giving them a quick shopping list of supplies (Bullets, guns, jeeps, fuel etc) their friends back on Iwo Jima needed to continue fighting was staggering. I never knew that part of historical background. To think we could have lost!

Major congrats to the two screenwriters , Broyles Jr. and Haggis (especially Haggis who hooked onto the idea of flashing back and forth from the war to homefront and back again throughout the movie was sheer genius)
It wouldnt have been as powerful if they had remained on a standard linear approach from basic training to the fighting to the return home and the war bond drive and then the aftermath....(my opinion)

The special effects crew just as equally deserves a deep bow to their incredible efforts.
I was especially impressed with the one or two shots in the pilot seat of a plane and the plane flew alongside and inbetween the boats as they sped toward their destinations----

The beach scenes were just stunning. Huge wide shots where you can see for miles and miles with nothing but hundreds of ships and soldiers and missles and explosions and that mountain in the background....

.....and MOST of it that you see on screen (from what I have read in movie magazines) WASN'T real- the cast and crew was actually on an island in Iceland and everything else was digitally added....INCLUDING the huge mountain! Truly jaw-dropping, stunning visuals.

Eastwood has said that he has shown the film to some vets and aside from telling him it was pretty true to life some commented on the great newsreel footage he had onscreen. This of course pleased Eastwood enormously since of course, he used NO newsreel footage.

If you see it---you should really stay for the end credits where while the credits roll on the right- you see (on the left) all actual photo's taken during the battle---many many scenes were practically lifted photo by photo from real life throughout the film (which you'll see when you watch the end credits.)

Clint did one magnificent job.

 It's the best film he has ever directed. Especially considering (From next week's Entertainment Weekly issue (Clint's on the cover) that the actor  Phillipe estimates that almost 80 percent of the film was done in Clint's legendary 'one take' filming style. Which explains how the whole film managed to keep a 58 day shooting schedule.

I mean, consider this....

They had to haul tons of equipment TO Iceland-

film what they needed-

and then haul it all BACK stateside and then continue filming here in the states---

build whatever sets they needed (and dress the set properly for the time period-)

Even thinking of the logisitcs involved for the few days that they were in Chicago.....

....to be able to accomplish all that- within two months.

And then edit it together and make it WORK as a filmgoing experience that gets grown men to openly weep.....

Not alot of directors can do that.

Let alone a 76 year old!


Hopefully he has at least a couple more films in him since it seems the man has finally hit his prime.

Who would have thunk that the man we came to know as Dirty Harry on the big screen 40 years ago would have gone on to be one of the most respected Iconic directors of his time?

Thanks Clint.
The only sad note is that Joe Rosenthal, the man who actually took the photo- passed away a few months ago, and never saw the film. Would have been interesting to see what he would have thought of it all.

One tiny historic footnote---the film did cover the Japanese strategy of being underground and being in tunnels (which was a major factor in their being able to hold the island for so long.) But it didn't explain it as well as I had hoped....unless of course the men never knew the extent of what the japanese had done BEFORE the Marines arrived which would understandably not be needed in this film.

But anyone interested should look online and research what the Japanese had done. Months before we arrived they had dug (thanks to the soft volcanic yet sulfuric soil) almost FIFTEEN MILES of underground tunnels and simply waited for us to stop bombing the island. They were safe and sound UNDERGROUND and simply waited for us to just walk ashore.....

Some of the bunker systems within the mountain were rumored to be five stories deep and hold almost 150 men....

Just a very interesting historic note I feel you should take with you when you see the film. (Although the second film Letters From Iwo Jima is reported to cover the tunnel system alot more when it arrives in theaters in a few months)


« Last Edit: October 21, 2006, 08:19:14 PM by honkeytonkman000 » Logged
KC
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« Reply #13 on: October 21, 2006, 07:08:24 PM »

honkeytonkman000, thanks for your review!

One tiny historic footnote---the film did cover the Japanese strategy of being underground and being in tunnels (which was a major factor in their being able to hold the island for so long.) But it didn't explain it as well as I had hoped....unless of course the men never knew the extent of what the japanese had done BEFORE the Marines arrived which would understandably not be needed in this film.

I think the point was that the Americans DIDN'T know about the tunnels. That's why it has such an impact when one of the men disappears down one without anyone's realizing what has happened to him. The audience doesn't know either, and feels the bewilderment and terror of the young man who had promised to come back to his buddy.
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« Reply #14 on: October 21, 2006, 07:19:10 PM »

Not the masterpiece we have lately been accustomed to from Clint.

Some weak points:

- NARRATIVE STRUCTURE: Clint didn't pull it off effectively (see Kurosawa's RASHOMON, RED BEARD, or IKIRU, all of which I believe Clint was very influenced by for this picture)

- CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT: the scenes with the one death followed by another and another was ineffective emotionally because they were more or less faceless, formless forms. The majority of the characters never reached a point of living, breathing beings.

- MUSIC: this film cried out for a SCORE! A good old-fasioned Hollywood epic score would have brought the house down, not three or four notes picked on a guitar

- WHO'S WHO?: one slight annoyance was at times I really had a difficult time telling one guy from another. Turning the film stock to drab gray, having mainly no name actors, and then having those actors wearing the same gear just all added up to who is who and what is happening to whom?

Highlights:

- the brief military briefing aboard the deck of the ship. Man, I wanted to jump right into the screen and enlist. Clint got this right. As horrible as war is, it is still man's ultimate adventure.

- Hayes hugging the Gold Star mother and weeping painfully at the reception. Brought tears to my eyes. I haven't cried in a movie theater since, well, MILLION DOLLAR BABY. Kudos to Clint for touching me so much that I weeped in public. Thanks Clint.
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« Reply #15 on: October 21, 2006, 07:32:06 PM »

KC--yes of course your correct.

But I am a real film nut and as the FOOF opening weekend approched I read up for several hours over seevral days about the battle and really got interested in the tunnels.

Just to imagine those thousands of japanese souldiers digging and digging throughout that summer, in addition to being on a deadline to get ready before we arrived in December!

Quick stats--
The island is five miles long.
The tunnels they built (actual stats differ) were almost fifteen miles long not including the several story bunker complexes.

Thats practically three times the length of the island itself!

All of it dug and prepped so that they could literally hide underground while we vicously (and uselessly) bombed the surface of the island before placing our troops on the beaches.

Obviously Clint also found it all just as fascinating and took on a companion film about the general who thought it all up, knowing that in all likelihood that he (and his men) would never see their families. (In fact---they were practically required to die)
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« Reply #16 on: October 22, 2006, 06:18:35 AM »


But I am a real film nut and as the FOOF opening weekend approched I read up for several hours over seevral days about the battle and really got interested in the tunnels.



Yeah... I believe and hope that Letters from Iwo Jima will go into detail about all the tunnels and the strategy of the Japanese commander to defend the island this way.  Should be fascinating....

BTW - your review and thoughts on the film completely mirrors my own.  Somebody stated that the film needed a Hollywood type of score... I totally disagree. Having the sparse music made the island warfare so much more tense and unnerving.  Plus, this was not a glorious battle win that was over in a couple of days... A vast number of men died fighting on that volcanic island.
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« Reply #17 on: October 22, 2006, 02:28:47 PM »

My trip ...
...
I will see Flags again when it opens in this little one horse town.

I agree with you.  I, too, read the book - so the movie, itself, made more sense (though I can see how the flashbacks and such might have been confusing for those who didn't).  In the book, I got a LOT of character development, and felt a REAL sense of loss when any of them died - this was sort of missed in the movie (but, hey, it was 2:12 long...).

I've got to grade it an A-.  The acting was SUPERB, the characters that we DID get to "know" were well-developed, and it really hugged closely to the book.  I wish there was more character development for the boys who dies, as well as some of the side-characters who were featured in the book.

I had a lump in my throut a few times, and it was tough to watch some of the more intense scenes.  As a former Marine, I think it was QUITE accurate, and the portrayal of the guys as wanting to survive, but also NOT wanting to let their buddies down was definitely well-presented.
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« Reply #18 on: October 22, 2006, 05:55:12 PM »

I saw the Sunday matinee showing.  First, I was pleasantly surprised to see a rather full theatre (though, not packed), with a very broad range of ages there, and everybody seemed very much into the movie.  It was a very good movie going experience.  When the closing credits started, I was initially annoyed at the usual rush of people leaving the theatre, almost as much as I was when everybody left at the closing of The U.S. vs. John Lennon, but then I glanced back I saw there was still quite a few people who’d stayed.  In fact it’s the most people I’ve ever seen stay through most or all of the closing credits.

I thought the movie, overall, was great.  The look, the special effects, and the editing were all spectacular.  I had no problem with the structure, and in fact I really liked the contrasts the movie continuously sets up, between slow and frantic, between light and dark, between loud and soft, and of course between the situations the characters find themselves, between the horrors of war and the strange adulation thrust upon them back home, to name only a few contrasts this movie utilizes.  As well, the structure emphasizes the cost of war and the price of heroism.  The real cost of death for those who didn’t make it, physical and emotional trauma to those who did, and the cost to run a war and how these “heroes” could be used to help in the financing of this war.  The movie is far more dynamic and engaging because of its structure. 

The movie doesn’t have any typical cinematic climax, though, no moment where everything builds up to.  It just kind of peters out and ends with a series of small vignettes that serve the purpose more to let the audience know what happened to everybody rather than enrich or expand upon the main story.  For me of the final scenes that stands out the most is the where we see the soldiers go swimming in the ocean.  I thought the scene between the elderly Bradley and his son, who is of course author of the book Flags of Our Fathers, stood out as awkward and overly maudlin.  Even if it happened exactly that way, I don’t see how it does anything for the story, because there’s nothing previous to that to suggest that the elder Bradley was anything but a normal father to his son James, except that he’d lived with the horrors of Iwo Jima all these years without wanting to talk about what had happened.  The scene could have been more subtly written and handled better, and the unnecessary sentimentality stripped away.

The movie is definitely worth seeing, and should be viewed on the big screen to fully appreciate its visuals, because they’re outstanding.  I’d rate it a definite B+.
« Last Edit: October 23, 2006, 06:16:43 AM by Doug » Logged

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« Reply #19 on: October 22, 2006, 08:42:45 PM »

There's one scene in particular that really stuck with me: when the three 'heroes' are invited to this banquet, and the dessert is some sort of cake shaped like the flag raising scene -just like the picture.
The waiter asks them if they want chocolate or strawberry sauce on it ... and one of them, I think it was Ira, says strawberry. It looked like blood.
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"He that hath no beard is less than a man, and he that is less than a man, I am not for him…" 'Much Ado About Nothing' Act 2, Scene I (William Shakespeare)

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