No flag-waving for new Eastwood war movie

by Beacon Staff • October 18, 2006

Every few years, an unforgettable war epic emerges in the entertainment industry and captivates the hearts and twists the guts of Americans with an invigorating take on the drama of World War II. It manages to emulate the real horrors of the battlefield and sets a higher standard on which all future war films are based.

Flags of Our Fathers is not this film.

It's pretty far from it, actually-besides a couple indelible shots of exploitative gore, it is instantly forgettable. Way to go, Clint Eastwood!

Flags of Our Fathers tells the not-so-enthralling story of the six men who raised the American flag during the battle of Iwo Jima. However, what has been seen as a legendary photograph later proves to be one filled with drama and much more back story than anyone really cares to hear.

Whether intended or not, Eastwood creates an extremely timid acid trip within the first twenty minutes alone. Similar to a vomit of images spewed on a screen, the film begins with random 30-second bits of different characters-all in different eras doing God knows what. To make matters worse, these confounding, irrelevant scenes are not even displayed in a unique or artistic way. Eastwood mundanely observes a man flipping out of his bed. Then he cuts to another old man falling on a set of steps before cutting again to another man running through a battlefield. It's a dismally dull drug episode that would cause users to curse at whoever dealt them the narcotic. It's confusing, but not in an enthralling, bizarre way.

Following the randomness, the film eventually introduces its three main characters: the pretty boy/hero John "Doc" Bradley (Ryan Phillippe), the 'I don't really serve any purpose' guy Rene Gagnon (Jesse Bradford) and the out-of-control drunk Native American, Ira Hayes (Adam Beach). After wasting no time at all establishing the characters, it vacillates to the better part of the film: the battle scene.

Naturally, there's the unnecessary gore: bullets fly everywhere and melodramatic dialogue is thrown around in between the soaring of arms and legs. It is nothing like Eastwood's former style; it is more reminiscent of Saving Private Ryan than anything, but is breathtaking in its own respect. Eventually the gunfire has to stop, and at this moment, the film completely goes to hell.

The rest of the film consists of Eastwood randomly cutting back and forth to Iwo Jima and then to the publicity tour. To put it succinctly-something the film never even thought to try-the plot follows a publicity tour surrounding the three main characters that are identified by the public as heroes for lifting the American flag.

What makes this WWII drama hilarious is Eastwood's way of pulling any scene out of his butt and making it an impetus for a flashback. Case in point: strawberry sauce. Oh, dear Lord... not strawberry sauce!

As the waiter pours the sauce over one of the hero's dessert, a horribly developed scene takes us back to a dreadfully awful flashback that has absolutely nothing to do with strawberry sauce, but the Japanese. Strawberries comparable to the Japanese? It doesn't make sense. Strawberry sauce may make a delicious dessert topper, but it is not as sweet as a time traveling machine.

Eastwood's attempt to weave together the battle and the publicity tour does not work at all. There is no logic or clever transitions-just gunfire and blood serve as a reason to cut back to an inebriated Native American attempting to speak to an audience about the real story behind the raising of the flag.

Toward the end of the film, an utterly appalling scene pervaded the screen; it is quite possibly, without hyperbole, the worst scene ever. Take Phillippe's character, the pretty boy/hero all dressed in combat gear, climbing up a pseudo-mountain made of Styrofoam in front of a stadium full of people. As he and the other three characters attempt to reenact the infamous photograph, Phillippe's character suddenly finds himself experiencing flashbacks. Imagine him climbing up this Styrofoam mountain and then-BOOM- an overly intense shot of his cherubic face suddenly emerges in slow motion and then Eastwood abruptly cuts to a saccharine scene from the war in which Phillippe's character is watching a fellow soldier get blown to bits. As if this could not become any cornier, it happens two more times ... the exact same freakin' way.

The point of this is simple: Clint Eastwood is old and you're a jerk if you dislike a patriotic movie based on a true story.

Nobody wants to see Eastwood hanging on long after his credibility has gone to hell.

This movie is, simply put, bad. Clint Eastwood is still redeemable due to his older films, but let's just hope that he's not getting senile.