Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB.
USA, 2006. DreamWorks, Warner Bros., Malpaso Productions, Amblin Entertainment. Story by Iris Yamashita, Paul Haggis, Screenplay by Iris Yamashita, based on the book Picture Letters from Commander In Chief by Tadamichi Kuribayashi, Tsuyoko Yoshido. Cinematography by Tom Stern. Produced by Clint Eastwood, Robert Lorenz, Steven Spielberg. Music by Kyle Eastwood, Michael Stevens. Production Design by Henry Bumstead, James J. Murakami. Costume Design by Deborah Hopper. Film Editing by Joel Cox, Gary Roach. Academy Awards 2006. American Film Institute 2006. Golden Globe Awards 2006. National Board of Review Awards 2006. National Society Of Film Critics Awards 2006. New York Film Critics Awards 2006. Phoenix Film Critics Awards 2006.
Any suggestion that Flags Of Our Fathers was a shameless opportunity for flag-waving can easily be dismissed by the existence of this film, a superior, haunting look at the battle of Iwo Jima from the point of view of the Japanese side. Even more impressive is that director Clint Eastwood made the film in the Japanese language, foregoing the unfortunate Hollywood habit of having actors speaking pidgin English in a story taking place on foreign soil (take a Memoir, anyone?) The film picks as its focus one young soldier in the battle, but covers quite a few of them as it tracks the days before the American landing, when the soldiers realize that their government and military have all but abandoned them, through to the devastation of the actual fight when low morale leads to heavy losses and dangerous personality conflicts. The superb Ken Watanabe gives a wonderful performance as the sympathetic general who doesn’t believe that the nation’s strict military code needs to be followed to the letter in order to ensure success, and he leads a cast that matches him point to point with a whole host of excellent performances. Eastwood, however, is the real star here, creating a war film that achieves some gorgeous moments of introspection that feel natural (particularly for those who find Terrence Malick’s grass-in-the-wind melancholia in The Thin Red Line too much to swallow) and by the film’s last third, when the men really stop to think about what it means to be human, reaches a level of pure majesty.