Archive | 6:15 pm

They Could Be Heroes

21 Oct

Many will call Flags of Our Fathers Clint Eastwood’s Saving Private Ryan. And they will be wrong, because Saving Private Ryan is the better movie. This film, the story of the Battle of Iwo Jima and the soldiers who were celebrated for having appeared in the famous flag-raising photo, means to seriously question the definition of the word “hero” and to criticize the government machine that creates stories in the name of national unity and support of the war. On those counts, the film generally succeeds; it’s hard not to think of the current war and people like Jessica Lynch. The film even opens by saying how the country’s support of the war was on the wane and people were getting more cynical. Sounds familiar.

But as storytelling, I found the film lacking. Flags is based on the book by James Bradley and Ron Powers about Bradley’s father. But instead of Bradley narrating the whole movie, there are multiple narrators, a device that initially throws you off to who is telling the story. And in fact, that Bradley is writing a book is never really made clear. There’s a jump in plot and all of a sudden he’s speaking with various veterans. And then about three-quarters of the way in, he becomes the narrator. Also, I usually don’t mind when the story moves around in time. Heck, the TV show Lost does it in every episode. Here, however, the movie jumps from one time period to another and then to another, and that takes away from the impact Eastwood wants to make. I always sort of felt like I didn’t know what was going on because there were things left unfinished. The first five minutes or so, with Doc Bradley’s heart attack, are especially confusing. It’s unclear why it’s being shown at all. But more importantly, I just didn’t feel like the three main characters were fleshed out enough. As a result, they’re not compelling. I get the symbolism of the faceless soldiers in the picture, and how they could be anyone, but these three guys needed more of an identity for this movie to really work.

Maybe I’m not making sense here. I just found Flags, ahem, not all it could be. I’m giving it a B.