FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS

REVIEW BY DAVE SMITH

Clint Eastwood is the oldest director (74) to win an Oscar for best director (Million Dollar Baby). Thus he sets a wonderful example for those of us who have aged along with him. . He has proven that you are not finished when you reach age 65 or any age for that matter. As further proof, he hired 91 year old Henry Bumstead as Production Designer for Flags of Our Fathers. Eastwood previously worked with Bumstead on such films as, Honky Tonk, High Plains Drifter, and Joe Kidd Bumstead's career started in 1948 and he was either Art Director or Production Designer for such films as To Kill A Mockingbird, The Man Who Knew Too Much, and Topaz.

Bumstead also worked on Eastwood's sequel to this film, Letters from Iwo Jima (to be released in 2007) which is an account of the battle from the Japanese viewpoint. Robert Altman, who just died, was 81 when he directed Prairie Home Companion. John Huston directed his last film when he was 81. But enough of my rambling about age. By now you are asking, "What about the film?" OK, it's very good!

Flags of Our Fathers is more about the celebrated flag raising than about the battle. It is more about patriotic propaganda which manipulates the three survivors of the flag raising. It is more about the Pima Indiana Ira Hayes, than about the other two survivors. Hayes said, "All I was trying to do is not get shot." Eastwood himself said the film was about a bunch of guys just "trying to save their asses." However the U.S. Government didn't see it that way. They saw a chance to make these three men heroes whether they liked it or not in order to sell war bonds. How could they refuse?

They are made to climb papier-mache mountains and re-enact the flag raising before huge crowds all over the country. Eventually it was too much for Hayes. He became an alcoholic and shortly after witnessing the dedication of the Iwo Jima flag-raising monument, he was found dead of exposure and malnutrition.

This is a powerful film. Many will not like the flashbacks which are used frequently. Many will compare it to Saving Private Ryan and Steven Spielberg does get credit as producer but that is because he had the rights to the story and was going to direct but changed his mind. Spielberg asked Eastwood if he would be interested and Eastwood, who had tried to get the rights at one time, jumped at the chance. Some may wonder what the film might have been like had Spielberg directed. I am not one of those. I am entirely satisfied with the older guy's version.

 

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