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Flags of Our Fathers is a American war film directed, co-produced and scored by Clint Eastwood and written by William Broyles, Jr. and Paul Haggis. It is based on the book of the same name written by James Bradley and Ron Powers about the Battle of Iwo Jimamarker, the seven men who were involved in raising the flag on Iwo Jima, and the aftereffects of that event on their lives.

Instead of a linear storyline like the book, the film is told in media res, with events of the Battle shown through a series of flashbacks. Eastwood also directed a complementary film on the battle from the Japanesemarker viewpoint entitled Letters from Iwo Jima. It was released in Japan on December 9, 2006 and in the United States on December 20, 2006, two months after the release of Flags of Our Fathers on October 20, 2006. The film is produced by Eastwood and Steven Spielberg.

Plot

The story focuses on seven US Marines of the 28th Marine Regiment, 5th Marine Division, Sgt. Mike Strank, Pfc. Rene Gagnon, Pfc. Ira Hayes, Cpl. Harlon Block, Pfc. Franklin Sousley, Sgt. Hank Hansen, and Pfc. Ralph Ignatowski, as well as their Navy Corpsman, PhM2. John "Doc" Bradley.

In December 1944, U.S. Marines train at Camp Tarawamarker, Hawaiimarker. They train by climbing a large mountain and getting in Higgins boats. The Marines then set sail across the Pacific, and it is revealed that they are headed to the small island of Iwo Jimamarker, located less than 700 miles from the Japanese mainland. As Captain Severance puts it, they will be fighting on Japanese soil, and will expect tough resistance. A few days later, the armada arrives off the coast of Iwo Jima and the ships of the US Navy open fire on suspected Japanese positions. On the night before the landings, Mike is put in charge of second platoon.

The next day, February 19, 1945, the Marines hit the beach in landing craft and meet no resistance. Ralph, aka "Iggy", suspects that the Navy killed all the Japanese defenders, as do most of the Marines. After several tense minutes the Marines advance forward and the Japanese open fire. The battle is extremely intense, and the Marines take heavy casualties. Japanese heavy artillery opens fire upon the Marines on shore, as well as the Navy ships. After several attempts, Second Platoon takes out a Japanese pillbox which was pinning them down. They advance forward, as do many other Marines. The battle begins to calm down and the beachheads are secure. Two days later the Marines attack Mount Suribachi under a rain of Japanese artillery and machine gun fire, as the Navy bombards the mountain. It is here that Doc saves the lives of several Marines under fire which later earns him the Navy Cross. Finally, the mountain is secure. For the next four nights, the Marines take cover in foxholes as Japanese soldiers charge through the mist.

On February 23, the platoon under Hank's command is ordered to climb Mount Suribachi. They reach the top and hoist the American flag atop the mountain. For the first time in 1,000 years an enemy flag is raised on Japanese soil. Suddenly the platoon is attacked by Japanese sharp shooters, but the Marines kill them without losing anyone. When Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal arrives on Iwo Jima, he requests to have the flag atop Suribachi. Colonel Johnson is furious, but ultimately gives in, telling Captain Severance to bring the flag down and replace it with another one. Severance sends Rene, who is a runner, to go with Second Platoon to the top of the mountain and switch flags. When Second Platoon reaches the top, they take down the first flag. Mike, Harlon, Doc, Ira, Rene and Franklin then raise the second flag. The event is seemingly insignificant but it is captured by combat photographer Joe Rosenthal, and the image lives forever in the public consciousness.

On March 1, Second Platoon is on patrol when they are ambushed by a Japanese machine gun team. Mike orders Harlon to have his parateam take out the machine gun nest. The gunner is killed. Mike goes up to examine a dead Marine. He turns around and orders the unit to move up. Almost immediately afterward, a Navy shell lands right behind him knocking him down. In the smoke and confusion a Japanese soldier remans the machine gun and opens fire, killing the lieutenant. The machine gunner is quickly killed but Mike is critically wounded. Doc does everything he can but Mike dies within minutes of getting hit. Mike's death hits the squad hard, as they all idolized him. Things only get worse from then on. Later that day Hank is shot in the chest and dies almost instantly. Harlon is killed by machine gun fire hours later. Two nights later while Doc is helping a wounded Marine, Iggy is abducted by Japanese troops and dragged in a tunnel. His mangled and tortured body is found a few days later by Doc. On March 21, as the battle is winding down Franklin is killed by machine gun fire and dies in Ira's arms. Of the eight men in the squad only three are left: Doc, Ira and Rene. A few days after Franklin's death Doc is wounded by artillery fire while trying to save a fellow corpsman. He survives and is sent back home. On March 26 the battle ends, and the U.S. Marines are victorious.

After the battle the press gets hold of the photograph of the second flag raising. It is a huge morale booster, and papers all over the country ask for prints. When Rene is asked who is in the photo, he gives five names, including his own, saying that the other four are, Mike, Doc, Franklin, but says that Hank was in the photograph (Rene thought that Hank was at the base of the flag. In reality it was Harlon). He then tells Ira he is the sixth man. Ira corrects him, saying that it was Harlon, and fiercely denies being in the photo, going as far to threaten Rene with a bayonet to his throat. Even though Rene tells him they'll be sent home, Ira won't give in. However, when Rene is threatened with being sent back to the fighting, he tells their bond tour guide Sgt. Keyes Beech that Ira was the sixth man, though not telling him that Harlon was in the photo, not Hank.

Doc, who was in the hospital, is sent stateside with Ira and Rene as part of the seventh bond tour drive to raise money for the war effort. When they go to Washingtonmarker, they meet Bud Gerber of the Treasury Departmentmarker, who will be their other guide. Doc notices that Hank's mother is on the list of mothers of the dead flag raisers. Ira gets mad and calls the whole thing a farce. An annoyed Bud then confesses that the country is bankrupt and that if the bond drive fails the war will be lost. The three give in and decide not to tell anyone that Harlon Block was actually in the photograph.

The bond drive begins, and the three flag raisers are sent around the United States to raise money and make speeches. Ira gets drunk frequently, often breaking down from the memories that haunt him. The night the three men raise a fake flag at Soldier Field, Ira gets drunk and throws up in front of General Alexander Vandergrift, commandant of the Marine Corps. Vandergrift is furious at Bud and Keyes, telling them to send Ira back to his unit. When Keyes tells Ira he's going back, Ira confesses that he can't stand being called a hero, and that Mike was a true hero. Ira says goodbye to Doc and Rene and goes back to the Pacific. The bond drive continues.

In September the war ends and Doc, Rene and Ira go home. Ira tries to move on but is never able to escape his unwanted fame. One day in 1952 after being released from jail, he hitchhikes over 1,300 miles to Texas to see Harlon Block's family. He tells Ed Block, Harlon's father that Harlon was indeed at the base of the flag in the famous photograph. In 1954, the USMC War Memorialmarker is dedicated and the three flag raisers see each one last time. In 1955 Ira dies of exposure after a night of drinking. That same year Doc drove to a town where Iggy's mom lived and told her how Iggy died, though it is implied that he lied. Rene has little success as the business offers he received on the bond drive are no longer offered to him. He spends the rest of his life as a high school janitor, dying in 1979. Doc is the only successful one. He buys the funeral home he worked at before the war and runs it for the rest of his life. In 1995, as he is on his death bed, he tells his son James how after the flag raising Captain Severance took the men swimming. He then dies peacefully. In a final flashback to 1945, the men swim in the ocean after raising the flags.

Cast

Actor Real Life Role
Ryan Phillippe PhM2. John "Doc" Bradley
Jesse Bradford Pfc. Rene Gagnon
Adam Beach Pfc. Ira Hayes
John Benjamin Hickey Keyes Beech
John Slattery Bud Gerber
Barry Pepper Sgt. Michael Strank
Jamie Bell Pfc. Ralph "Iggy" Ignatowski
Paul Walker Sgt. Hank Hansen
Robert Patrick Col. Chandler Johnson
Neal McDonough Capt. Dave Severance
Melanie Lynskey Pauline Harnois/Gagnon
Thomas McCarthy James Bradley
Chris Bauer Commandant Alexander Vandegrift
Judith Ivey Belle Block
Myra Turley Madeline Evelley
Joseph Cross Pfc. Franklin Sousley
Benjamin Walker Cpl. Harlon Block
Alessandro Mastrobuono Cpl. Charles W. Lindberg
Scott Eastwood Lundsford
Stark Sands Walter Gust
George Grizzard Older John Bradley
Harve Presnell Older Dave Severance


Critical reception and box office

The film received positive reviews with the review tallying website Rotten Tomatoes reporting that 134 out of the 184 reviews they tallied were positive for a score of 73% and a certification of "fresh."

The film made the top ten list of the National Board of Review. Eastwood also earned a Golden Globe nomination for directing. The film was nominated for two Academy Awards — for Best Sound and Sound Editing. Film critic Richard Roeper said "Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers stands with the Oscar-winning Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby as an American masterpiece. It is a searing and powerful work from a seventy-six-year-old artist who remains at the top of his game." and "Flags of Our Fathers is a patriotic film in that it honors those who fought in the Pacific, but it is also patriotic because it questions the official version of the truth, and reminds us that superheroes exist only in comic books and cartoon movies."

Despite critical acclaim, the movie underperformed at the box office, earning just $65,900,249 worldwide on an estimated $90,000,000 production budget.

Spike Lee controversy

At the 2008 Cannes Film Festivalmarker, director Spike Lee, who was making Miracle at St. Anna, about an all-black U.S. division fighting in Italy during World War II, criticized director Clint Eastwood for not depicting black Marines in Flags of Our Fathers. Citing historical accuracy, Eastwood responded that his film was specifically about the Marines who raised the flag on Mount Suribachi at Iwo Jimamarker, pointing out that while black soldiers did fight at Iwo Jima, the U.S. military was segregated during WWII, and none of the men who raised the flag were black. Eastwood angrily said that Lee should "shut his face". Lee responded that Eastwood was acting like an "angry old man", and argued that despite making two Iwo Jima films back to back, Letters from Iwo Jima and Flags of Our Fathers, "there was not one black Marine in both of those films". In fact, black Marines (including an all-black unit) are seen in scenes during which the mission is outlined, as well as during the initial landings, when a wounded black Marine is carried away. During the end credits, historical photographs taken during the Battle of Iwo Jima show black Marines. Although black Marines fought in the battle, they were restricted to auxiliary roles, such as ammunition supply, and were not involved in the battle's major assaults, but took part in defensive actions.

DVD release

The DVD was released in the US by DreamWorks Home Entertainmentmarker on February 6, 2007. It is devoid of any special features.

A Two-Disc Special Collector's Edition DVD (with special features) was released on May 22, 2007. It was also released on HD DVD and Blu-ray formats.

The Two-Disc Special Collector's Edition DVD is also available in a five-disc commemorative set that also includes the Two-Disc Special Collector's Edition of Letters from Iwo Jima and a bonus fifth disc containing History Channel's Heroes of Iwo Jima documentary and To the Shores of Iwo Jima, a documentary produced by the United States Navy and the United States Marine Corps.

References

  1. Flags of Our Fathers single-disc widescreen edition DVD at Amazon.com
  2. Flags of Our Fathers two-disc, widescreen Special Edition DVD at Amazon.com
  3. Flags of Our Fathers Blu-Ray at Amazon.com
  4. Letters from Iwo Jima/Flags of Our Fathers Five-Disc Commemorative Edition at Amazon.com


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