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Old 10-12-06, 07:47 AM   #1
JimRochester
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Flags of our Fathers - sneak preview

Saw this last night at a sneak peak. For those that haven't seen the trailers; it's about the flag raising on Iwo Jima and how it affected the men involved. Part war, part drama, very effective switching back and forth.

Pros - very well done. good performances from actors with little recognition with some of the smaller parts played by guys more well known. Great insight into the story.

Cons - epilogue was just a litte long. Once they started to wrap things up it seemed like it dragged. Quite a few people got up before the credits. Relied heavily on flashback scenes so a couple times it jumped quickly and it took a second to figure out where they were in the story.

Even with the drawbacks I give this a solid 3 *** out of 4. Would love to see a good documentary or a commentary by a war historian in the DVD release .
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Last edited by JimRochester; 10-12-06 at 07:48 AM. Reason: to correct my lousy grammer
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Old 10-12-06, 08:02 AM   #2
ianholm
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Thanks for the review. Wasn't too crazy about it when I see names like Jesse Bradford and Ryan Phillippe, but I've been reading good things so far. I will check it out regardless.
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Old 10-12-06, 08:38 AM   #3
BuddhaWake
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JimRochester
Saw this last night at a sneak peak. For those that haven't seen the trailers; it's about the flag raising on Iwo Jima and how it affected the men involved. Part war, part drama, very effective switching back and forth.

Pros - very well done. good performances from actors with little recognition with some of the smaller parts played by guys more well known. Great insight into the story.

Cons - epilogue was just a litte long. Once they started to wrap things up it seemed like it dragged. Quite a few people got up before the credits. Relied heavily on flashback scenes so a couple times it jumped quickly and it took a second to figure out where they were in the story.

Even with the drawbacks I give this a solid 3 *** out of 4. Would love to see a good documentary or a commentary by a war historian in the DVD release .
Couldn't agree more. I saw this on tuesday and I felt the same about the epilogue. the last 15-20 minutes could be done without and it would have done better. I guess it would have been akward without it since its so flashback heavy.
I was still pleasantly surprised with as it went a different route that I thought it would.
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Old 10-12-06, 09:17 AM   #4
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Thanks for the write-up, I look forward to seeing this.
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Old 10-12-06, 09:24 AM   #5
flixtime
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Through a friend’s invite, I was lucky enough to catch a sneak as well. From an entertainment perspective I enjoyed the film quite a bit, but from a critical perspective I’m not so high on it. I haven’t read the book that the film is based on, so I just want to put that out there first. First off, I’d say a viewer would be best served to approach this film not as a traditional war film but more as one of those post-war films about returning soldiers (“Best Years of Our Lives”, “Pride of the Marines”, etc.). While I did enjoy the film, it did feel derivative of other recent war films.

The beginning goes the “Saving Private Ryan” route of the old man in present day. There is some narration that had me thinking of Eastwood’s “Million Dollar Baby”. The cast too had me thinking of recent war films as you’ve got Barry Pepper from “We Were Soldiers” and Adam Beach from “Windtalkers”. Paul Walker and Jamie Bell (“Billy Elliot”) have smaller supporting roles as two of the soldiers in the unit. In addition to Adam Beach, Ryan Phillippe plays another of the lead flag raisers and he did a nice job but again I might have preferred a newer face. Jesse Bradford rounds out the trio of lead flag raisers and he was fine but I still think the role could have been cast better. I think I just might have preferred some fresher faces….unknowns. The opening battle, while very impressive with some grand visuals, felt like a re-tread of “Saving Private Ryan” with a sprinkle perhaps of the hill assault in “The Thin Red Line”. The battle scenes were convincing in their depiction of the horrors of war, but some of the gore (severed body parts) felt more gratuitous in this film as opposed to “Saving Private Ryan”. The first battle scene is extensive and as you are really into it, the film drops you right out and into a scene on the homefront. I found it disorienting and it took me entirely out of the experience.

The film is structured with three distinct parts: the battle for Iwo Jima; the story on the homefront and the post-Iwo fundraising tour being done by the three surviving flag raisers; and a present day thread of the writer (and flag raiser’s son) researching his father’s experiences during the war. Cutting to the present day storyline is more prevalent much later in the film and actually leads to a dissatisfying and rather uncompelling final 10 minutes or so (the present day thread is also in the opening and at times I did find it unclear as to who was doing the talking). The bulk of the film is the cutting between Iwo Jima and the post-Iwo fundraising tour. I don’t think the fusing of the two was done as well as it could have been, and a number of times it frustrated me and dropped me out of the experience.

Now the following is probably opening a can of worms that is better left sealed but I think it is important enough to put out there. My perception is that the film was rather political in regard to the present day situation with the war in Iraq. While examining the ordinary hero, it also seems critical of the exploitation (too harsh a description, maybe “manipulation” is better) of the common man to further a political agenda. Also through the Adam Beach character you see a Native American who despite being a hero faces significant racism back in the U.S. When it comes to the current war, as of now I’m a little left-leaning on the issue and I certainly perceived the film to be that. But I have a problem with tying a string from this a World War II film (a “good” war) to the current day (still open for debate). As much as I might personally agree with this undercurrent in the film, I was still unhappy with it as viewer. While all the post-Iwo storyline is likely highly accurate, the sort of revisionist (albeit accurate) spin on those times felt unfair or at least not quite the appropriate outlet. I’m not saying the perhaps over-glorifying of the U.S. serviceman via “Saving Private Ryan”, “Band of Brothers”, etc. is ideal but in a way I’m more comfortable with that than I am with the approach here. I didn’t put this across as eloquently as I would have liked but I just wanted to put it out there (hopefully it doesn’t lead to any unnecessary political argument in this discussion as that was not my intent).

Another thing I didn’t care for is the score (apparently done by Eastwood himself) in some of the quieter moments. Towards the end it felt repetitive and near-grating. As mentioned, as compared to the Iwo battle and the post-Iwo storylines, I really didn’t care for the present day thread and it comes more to the fore towards the end and it really sent the film out on a wimper. The actor playing the author did little for me and I found the character rather uninteresting.

I know this review seems rather negative, but like I said as a war film junkie I enjoyed the film quite a bit. The majority of individual scenes looked at on their own were a success despite my issues (not as big perhaps as I made them out to be) with casting of some of the characters. However, as a complete film, in some ways it was a let down and the material could have been handled better…..so a thumbs down on Eastwood the director for this effort. I hope I expressed some clarity as I realize this review is a bit of a ramble. I hadn’t intended to write about the film but seeing the thread today I changed my mind and wanted to chime in.
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Old 10-12-06, 09:41 AM   #6
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There's plenty of gratiuitous violence in there
Spoiler:

they are easy to see because everytime its going to happen they focus on someone which would other wise would have made no difference. Like the camera would focus on someone against a wall or standing in a hill for what seems a little too long and then all of a sudden they are blown all over the place. like when the musical ques come up on horror movies and suddenly stop and boom there you go. it was like that.


In response also, I think I liked it (probably a little more than you) due to the fact that I was expecting that glorification of soldiers as seen in too many movies but this one made them more human. which actually makes them better "heroes" by definition. I also appreciated that it didn't go into why they joined or whatever. I guess those are used more in non voluntary sign up wars but it didn't go to the cliches often seen in those. You know, so guy from brooklyn, a poor kid to get out of the hood, a guy looking for adventure. etc.
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Old 10-12-06, 11:56 AM   #7
flixtime
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BuddhaWake, I'd agree with you about the somewhat telegraphed/staged nature of some of the graphic violence. It did have that "look and wait because something bad is about to happen" quality to it.

Some more thoughts on the film, despite the familiar "average joe swept up and under the control of the powers that be" nature to it, the insight into the in-need-of-a-major-boost war bond fundraising drive was very, very interesting and something I personally was not familiar with.

When I mentioned actor Jamie Bell in my earlier post I should have cited "King Kong" instead of "Billy Elliot" because that is what the initial sight of him in this film brought me back to (seemed like the same character).

An additional point of criticism, I thought Eastwood overplayed some scenes. Early in the film, you get a look at our three heroes doing a reenactment of the flag raising on Iwo. This scene comes back later in the film, and as our main characters are reenacting the event you get close-ups on their faces and then quick flashbacks to some horrors they saw on Iwo. It's a brief scene, but I thought it was heavy-handed as far as showing the flashbacks. We've already seen throughout the film what they went through and what they must be thinking, we don't need to be hammered over the head with more flashbacks (though the flashbacks themselves could have been used at other times in the film). Even a couple of the editing/cuts/scene transitions were a little rough I thought. There is a scene with the Ira Hayes character sitting on his bed in a hotel room and the transition/cut into that scene seemed a little coarse.

Again I enjoyed the film quite a bit (the DVD will be mine on street date) and I'm certainly using a "fine-toothed comb" level of criticism (which I think is fair given the talent involved), but it just wasn't immersive enough for me.....I had way to many other thoughts popping into my head throughout. Heck, even towards the end I got a feeling the film was going to go "Forrest Gump" on us and have one of the characters go running around the American Southwest.

On a related note, when we finally do get the DVD release for "Flags of Our Fathers", I hope we also get tie-in releases of DVDs for:

"The Outsider" (1961) - starring Tony Curtis as Iwo Jima hero Ira Hayes (same character as played by Adam Beach in "Flags of our Fathers")

"Hell to Eternity" (1960) - starring Jeffrey Hunter as the recently-deceased hero of Saipan - Guy Gabaldon

As a look at heroism in war, despite some harsh reviews around the 'net, as a fan of "old" movies I've always liked (and I'm sure I'm forgetting many others) Gary Cooper's "They Came to Cordura" (1959)....already on DVD. Or even better, "The Four Feathers" (1939)....avoid the godawful re-make.
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Old 10-13-06, 07:55 AM   #8
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James Brandely who is "Doc" Bradley's son was on Imus this morning. I hate Imus but that's for another thread. He also wrote Flyboys. He was a good speaker, much better than Imus is. I didn't get to watch the whole interview however he was good in describing some backstory and more details not in the movie
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Old 10-13-06, 10:08 PM   #9
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For those who have seen it:

1) What's the running time
2) It's certainly Oscar friendly/Oscar worthy in content, but do you feel it's execution backs that up?

and finally ... is Eastwood going to be any threat to Scorsese this year?
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Old 10-14-06, 08:41 AM   #10
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I didn't pay that close attention to the exact runtime, but I think it was approximately 2 hours and 5 minutes (not including the time for the end credits).

As far as Oscar chances (not that I have an educated opinion), but as far as both the movie and Eastwood as director are concerned, it was a skilled and workmanlike effort but also somewhat cookie-cutter and rather uninspired. The story was there, and even though I enjoyed it, I couldn't help but feel that it could have been done better. Note: I haven't yet watched "The Departed".
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Old 10-14-06, 11:58 AM   #11
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About 2 hours sounds right. I agree with flixtime; for this to be an Oscar contender it would have to face some pretty weak material. It was good, but not what you traditionally think as great. A little chaotic in places and a few places where they took "inspiration" from other war films.
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Old 10-15-06, 08:47 AM   #12
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I'm interesting in seeing this movie, but the trailers seemed a little weak (or weaker than they could have been). I've read the book, and it was interesting, if not outstanding. I found that the book overlapped itself a lot as well, retelling several stories more than once. The book has a semi-linear flow though, with only pepperings of the author's interactions.
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Old 10-15-06, 04:39 PM   #13
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Isn't this the movie that has a companion flick along with it that tells the story from the Axis side?
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Old 10-15-06, 08:30 PM   #14
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Quote:
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Isn't this the movie that has a companion flick along with it that tells the story from the Axis side?
Yes, this is the one. The other movie from the Japanese perspective is releasing in February of 2007. The title is "Letters from Iwo Jima" (earlier called "Red Sun, Black Sand").
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Old 10-16-06, 10:24 AM   #15
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Since I saw the one I guess I'll have to see the other one. Is letters based on anything or is it totally fictional?
I like how the trailers make it seem like another war movie in the line of SPR and them and shows nothing about the homefront.
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Old 10-16-06, 10:54 AM   #16
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I can't wait to see this. The Oscar field, on paper at least, doesn't appear as strong this year as last, so I think this is a safe bet as one of the 5 nominees. Dreamgirls would be another one at this point.
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Old 10-16-06, 04:13 PM   #17
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Flags of Our Fathers metascore: 93

Admittedly, it's only from 5 reviews.
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Old 10-21-06, 08:27 PM   #18
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I haven't read the book, so my take is totally on what Eastwood decided to focus on for this adaption of "Flags of our Fathers".

I thought Eastwood implied much of the daunting mission of overtaking Iwo Jima by the US troops through the combat footage interspersed throughout the film. It's more than enough to show that it was a horrific and treacherous mission, but the price was worth it in military terms and objectives (to end the war sooner and save more lives in the long run). I don't think I needed more warfare footage to get that people defending their land will act atrociously against those who invade their land. Most viewers will get that aspect without needing more gore and bloodshed shown to them.

The film counterbalances the Iwo Jima side by focusing on the stateside aspect of the war bond drive, with the government using the 3 surviving members of the 6 men shown photographed in that famous photo of the US troops propping up the US flag on Iwo Jima. I think that Eastwood wanted to use this aspect to draw parallels to what's going on today in terms of the government shaping public perception of the war, while also using its heroes to personalize the triumphs of the war effort and downplaying the casualties of war. For the soldiers used for the war bond drive campaign, it devolves into the predictable "what have you done for me lately" fare after the war becomes yesterday news. But it's because of films like this one that illuminates the sacrifice of soldiers, and honors their service to country, even if the government is more than just a little bit opportunistic in touting heroes as a rallying point for their war financing needs. The everyman aspect represented by the 3 surviving soldiers, and the families of the fallen is what was stressed by Eastwood and company, and it's because it could have been anyone in that photo, but the universal message is about the machinery of war and its lasting efforts on the fallen, and those who have returned, but feel, in some ways, like they have never left that island nor their brothers-in-arms.

I give it 3.5 stars, or a grade of B+.
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Old 10-22-06, 03:08 PM   #19
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I just got back from seeing this and pretty much agree with the consensus on this thread so far: a decent movie but cracks are apparent when you hold it up against Eastwood's better work (Mystic River, Unforgiven) and against better war movies (Saving Private Ryan, Jarhead).

It's a story worth telling, and it's told well. But it's a film that has a bit too much flab, and a lot of it is due to the fact that some of its messages have been told before, and maybe a bit better. I feel like it was retreading that because it felt it had to.

I know Spielberg was involved in this movie but I would like to see a movie whose visual palette and style is not directly cribbed from Elem Klimov (or rather, Spielberg's re-interpretation of that style in Saving Private Ryan). I've honestly had it with the washed out contrast in the blue spectrum, blooming whites, shaky camera, etc.

What this movie does do very well is how the scope of Iwo Jima. The set-up scenes showing all the battleships heading to the island are breathtaking and the shots of the planes going in for the attack were beautifully handled.

I'd give this film a solid B+. It's not wasted time if you're a war movie fan, but it falls behind Eastwood's best work from the past fifteen years.
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Old 10-22-06, 06:32 PM   #20
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Pretty good flick. Interesting but not enough emotion in it. They set up some pretty dramatic sequences but they don't pay off well because we hardly get to know many of the characters. Also, the non-linear structure works well sometimes, but other times it takes a few seconds to realize exactly WHEN in the story we are. I thought Beach was pretty great and could see him getting a nomination, but other than that, I don't think Oscar is going to bite... The Departed and Scorsese certainly have this beat IMO. A decent film but I was expecting quite a bit more from Eastwood.

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Old 10-22-06, 09:10 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mdc3000
I thought Beach was pretty great and could see him getting a nomination, but other than that, I don't think Oscar is going to bite... The Departed and Scorsese certainly have this beat IMO. A decent film but I was expecting quite a bit more from Eastwood.
Seconded. None of the performances were standout, although Beach's was very good. If this movie was by anyone but Eastwood I wouldn't rank it as a disappointment but I've liked his recent stuff so much I couldn't help but feel that way. This movie had its moments but Departed was through and through the superior film.
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Old 10-22-06, 09:59 PM   #22
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I was impressed by it. Great cast and I too enjoyed the non-linear storytelling. However, I don't think it's strong enough to warrant an Oscar for Best Picture.
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Old 10-28-06, 04:58 AM   #23
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I found myself wishing the movie would just end already. It felt like 3 hours. Although if it is a factual re-telling of events, I certainly learned a few things I didn't know before I sat down, so I'd have to give it some points for that. I enjoyed "The Departed" much, much more.
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