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Movie Review

Flags of Our Fathers

MPAA Rating: R for sequences of graphic war violence and carnage, and for language

Reviewed by: Jonathan Rodriguez
CONTRIBUTOR

Very Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
War, Drama, Historical
Length:
2 hr. 12 min.
Year of Release:
2006
USA Release:
October 20, 2006 (wide)
Copyright, DreamWorks SKG
Copyright, DreamWorks SKG
Copyright, DreamWorks SKG
Copyright, DreamWorks SKG
Copyright, DreamWorks SKG
Copyright, DreamWorks SKG
Copyright, DreamWorks SKG
Copyright, DreamWorks SKG
Copyright, DreamWorks SKG
Copyright, DreamWorks SKG
Relevant Issues
Copyright, DreamWorks SKG

What is the Biblical perspective on war? Answer

What kind of world would you create? Answer

Why does God allow innocent people to suffer? Answer

What about the issue of suffering? Doesn’t this prove that there is no God and that we are on our own? Answer

Does God feel our pain? Answer

The Origin of bad—How did bad things come about? Answer

Featuring: Ryan Phillippe, Adam Beach, Jesse Bradford, Jamie Bell, Ben Walker
Director: Clint Eastwood
Producer: Clint Eastwood, Steven Spielberg, Robert Lorenz
Distributor: DreamWorks SKG

“Every Soldier Stands Beside A Hero”

Clint Eastwood’s “Flags of Our Fathers” lands us on Iwo Jima for a harrowing look at the battles fought there during World War II, and then returns us stateside to witness the internal battles fought by three survivors. Everyone has seen the picture of the six brave soldiers who raised the American flag on Iwo Jima’s Mount Suribachi, but Eastwood uses that as the focus of his film, and follows the three of those six who survived the war.

Ryan Phillippe plays Jon “Doc” Bradley, a Navy medic whose responsibility it seems is to make everything seem alright to those wound victims he knows have no chance of survival. Jesse Bradford plays Rene Gagnon, a Marine runner who is none to thrilled to be on the island. Adam Beach plays Ira Hayes, an American Indian (Pima) who takes the war very seriously and is the brunt of many racial jokes from his fellow soldiers. The three men are part of the six man crew who raised that famous flag on Iwo Jima.

When the picture, taken by Joe Rosenthal, hits the newspapers back in America, it becomes instantly popular, and is seen by many as being a sign that victory has been achieved. The powers that be realize that, since the war is far from over, the picture can be used as a rallying cry to raise more money for the war and call home the men from the picture who are still alive to do the fundraising. Gagnon jumps at the opportunity to leave Iwo Jima. Bradley, who had been wounded, returns home almost nonchalantly, as if expecting to return soon. Ira Hayes doesn’t have any desire to leave Iwo Jima, and even threatens Gagnon’s life if he is named as one of the flag raisers. Gagnon doesn’t name him initially, saying that he can’t remember who the other guy was. But, when the question is raised that maybe since he can’t remember he wasn’t actually one of the flag raisers and is threatened that he will be sent back if he can’t name the third guy, he relents, much to the dismay of Hayes.

When the boys return home, they are forced to make appearances, speeches, even re-enactments of the flag-raising. Gagnon loves the spotlight (as does his camera-friendly girlfriend) and uses his newfound fame as a way to get job offers for when he is done touring. Ira Hayes despises the hero status thrust upon him by the picture, so much that he drinks himself numb before each appearance.

The story is told in flashback. It opens with Bradley, much older now as the war has long passed, reliving the horrible scenes from the war in his nightmares—flashbacks that have no doubt haunted him all his life. We then flashback to before the soldiers land on Iwo Jima. We see them train, get briefed on the lay of the island, and get to know each other as each prepares to fight in its own way. It continues going back and forth in time: we see the boys at war, we see them at home raising money, back at war, back raising money, etc. If there is one thing about “Flags of Our Fathers” that I didn’t appreciate, it was the choppy timeline. I didn’t really see the need for flashbacks every few minutes; the film would have flowed smoothly and been much more seamless had it started from the beginning and then followed the three men as they experienced the war and the aftermath.

There is one great flashback scene, though, that either way would have worked. The three men are re-enacting the flag-raising on a fake mountain in the middle of Soldier Field in Chicago. As each of the men climb up to the top, with fireworks going off all around them and lights flashing everywhere, they individually are taken back to the horrifying things they saw on the island. It is, in my opinion, the film’s most powerful scene.

“Flags of Our Fathers” contains what you would likely expect from a war movie. It does contain a decent amount of language. The most offensive to Christians will likely be the frequent profane uses of the Lord’s name, in all its forms. The violence will remind many of “Saving Private Ryan;” it is every bit as horrifying and haunting. Parents should take caution in letting impressionable or squeamish children see this film. It will, however, provide a powerful lesson to those older children who can stomach the violence.

“Flags of Our Fathers” is a really good war movie, but I don’t know that I can describe it as a great one; the back and forth timeline really does get frustrating after a while. The acting in the film is subdued, which in most cases is a good thing, but during some of the movie’s more powerful scenes, the acting comes out flat, as if the actors are still in the first stages of script reading. I am not going to discourage people from seeing the movie based on these few minor annoyances. I am only mentioning them because, to me, they prevented “Flag of Our Fathers” from becoming a war movie classic.

Violence: Extreme / Profanity: Extreme / Sex/Nudity: None

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—I had to see this movie …twice. As a Marine (currently in the Reserves), I already knew most of the facts concerning the battle of Iwo Jima. Most, if not all, Marines do. Yes, the movie contains some very bad language. Yes, the movie contains some graphic scenes of war and its carnage. And no, this is not a movie for children. It is after all a movie about war.

However, having said that, I still highly recommend this movie to any and all Americans who share an interest in their history. The movie making quality is very good. The color scheme Clint Eastwood chose to use works extremely well and adds a sense of “being there” to the movie. What I like best is that it really sends no message either pro or con. It isn’t saying, “See look at the Marines. They can do no wrong.” And it also isn’t saying, “See look at how evil the United States and it’s military is.” Instead, it simply shows you what these young warriors endured and did during the most hellish experience of their lives. A battle against an enemy whose standing order was: “You will die on this island, but just make sure you kill 10 Marines before you do.” Indeed, this was the greatest generation. Truly fascinating.
My Ratings: Very Offensive / 5
—Angel Mendez Jr, age 37
Positive— Wow… I loved this movie. First of all with the “offensive meter” going on, this was a war movie, made to be realistic; I was not “offended” by any of it since it was very close to the truth. I didn’t like a whole lot of the language, especially the name of Jesus used as a swear, but it happens, and in a war movie, it did not surprise me at all, so I wasn’t offended by it, didn’t like it, but it happens.

The racism towards Mr. Adam Beach’s character saddened me, because I saw all that he went through, and when he got home he was kicked out of a restaurant, that’s disgusting. He seemed to me to be the most real person there, drunk a lot of the time, but that also doesn’t surprise me. After seeing your friends blown up and give their lives to fight evil and protect our freedoms and those of others, coming home as a hero for raising up a flag that was already raised would seem ridiculous, and all the pressure you would have gone through would be crazy. I’m sorry he didn’t find his strength in Jesus Christ instead of the bottle. His crying with the mother of a fallen soldier was touching.

The violence was there for sure (kinda gross spoilers coming up). Heads blown off shoulders, with a close up of the head after, guts falling out of an injured man, japanese soldiers who had committed suicide with grenades—apparently they liked to hold them right by their chests, and plenty of people being shot is very frequent. But in a movie like this, I think necessary, war is gross, and not a game like some of the older WW2 movies seem to show (such as the great escape from 1963).

(end of grodiness)

This movie is very good, and I think that any war movie lover would love it, since I, someone who hates gore and lots of blood, was able to stomach it and actually enjoy the film. …
My Ratings: Average / 4
—Cody Forsman, age 18
Positive—Short version: authentic war film, well filmed, good acting, soldier’s vocabulary used throughout, not for the squeamish. Clint Eastwood has another success on his hands.
Longer version: Although I usually eschew Hollywood special effects for the sake of luring crowds I have to say as someone into WWII history and film, this one ranks as the most incredibly realistic in bringing you for the first time ever into the sights and sounds of a naval gun battle. There is no movie yet produced until this one that captures so well what the big guns where like firing from the hulking destroyers. That said, the acting and directing are good to very good. The story line is original in that it interweaves the battle of Iwo through well edited back flashes with the story of how you have to sell war to the very fickle and naive public. People want clean and easy in war, they tire of it easily, then as now. There is no such thing folks. Without becoming racist, the film accurately portrays the merciless Japanese ways of WWII as well as how one is brought down to the level of your enemy whether you want to be brought down there or not. Again, not clean, not easy. It is honest about racism present during that era in our country. The realities of war mean swearing that will offend some and gore that will do the same. If you don’t want to deal with the taking of the Lord’s name in vain in every way possible, don’t go see this. As in my review of Girl, Interrupted, the use of the cruder elements is justified and realistic. This is rare in Hollywood, I am usually very uncomplementary about this issue, here it works. War is hell. I especially liked how the idea of heroism, what it is to the public and what it is to an 18 or 19 year old recruit, is defined from both points of view, very thoughtfully done. But please, don’t take your children to see this unless you see if first. One thing omitted from the film, however, was the pervasive and genuine faith in Christ that was part of the American fabric, it is no where to be seen in the film really. This will not go down as an all time great WWII effort, but it is a very well done movie. I rate this offensive due to the language and gore. There is, mercifully, just very little sexual in it.
My Ratings: Offensive / 4½
—Bob MacLean, age 57
Positive—Being a very patriotic person, as well as an avid enthusiast of World War II films, I was excited to go see this movie. The quality of the movie making was breathtaking, especially the scenes showing the immense number of war ships necessary to have a successful full invasion. But, while cursing is certainly common in our world and probably common on the battle field, the language in this movie was way over the top. I lost count very quickly. They certainly used every word in the book on this one. I also am sure that their were a lot of praying soldiers on these old battle fields, but that part was certainly left out. If you are interest in history and that kind of stuff, you will enjoy this film. Don’t however take your family to see it. The language and violence are way over the top!
My Ratings: Very Offensive / 4
—Pastor David McDaniel, age 34
Positive—Most of the comments here are very representative of the movie. It was violent, but unlike “Saving Private Ryan,” the broken timeline (flashbacks/flash forward) enabled the violence to be easier tolerated than “Saving Private Ryan.” I found it more like “The Passion…” from a violence stand point—about the time the violence would become overbearing, the scene changed forward or backward in time enabling the viewer to “recover” before continuing the battle.

I found the movie historically accurate, but difficult to follow as stated by others here. One portion of the story not mentioned which my wife and I did find personally meaningful is how the story is being told by the son of the Navy medic who did not know the facts about his fathers actions until near or following his death. My wife and I have both lost a family member in the last two years (grandfather and step father) which were in WWII, but never discussed it. We only learned that her step-father had earned two bronze stars in the Pacific upon reading his obituary which he had prepared years prior to his death. The passing of the WWII generation and the love of the son in the movie were only glanced upon, but it was enough to have us both in tears when the movie was over.

This movie is not for children, and the mental maturity of teens should be measured by a parent prior to allowing them to see this movie. The graphic language and battle scenes are central to the movies message of the men just attempting to do their duty, but must be balanced by the viewers ability to grasp and handle the message.

I would recommend that anyone going to see the movie watch the History Channel program on the battle prior to going or review some history books on the subject. This made following the flash back fractured timeline easier to follow.
My Ratings: Very Offensive / 4
—William Black, age 40
Positive—…It is a war movie so there is violence and cussing, but it is a great film about the realities of war; war heroes are ordinary people who are placed in horrible situations; people in war die for their buddies; war heroes are often used and forgotten about after the war is over. …
My Ratings: Good / 5
—Stan Hirtle, age 62
Negative
Negative—My wife and I only today discovered your wonderful Web site and your Christian-based review of movies—thank you! It’s getting more and more difficult to discern what is or isn’t a “good” movie by Christian standards—the MPAA ratings just don’t cut it. The reviews done here will truly help us to stay away from movies/shows that don’t reflect our Christian values, and save us some money in the long run.

As to the movie “Flags of Our Fathers”: Having read the book first (written by James Bradley, son of one of the flag-raisers), my wife and I looked forward with anticipation to seeing the movie. What a disappointment! We can tolerate just about anything when it comes to movies, except for taking the Lord’s name in vain, and/or gratitutious violence or blatant sexual scenes. We left the show after only 30 minutes or so, when a Marine Corps general cursed Ira Hayes (Native American flag raiser) for being a G_d d____d drunk in public. That was either the 2nd or 3rd such use of God’s name; I was foolish not to have left before this scene. A shame that Clint Eastwood apparently thought that such profanity is commonplace in the Armed Forces (having spent 25 years in the military, with 2 tours in Viet Nam, I’m here to state that’s a misconception many people have, especially if they never served.) And if one follows Mr. Bradley’s book, it’s full of Christian values and principles. What a shame those values and principles weren’t transferred to the screen.
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive / 4
—John Baker, age 60
Negative—Iwo Jima should be a story you can’t miss on, much like D-Day, however this one does. As a veteran, I expected to be caught up in the grand story, as I have read and enjoyed the book, however the movie disappoints. The flashbacks were confusing, and the scope of what had to be accomplished on Iwo was not well told. All in all a poor effort.
My Ratings: Offensive / 2½
—Ron Gilbert, age 54
Negative—“Flags of our Fathers,” seemingly loses the importance of Iwo Jima and the significance of the battle. Only a brief mention of the many lives that were saved after the fact, when a crippled planes is seen flying overhead. The airstrips of Iwo Jima were used many times for safe landing of planes that couldn’t return on their own. The flashbacks become more hindering, then helpful, and at times, confusing. I quickly grew tired of being reminded of the “staged” flag raising and the evil government that used it for profit and to fuel their hunger for war. This theme becomes too overbearing and one grows weary with it.
My Ratings: Average / 3½
—Phil Ward, age 41
Comments from young people
Positive—This was probably the best movie I have ever seen. It accurately portrays the effects of war, and has a very engaging plot, and the acting is exceptional. However, the war images are gruesome, at best, and the language includes several f-words and other profanities. I do not suggest this movie if you are sensitive to blood, language, or sad stories, but I highly recommend it if you want to see one of the best movies this year.
My Ratings: Average / 5
—Sean Brohmer, age 14
Positive—“Flags of Our Fathers” tells the story of the photograph, taken on Iwo Jima that shows six men raising the American flag. The movie is based on the book of the same name written by James Bradley whose father is second from right in the photo (hence the name “Flags of Our Fathers”). The movie, directed by Clint Eastwood, stars Ryan Phillippe (Reese Witherspoon's husband), Adam Beach (“Windtalkers”) and Jesse Bradford. As a sixteen year old who studies WWII, I was eager to see this movie. I have the book and have read it and reread it many times over. The book itself is extremely graphic about the horrors of war. Aware of this fact, I knew the movie would probably be rated R for graphic war content. However, I also knew that this story would be an excellent one, so I badgered my parents into taking me. I was correct in my assumption. Clint Eastwood does not refrain from showing how terrible that battle was. The movie takes it up a step beyond “Saving Private Ryan” and “Windtalkers.” We have deaths of every single type in the book. These deaths are extremely graphic (e.g., a guy having his head torn off by a shell, then showing a close-up of the severed head) and should not be viewed by a younger audience. If it wasn’t for the fact that I study warfare and have read about a lot of this stuff, I wouldn’t have seen it. In fact, I don’t think anybody who doesn’t have an appreciation for those who have fought (and are fighting) for this country should see it. The movie is heart-wrenching, and I’d admit to have shed about a gallon of tears before the movie was over.

There is absolutely no nudity or sex in the movie (yes, an R movie that doesn’t have sex or nudity). However, the violence in there is horrifying. The cussing is just as bad (it’s the Marine Corps). I heard every single word in the book at least twice from h___ to f___ and God d___. For the most conservative Christian viewers this may present a problem, but as for myself, I was able to overlook these words and focus on the story. I would highly recommend this movie to anyone interested in learning the story behind the photo or who, like me, study warfare. I personally loved the movie, even though I did cry through half of it and would watch it over again.
My Ratings: Average / 5
—Jeremiah Weil, age 16
Positive—An intriguing look into the numerous battles on the island of Iwo Jima during WW2. Clint Eastwood has outdone himself this time. Gritty and realistic, yet beautiful and heartwrenching, this is a must see for history buffs and mature people that enjoy a look into a HIGHLY underrated part of America’s past.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4½
—Will DeFehr, age 14