Sunday, February 11, 2007

Flags of Our Fathers

Last night, I watched Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers. It's the companion piece to Letters from Iwo Jima detailing the same kind of story but from the American side. Flags of Our Fathers is unlike any other war movie out there, though, because of its exploration of the true definition of heroism. It's worth watching simply for what it says about American culture. The men that are immortalized in the famous flag raising picture from Iwo Jima were not the true heroes of that battle and they would be the first one to tell you that. During a time that there was no fighting, they were asked to put up a replacement flag and someone happened to take a picture. In essence, they were made "heroes" by American culture when they were exploited on a big publicity tour. One of them felt so unworthy of being treated like a hero that he became a despondent drunk. Pretty sad stuff.

It's an interesting movie, but certainly not perfect. The acting is flat at times, and the story is sometimes confusing with flashbacks and flashforwards from Iwo Jima, the publicity tour, and the son of one of the "heroes" interviewing older veterans, trying to write a book. Cut 20 minutes from it and it would be a truly great film. It still packs a great message, though.

"Maybe there are no such things as heroes. Maybe there are just people like my dad. I finally came to understand why they were so uncomfortable being called heroes. Heroes are something we create, something we need. It's a way for us to understand what is almost incomprehensible: how people could sacrifice so much for us, but for my dad and these men the risks they took, the wounds they suffered, they did that for their buddies. They may have fought for their country but they died for their friends. For the man in front, for the man beside him, and if we wish to truly honor these men we should remember them the way they really were ... the way my dad remembered them."

No comments: