Flags of Our Fathers (2006) is the one of two films by Clint Eastwood set on the Pacific island of Iwo Jima during the epic battles that took place on that island during WWII. The other film, Letters from Iwo Jima, earned Oscar nods for best picture, directing and screenplay, and won an Oscar for best sound. Letters from Iwo Jima depicts the hardship and struggle from a Japanese point of view and largely focuses on the events that took place during the battle. Flags of Our Fathers on the other hand, tells the tale from the U.S. perspective and focuses on the famous photo of U.S. Marines triumphantly raising the flag on Mt. Siribachi.
The focus of Flags of Our Fathers differs significantly from Letters from Iwo Jima. In Flags of Our Fathers we learn of the back story behind the famous photo mentioned above. We learn how the U.S. Government used the photo and the individuals featured for PR and war bond promotional purposes – maybe akin to how the death of former NFL player Pat Tilman was inacurately portrayed in a sleezy bid to drum up support for the so called War on Terror.
One area I believe the film excells is in its depiction of Native American marine, Ira Hayes, who suffering from survivors guilt, alcoholism, and PTSD, has a tremendously difficult time in adapting to the newfound stardom forced upon him during the whirlwind tour across the U.S. to promote war bonds. In particular, I like how Eastwood focused on his fate a little more than the other central characters and demonstrated that war has consequences beyond the battlefield, even for those pinned as heros. It was tragic really.
On its own, Flags of Our Fathers is really a marginal war film. Despite the unique peek into the backstory behind the famous raising of Old Glory atop Mt. Siribachi, the film lacked conviction and believability in the actors. Compared to other relatively recent WWII films and series such as Saving Private Ryan, the HBO series Band of Brothers, and its award winning cousin Letters from Iwo Jima, I believe this film finishes a distant fourth.