Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Flags of Our Fathers - Movie Review

Movie Review by Zinta Aistars

  • Directors: Clint Eastwood
  • Format: Color, Dolby, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rating R
  • Studio: Dreamworks Video
  • DVD Release Date: February 6, 2007
  • Run Time: 132 minutes
With every intention of yet reading the book (books are almost always better than movies, I've found) to delve deeper into this piece of international history, I viewed this one of two movies, directed by Clint Eastwood, dealing with the horrific battle at Iwo Jima in February, 1945, a bloody part of World War II. The companion movie to Flags of Our Fathers, also title of the book, is Letters From Iwo Jima, which by now I have also seen.

Few if any Americans have not at some point seen the famous, if not infamous, photo of American soldiers propping up the American flag as symbol of victory on the island of Iwo Jima. Many of us have seen, too, the immense memorial in Washington D.C., modeled from that photo. But few know the story behind the photograph. Few knew it at the time it first hit the media in 1945. What this movie illustrates as its foremost message is how the media machine operates, and how the sheep mentality of the masses almost instantly becomes a part of that machine, how politicians cheerily hop on board, and what ensues is a stomach-turning account of how war is conducted and financed - with little to no honor or integrity in its marketing. Most governments are only too ready to throw human lives into the churning wheels of the war machine. Only those closely tied to these individual lives, and the veterans themselves, truly understand the nightmare of war - even while perhaps none of us can comprehend it.

Eastwood's movie shows us that story behind the photograph, and the three men who are pushed into the fundraising limelight to raise good will and money for the war effort. No one cares to know the truth: that these men are no more heroes, indeed, they feel less like heroes, than the many, many soldiers who died around them in the battle. Each struggles with his exploitation in his own way; all are changed forever by it.

The photograph of the flag raising was a moment caught in time that even the photographer did not realize would carry such impact when published back home in the papers. Six men had raised the flag up on Mount Suribachi, three of them later died in battle. The three remaining are subjected to the exploitation of the government and the public, hungry to believe that we are in the right, that war somehow makes sense. What results is a tragedy that in some respects nauseates more than the war. A bullet is a clean hit. To exploit a man and his horrific war experience to perpetuate a lie is in some ways, one might think, even more destructive - at very least, inhumane treatment of a war veteran. And there is nothing clean about this kind of war wound.

After seeing the movie, learning the story behind the story, I will never look at that photograph or the monument of Iwo Jima the same way. It does no honor to those who sacrificed and suffered. It glorifies war, when war can never be glorious. It is a mockery of true heroism, and a shameful reminder of how little we care for those who risk all. We build monuments while letting veterans rot away in vet hospitals; we cheer at parades while vets wander homeless in our streets, suffering still from post traumatic stress syndrome. We raise money for weaponry, but cut back on benefits for those who fought on the front lines. Eastwood has delivered a powerful message to us. We should learn from it. But have we?

No comments: