The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU students gather around a bucket of markers to write an encouraging note to put in “Welcome to the Shelter” kits at event in mid-April on SMU’s campus.
Dallas homeless recovery center, The Bridge, is a home
Morgan Shiver, Contributor • June 20, 2024
Instagram

Eastwood’s ‘Flags of our Fathers’ gives heroic fight

“Flags of our Fathers,” the newest film from Academy Award winning director Clint Eastwood, tries really hard to be a truly great war film. But it ends up falling a little short.

The film, in contrast to what the trailers would have audiences believe, is more about three men who struggle with being labeled heroes than the actual battle at Iwo Jima. So don’t be surprised when only 20 to 30 percent of film takes place on the battlefield.

The premise of the film is actually very engaging. “Flags of our Fathers” tells the story of three of the six soldiers who raised the flag atop the hill at Iwo Jima and the resulting media buzz around the image. The surviving three men from the photo are rushed back to the United States, where they are informed that the military needs more money and soon. So the men agree to be touted around, smiling and waving with U.S.O. and doing a variety of publicity stunts.

But none of the soldiers agree with the media’s claim that they are heroes. John “Doc” Bradley (Ryan Phillippe, “Cruel Intentions,” “Crash”) struggles with the fact that one of the men in the photo was mislabeled, and must lie to the fallen soldier’s grieving mother. Rene Gagnon (Jesse Bradford, “Bring It On,” “Swimfan”) enjoys the media attention a little more than his friends, but must budget his time between the tour and his attention-craving girlfriend (Melanie Lynskey). Native American Ira Hayes (Adam Beach, “Windtalkers”) turns to alcohol as he faces alternating experiences of hero-worship and racism.

One thing Eastwood is terrific at is getting a good performance out of his actors. (Obviously, since both “Million Dollar Baby’s” Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman won the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor Academy Awards, respectively.) Phillippe delivers gravitas and sympathy with skill and gives audiences yet another reason not to refer to him as Mr. Witherspoon. His work here is solid. Bradford plays Rene Gagnon as na’ve, optimistic, and charming. This is undoubtedly his most impressive performance to date as he proves to be more than just a handsome face.

However, Adam Beach gives the real standout performance of the film. When his character, Ira Hayes, is drunk, it is not laughable in the slightest; it is pathetic and painful to watch. Beach captures the guilt of leaving his company behind in Japan perfectly, while keeping himself reigned in enough to still seem real. The scene where he breaks down crying with a mother of one of the fallen soldiers from the photograph will make even the hardest heart ache. Beach also showcases the film’s overlooked issue of racism. Hayes is consistently referred to as “Chief,” and several politicians act surprised that one of their Iwo Jima heroes is a Native American. The contrast between Hayes being cheered by thousands and a restaurant refusing to serve him minutes later is unsettling, and Beach portrays every look of pain and outburst to perfection.

The downfall of “Flags of our Fathers” comes in the editing and handling of the numerous flashbacks. The going back and forth between the soldiers during the battle, after the battle, and their interviews sixty years later is handled very poorly, to the point where it can be very difficult to tell who is who. By the end of the movie, it is more understandable, but much of the movie will leave audiences scratching their heads over linear continuity and character development.

But for the most part, “Flags of our Fathers” is one of the better-crafted movies of the season, and will hold up nicely to repeat viewings. The acting is sublime and the concept is completely fascinating, but the execution just doesn’t quite match the high standards set by Eastwood’s previous projects.

More to Discover