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Letters From Iwo Jima, Flags Of Our Fathers
on 13 April 2011
"Flags Of Our Fathers" is brought down by a much too crammed, confused script. A rare, introspect view on the often rather superfical american society, it fails to communicate what the book was about, except maybe in the broadest of senses.
In the end I realized I had seen a rather bleak film about a team of soldiers who raised a flag. Their nation was in a war and needed heroes, so the rather unspectacular event was taken up by propaganda and blown up to ridiculous proportions. In reality they were normal young men, but no one was interested in their true story, so it was soon forgotten, and the film strives to make up for that, more than 50 years later.
It is praiseworthy that this is not a typical, dishonest Hollywood script, but follows it's own laws. Unfortunately this alone does not make a great movie, and ratings shouldn't be based on good intentions alone.
"Letters From Iwo Jima" is a lot better than "Flags Of Our Fathers". In a rather logical chronology, it shows the hopeless defense the Japanese garrison on Iwo Jima put up against the US landing, from the improvised preparations to the great carnage at the end.
Eastwood does a lot right. He shows the reality in the Imperial Japanese Army: The soldiers are victims of appalling logistics, suffering daily from cruelty, the renunciation of their sacrifices, die hard slogans and sense of duty. The officers are in more or less the same state of confusion, caught between conflicting orders, Bushido and compassion. At the end of the film you feel that they, as individuals, should be ready to break out of this bondage, stand up against upbringing and peer-group pressure, and decide for life. But unfortunately only very few of them are capable to do that.
I think in this lies the lesson of this film: Overcoming their sense of duty was simply too much for most Japanese at the time, so they chose the `easy' escape of following orders, fighting on and dying. Putting war crimes for once aside, this film pays a lot of respect to the Japanese, by showing the complete disorientation of a Nation, and how it plunged into great suffering. This fairness redeems Eastwoods two-piece, after a rather weak start with the first film.
Unfortunately the script again tries to cram too much into a too short time, so I cannot say that it is a technically great film, but it can hold it's own.