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Flags of our Fathers & Letters from Iwo Jima (2 Disc Special Edition) [DVD] 
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Two war dramas directed by Clint Eastwood. 'Flags of Our Fathers' (2006) is based on the book by James Bradley and Ron Powers. In February 1945, even as victory in Europe was finally within reach, the war in the Pacific raged on. One of the most crucial and bloodiest battles of the war was the struggle for the island of Iwo Jima, which culminated with what would become one of the most iconic images in history: five Marines and a Navy corpsman raising the American flag on Mount Suribachi. But the surviving flag raisers had no interest in being held up as symbols and did not consider themselves heroes; they wanted only to stay on the front with their brothers in arms who were fighting and dying without fanfare or glory. 'Letters from Iwo Jima' (2006) is based on the book 'Picture Letters from Commander in Chief' by Tadamichi Kuribayashi. The island of Iwo Jima stands between the American military force and the home islands of Japan. Therefore the Imperial Japanese Army is desperate to prevent it from falling into American hands and providing a launching point for an invasion of Japan. General Tadamichi Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe) is given command of the forces on the island and sets out to prepare for the imminent attack. General Kuribayashi, however, does not favour the rigid traditional approach recommended by his subordinates, and resentment and resistance fester among his staff.
Thematically ambitious and emotionally complex, Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers is an intimate epic with much to say about war and the nature of heroism in America. Based on the non-fiction bestseller by James Bradley (with Ron Powers), and adapted by Million Dollar Baby screenwriter Paul Haggis (Jarhead screenwriter William Broyles Jr. wrote an earlier draft that was abandoned when Eastwood signed on to direct), this isn't so much a conventional war movie as it is a thought-provoking meditation on our collective need for heroes, even at the expense of those we deem heroic. In telling the story of the six men (five Marines, one Navy medic) who raised the American flag of victory on the battle-ravaged Japanese island of Iwo Jima on February 23rd, 1945, Eastwood takes us deep into the horror of war (in painstakingly authentic Iwo Jima battle scenes) while emphasizing how three of the surviving flag-raisers (played by Adam Beach, Ryan Phillippe, and Jesse Bradford) became reluctant celebrities and resentful pawns in a wartime publicity campaign after their flag-raising was immortalized by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal in the most famous photograph in military history.
As the surviving flag-raisers reluctantly play their public roles as "the heroes of Iwo Jima" during an exhausting (but clearly necessary) wartime bond rally tour, Flags of Our Fathers evolves into a pointed study of battlefield valor and misplaced idolatry, incorporating subtle comment on the bogus nature of celebrity, the trauma of battle, and the true meaning of heroism in wartime. Wisely avoiding any direct parallels to contemporary history, Eastwood allows us to draw our own conclusions about the Iwo Jima flag-raisers and how their postwar histories (both noble and tragic) simultaneously illustrate the hazards of exploited celebrity and society's genuine need for admirable role models during times of national crisis. Flags of Our Fathers defies the expectations of those seeking a more straightforward war-action drama, but it's richly satisfying, impeccably crafted film that manages to be genuinely patriotic (in celebrating the camaraderie of soldiers in battle) while dramatising the ultimate futility of war. Eastwood's follow-up film, Letters from Iwo Jima, examines the Iwo Jima conflict from the Japanese perspective.
Critically hailed as an instant classic, Clint Eastwood's Letters from Iwo Jima is a masterwork of uncommon humanity and a harrowing, unforgettable indictment of the horrors of war. In an unprecedented demonstration of worldly citizenship, Eastwood (from a spare, tightly focused screenplay by first-time screenwriter Iris Yamashita) has crafted a truly Japanese film, with Japanese dialogue (with subtitles) and filmed in a contemplative Japanese style, serving as both complement and counterpoint to Eastwood's previously released companion film Flags of Our Fathers. Where the earlier film employed a complex non-linear structure and epic-scale production values to dramatise one of the bloodiest battles of World War II and its traumatic impact on American soldiers, Letters reveals the battle of Iwo Jima from the tunnel- and cave-dwelling perspective of the Japanese, hopelessly outnumbered, deprived of reinforcements, and doomed to die in inevitable defeat.
While maintaining many of the traditions of the conventional war drama, Eastwood extends his sympathetic touch to humanise "the enemy," revealing the internal and external conflicts of soldiers and officers alike, forced by circumstance to sacrifice themselves or defend their honour against insurmountable odds. From the weary reluctance of a young recruit named Saigo (Kazunari Ninomiya) to the dignified yet desperately anguished strategy of Japanese commander Tadamichi Kuribayashi (played by Oscar-nominated The Last Samurai costar Ken Watanabe), whose letters home inspired the film's title and present-day framing device, Letters from Iwo Jima (which conveys the bleakness of battle through a near-total absence of colour) steadfastly avoids the glorification of war while paying honorable tribute to ill-fated men who can only dream of the comforts of home. --Jeff ShannonSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Flags Of Our Fathers has been compared to Saving Private Ryan, for good or bad, in truth the film is actually aimed at showing how the "heroes" of Iwo Jima were used by the American government to fund the war effort. The action is merely a backdrop to the story of Doc's son finding out about his father, and the history of the symbolic flag raising.
My personal favourite was Letters From Iwo Jima, the film telling the Japanese side of events, it's a harrowing story of how the Japanese garrison were left to wither on the vine by their country. Of how the old Samurai ways of the officers still remained in the twentieth centuries bloodiest conflict, and how even in this hell humanity shines through.
These are not "easy to watch films", at times they are uncomfortable, not because of poor story or direction, but becasue of the content within, because of the pointless waste of life shown.
Worth one watch at least, and a fine addition to anyone's DVD collection.
In Fathers the three American flag-raisers come back to the States to be hailed as heroes for having done nothing more than raising a pole. Haunted by horrific memories of combat, surrounded by Government spin that excludes one man who was there & falsely credits another, the Marines just have to bear it as best they can. Eastwood's thoughtful, reflective, melancholy rumination about the gap between combat reality & combat glory is complemented by Letters from Iwo Jima. Evoking amazing emotional power the film takes us deep into the lives of men ranging from a lowly private to a noble General. If Flags was haunted by the sad memories of old men then Letters is all about giving voice to the unknown soldiers sent to their death in a futile cause & denied by their culture even the possibility of surrender.
Both movies are immaculately crafted with memorable performances, beautiful burnished photography that is almost, but not quite, black & white, filled with great scenes both on & off the battlefield & memorable music scores, principally by Eastwood & his son Kyle.
Letters is about the battle & the more emotional of the two as well being the more conventionally told, whilst Flags is about the postwar, is non-linear in it structure & the more intellectual.Read more ›
Focusing much of its time on Saigo (Kazunari Ninomiya) a young reluctant recruit and the Japanese Commander Tadamichi Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe) who must try and hold Iwo Jima with limited resources and no support from Japan, the film tells their desperate attempt to hold the island despite their bleak chances of success at fighting the massive American contingent arriving by sea and air. Eastwood manages to convey the fear, doubt and bravery of these soldiers as they tunnel into the mountainside of Iwo Jima taking an unconventional defense tactic which given the massive forces they face is the only chance that they have for success.Read more ›
Both are decent films and IWO JIMA has the added nobility and novelty of being a story told from the "enemy" point of view - a great idea and about time - but FLAGS is by far the more entertaining film. It may be slightly flawed structurally (as all war films usually are, from APOCALYPSE NOW to PLATOON to THE THIN RED LINE to A BRIDGE TOO FAR, you name it - war just does not lend itself to a classic three act structure), but it is very compelling and has something concrete to say about real versus manufactured heroism. This is far from a jingoistic movie. Eastwood is interested in taking the WWII mythology and turning it every which way, examining it's blemishes with a magnifying glass. Why else would the heart of the film be a tortured Native-American hardly proud of his service or living out the American dream?
Most of the reviewers here seem to be mimicking the conventional wisdom of the critics. It may also be that the more "American" film is bound to be "overblown", I don't know. The big complaint is that FLAGS doesn't stick to the battlefield and have more action - I'm sorry, but how ridiculous a criticism is that? They missed the entire point of the film: the incongruity of the civilian world, the glorified ideal of war, with the nightmare of battle these soldiers have to live with the rest of their lives.
Instead, I had high hopes for IWO JIMA and that's where my disappointment lies. For me, it's actually the oddly unsatisfying movie of the two. The actors are excellent (Ken Watanabe is amazing, period) and it gets so many things right - so why does it feel leaden, awkwardly paced, static, underpopulated, and worst of all, contrived? I still admire it, but I find it very hard to love.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
These two films are great. Both are insightful and informative
about the events of Iwo Jima from each side of the battle... Read more
Both films relate to the same battle but from different perspectives, one side the USA and the other from the Japanese, both are well written and portrayed it gives insight yo the... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Bob of Newport Pagnell