Mini-review: Flags of our Fathers

Watched Clint Eastwood's Flags of our Fathers, and don't quite know what to make of it. Told as a series of flashbacks about the American assault on Iwo Jima, the film follows the novelist son of one of the flagraisers on Mt. Surabaci from this famous picture taken in 1945.

The film is a fine piece of work, and the acting in it is tremendous--Ryan Phillippe shines--but I didn't like it at first. It's not the deep immersion of Saving Private Ryan. Where Ryan was a gritty, sweeping story about a platoon amid the massive invasion of Normandy, Flags feels very small, almost claustrophobic. We're rarely in fire-fights; mostly, we see the fearful anticipation or the horrific aftermath. A few days after watching it, I realized: The hardest part of surviving WWII was living with what you'd seen and done.

That's why this film is so powerful...it's a study in PTSD. It shows us how our country elevates, lauds, and then discards its heroes. Half the men in that photograph never made it off Iwo Jima alive. The other half did their best to forget what happened to them. Ira Hayes drank himself to death, and "Doc" never spoke of the war to his children.

Overall, it's an easier film than Saving Private, Ryan, but its subtlety and art still hit home: War is humanity at its worst, and it wounds long after the last bullet strikes.

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