Flags of Our Fathers (film)

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Flags of Our Fathers
Flags of our fathers.jpg
Theatrical poster
Directed byClint Eastwood
Produced byClint Eastwood
Robert Lorenz
Steven Spielberg
Screenplay byWilliam Broyles, Jr.
Paul Haggis
Based onFlags of Our Fathers 
by James Bradley
Ron Powers
StarringRyan Phillippe
Jesse Bradford
Adam Beach
John Benjamin Hickey
John Slattery
Barry Pepper
Jamie Bell
Paul Walker
Robert Patrick
Neal McDonough
Music byClint Eastwood
Kyle Eastwood (uncredited)
Michael Stevens (uncredited)
CinematographyTom Stern
Editing byJoel Cox
StudioMalpaso Productions
Amblin Entertainment
DreamWorks Pictures
Distributed byUnited States:
Paramount Pictures
International:
Warner Bros. Pictures
Release date(s)
  • October 20, 2006 (2006-10-20)
Running time132 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$55 million[1]
Box office$65,900,249[1]
 
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Flags of Our Fathers
Flags of our fathers.jpg
Theatrical poster
Directed byClint Eastwood
Produced byClint Eastwood
Robert Lorenz
Steven Spielberg
Screenplay byWilliam Broyles, Jr.
Paul Haggis
Based onFlags of Our Fathers 
by James Bradley
Ron Powers
StarringRyan Phillippe
Jesse Bradford
Adam Beach
John Benjamin Hickey
John Slattery
Barry Pepper
Jamie Bell
Paul Walker
Robert Patrick
Neal McDonough
Music byClint Eastwood
Kyle Eastwood (uncredited)
Michael Stevens (uncredited)
CinematographyTom Stern
Editing byJoel Cox
StudioMalpaso Productions
Amblin Entertainment
DreamWorks Pictures
Distributed byUnited States:
Paramount Pictures
International:
Warner Bros. Pictures
Release date(s)
  • October 20, 2006 (2006-10-20)
Running time132 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$55 million[1]
Box office$65,900,249[1]

Flags of Our Fathers is a 2006 American war film directed, co-produced and scored by Clint Eastwood and written by William Broyles, Jr. and Paul Haggis. It is based on the book of the same name written by James Bradley and Ron Powers about the Battle of Iwo Jima, the five Marines and one Navy Corpsman who were involved in raising the flag on Iwo Jima, and the aftereffects of that event on their lives.

This movie is taken from the American viewpoint of the Battle for Iwo Jima, while the sequel, Letters from Iwo Jima, which Eastwood also directed, is from the Japanese viewpoint of the battle. Letters from Iwo Jima was released in Japan on December 9, 2006 and in the United States on December 20, 2006, two months after the release of Flags of Our Fathers on October 20, 2006.

The film was produced by Eastwood, Robert Lorenz and Steven Spielberg.

Contents

Plot [edit]

The story starts in medias res, using a complex series of flashbacks. The three surviving servicemen – Hayes, Gagnon, and Bradley – are recalled to the US to help the 7th war bond drive. As they tour the country, they have a series of memory flashbacks.

The plot focuses on seven United States Marines of the 28th Marine Regiment, 5th Marine Division – Sgt. Mike Strank, Pfc. Rene Gagnon, Pfc. Ira Hayes, Cpl. Harlon Block, Pfc. Franklin Sousley, Sgt. Hank Hansen, and Pfc. Ralph Ignatowski – as well as their Navy Corpsman, PhM2. John "Doc" Bradley.

In December 1944, U.S. Marines train at Camp Tarawa, Hawaii. They train by climbing a large mountain and getting in Higgins boats. The Marines then set sail across the Pacific, and it is revealed that they are headed to the small island of Iwo Jima. Captain Severance explains they will expect tough resistance. A few days later, the armada arrives off the coast of Iwo Jima and the ships of the United States Navy open fire on suspected Japanese positions. It is learned that the Navy is cutting the bombardment from the planned ten days to merely three. Mike is put in charge of second platoon.

The next day, February 19, 1945, the Marines hit the beach in landing craft. Ralph, aka "Iggy", suspects that the Navy killed all the Japanese defenders. The Marines advance and the Japanese open fire. The Marines take heavy casualties. Japanese heavy artillery opens fire upon the Marines on shore, as well as the Navy ships. They advance, as do many other Marines. The battle begins to calm down and the beachheads are secured. Two days later the Marines attack Mount Suribachi under a rain of Japanese artillery and machine gun fire, as the Navy bombards the mountain. It is here that Doc saves the lives of several Marines under fire which later earns him the Navy Cross. Finally, the mountain is secure.

On February 23, the platoon under Hank's command is ordered to climb Mount Suribachi. They reach the top and hoist the American flag atop the mountain. When Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal arrives on Iwo Jima, he requests to have the flag for himself. Colonel Johnson is furious, and resolves to keep the original flag for the regiment. He orders Captain Severance to bring the flag down and replace it with another one for Forrestal to take. Severance sends Rene, who is a runner, to go with Second Platoon to the top of the mountain and switch flags. When Second Platoon reaches the top, they take down the first flag. Mike, Harlon, Doc, Ira, Rene and Franklin then raise the second flag. The event is seemingly insignificant but it is captured by combat photographer Joe Rosenthal, and the image becomes iconic.

On March 1, Second Platoon is on patrol when they are ambushed by a Japanese machine gun team. Mike orders Harlon to have his parateam take out the machine gun nest. The gunner is killed. Mike goes up to examine a dead Marine. He turns around and orders the unit to move up. Almost immediately afterward, a Navy shell lands right behind him knocking him down. In the smoke and confusion a Japanese soldier remans the machine gun and opens fire, killing the lieutenant. The machine gunner is quickly killed but Mike is critically wounded. Doc does everything he can but Mike dies within minutes of getting hit. Mike's death hits the squad hard, as they all idolized him. Things only get worse from then on. Later that day Hank is shot in the chest and dies almost instantly. Harlon is killed by machine gun fire hours later. Two nights later while Doc is helping a wounded Marine, Iggy is abducted by Japanese troops and dragged into a tunnel. His viciously mangled body is found a few days later by Doc. On March 21, as the battle is winding down Franklin is killed by machine gun fire and dies in Ira's arms. Of the eight men in the squad only three are left: Doc, Ira and Rene. A few days after Franklin's death, Doc is wounded by artillery fire while trying to save a fellow corpsman. He survives and is sent back home. On March 26, the battle ends and the U.S. Marines are victorious.

After the battle the press gets hold of the photograph of the second flag raising. It is a huge morale booster, and papers all over the country ask for prints. When Rene is asked who is in the photo, he gives five names, including his own, saying that the other four are, Mike, Doc, Franklin, but says that Hank was in the photograph (Rene thought that Hank was at the base of the flag. In reality it was Harlon). He then tells Ira he is the sixth man. Ira corrects him, saying that it was Harlon, and fiercely denies being in the photo, going as far to threaten Rene with a bayonet to his throat. Even though Rene tells him they'll be sent home, Ira won't give in. However, when Rene is threatened with being sent back to the fighting, he tells their bond tour guide Sgt. Keyes Beech that Ira was the sixth man, though not telling him that Harlon was in the photo, not Hank.

Doc, who was in the hospital, is sent stateside with Ira and Rene as part of the seventh bond tour drive to raise money for the war effort. When they go to Washington, they meet Bud Gerber of the Treasury Department, who will be their other guide. Doc notices that Hank's mother is on the list of mothers of the dead flag raisers. Ira gets mad and calls the whole thing a farce. An annoyed Bud then confesses that the country cannot afford the war and if the bond drive fails the U.S. will abandon the Pacific and their sacrifices will be for nothing. The three give in and decide not to tell anyone that Hank wasn't actually in the photograph.

The bond drive begins, and the three flag raisers are sent around the United States to raise money and make speeches. Ira gets drunk frequently, often breaking down from the memories that haunt him. The night the three men raise a fake flag at Soldier Field, Ira gets drunk and throws up in front of General Alexander Vandegrift, commandant of the Marine Corps. Vandegrift is furious at Bud and Keyes, telling them to send Ira back to his unit. When Keyes tells Ira he's going back, Ira confesses that he can't stand being called a hero, and that Mike was a true hero. Ira says goodbye to Doc and Rene and goes back to the Pacific. The bond drive continues.

In September the war ends and Doc, Rene and Ira go home. Ira tries to move on but is never able to escape his unwanted fame. One day in 1952 after being released from jail, he hitchhikes over 1,300 miles to Texas to see Harlon Block's family. He tells Ed Block, Harlon's father that Harlon was indeed at the base of the flag in the famous photograph. In 1954, the USMC War Memorial is dedicated and the three flag raisers see each other one last time. In 1955 Ira dies of exposure after a night of drinking. That same year Doc drove to a town where Iggy's mom lived and told her how Iggy died, though it is implied that he lied. Rene has little success as the business offers he received on the bond drive are rescinded. He spends the rest of his life as a high school janitor, dying in 1979. Doc is the only successful one. He buys the funeral home he worked at before the war and runs it for the rest of his life. In 1994, as he is on his death bed, he tells his son James how after the flag raising Captain Severance took the men swimming. He then dies peacefully. In a final flashback to 1945, the men swim in the ocean after raising the flags. During the end titles, real photos of the battle of Iwo Jima are shown.

Cast [edit]

Actor/ActressRole
Ryan PhillippePharmacist's Mate Second Class John Bradley, the only of the 6 flag raisers who was a non-Marine
Jesse BradfordCorporal Rene Gagnon
Adam BeachCorporal Ira Hayes
John Benjamin HickeySergeant Keyes Beech
John SlatteryBud Gerber
Barry PepperSergeant Mike Strank
Jamie BellRalph Ignatowski
Paul WalkerSergeant Hank Hansen, who helped with the first flag raising and was misidentified as Harlon Block
Robert PatrickColonel Johnson
Neal McDonoughCaptain Dave Severance
Harve PresnellOlder Dave Severance
Melanie LynskeyPauline Harnois Gagnon
Thomas McCarthyJames Bradley (credited as Tom McCarthy)
Chris BauerGeneral Alexander Vandegrift, the Commandant of the Marine Corps
Gordon ClappGeneral Holland M. Smith, the American Commander who led the invasion of Iwo Jima
Judith IveyBelle Block
Ann DowdMrs. Strank
Myra TurleyMadeline Evelley
Joseph Michael CrossPrivate First Class Franklin Sousley
Benjamin WalkerCorporal Harlon Block, who was the only flag raiser to be misidentified as Hank Hansen
Alessandro MastrobuonoCorporal Chuck Lindberg (who is seen in Letters from Iwo Jima using a flamethrower)
Scott EastwoodLundsford (credited as Scott Reeves)
David Patrick KellyPresident Harry S. Truman

Production [edit]

Flags of Our Fathers cost $55 million although it was originally budgeted at $80 million. In a 2006 interview, Paul Haggis stated that Clint Eastwood had shot the movie in just over 50 days, or nearly half the original shooting schedule. Variety subsequently downgraded the price-tag to $55 million. Although the film is taken from the American viewpoint of the battle, it was filmed entirely in Iceland and Southern California. Shooting ended early 2006, before production for Letters from Iwo Jima began.

Critical reception and box office [edit]

The film received positive reviews with the review tallying website Rotten Tomatoes reporting that 138 out of the 189 reviews they tallied were positive for a score of 73% and a certification of "fresh."[2] On Metacritic, the film scored a 79 out of 100 based on 39 reviews, indicating "Generally favorable reviews."[3]

The film made the top ten list of the National Board of Review. Eastwood also earned a Golden Globe nomination for directing. The film was nominated for two Academy Awards — for Best Sound (John T. Reitz, David E. Campbell, Gregg Rudloff and Walt Martin) and Sound Editing.[4] Film critic Richard Roeper said "Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers stands with the Oscar-winning Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby as an American masterpiece. It is a searing and powerful work from a seventy-six-year-old artist who remains at the top of his game." and "Flags of Our Fathers is a patriotic film in that it honors those who fought in the Pacific, but it is also patriotic because it questions the official version of the truth, and reminds us that superheroes exist only in comic books and cartoon movies."[5]

Despite critical acclaim, the movie underperformed at the box office, earning just $65,900,249 worldwide on an estimated $55 million production budget. It took $2.7 million less than its companion film Letters From Iwo Jima, which had $36 million less in budget (its total budget being $19 million).[6]

Spike Lee controversy [edit]

At the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, director Spike Lee, who was making Miracle at St. Anna, about an all-black U.S. division fighting in Italy during World War II, criticized director Clint Eastwood for not depicting black Marines in Flags of Our Fathers.[7] Citing historical accuracy, Eastwood responded that his film was specifically about the Marines who raised the flag on Mount Suribachi at Iwo Jima, pointing out that while black Marines did fight at Iwo Jima, the U.S. military was segregated during World War II, and none of the men who raised the flag were black. Eastwood believed Lee was using the comments to promote Miracle at St. Anna and angrily said that Lee should "shut his face".[7] Lee responded that Eastwood was acting like an "angry old man", and argued that despite making two Iwo Jima films back to back, Letters from Iwo Jima and Flags of Our Fathers, "there was not one black Marine in both of those films".[8][9][10]

Contrary to Lee's claims, however, black Marines (including an all-black unit) are seen in scenes during which the mission is outlined, as well as during the initial landings, when a wounded black Marine is carried away. During the end credits, historical photographs taken during the Battle of Iwo Jima show black Marines. Although black Marines fought in the battle, they were restricted to auxiliary roles, such as ammunition supply, and were not involved in the battle's major assaults; they did, however, take part in defensive actions.[11] According to Alexander M. Bielakowski and Raffaele Ruggeri, "Half a million African Americans served overseas during World War II, almost all in segregated second-line units."[12] The number of African Americans killed in action was 708.[13]

Steven Spielberg later intervened between the two directors, after which Lee even sent a copy of a film he was working on to Eastwood for a private screening as a seeming token of apology.[7]

Home media release [edit]

The DVD was released in the U.S. by DreamWorks Home Entertainment on February 6, 2007. It is devoid of any special features.[14]

A two-disc Special Collector's Edition DVD (with special features) was released on May 22, 2007.[15] It was also released on HD DVD and Blu-ray formats.[16]

The Two-Disc Special Collector's Edition DVD is also available in a five-disc commemorative set that also includes the Two-Disc Special Collector's Edition of Letters from Iwo Jima and a bonus fifth disc containing History Channel's Heroes of Iwo Jima documentary and To the Shores of Iwo Jima, a documentary produced by the United States Navy and the United States Marine Corps, released by Warner Home Video.[17]

References [edit]

  1. ^ a b Flags of Our Fathers (film) at Box Office Mojo
  2. ^ "Flags of Our Fathers (2006)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2007-01-21. 
  3. ^ "Flags of Our Fathers". Metacritic. 
  4. ^ "The 79th Academy Awards (2007) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-11-20. 
  5. ^ Roeper, Richard (2006-10-20). "Grand old 'Flags'". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2009-07-05. 
  6. ^ "Letters from Iwo Jima". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved July 5, 2009. 
  7. ^ a b c Eliot (2009), p.322-323
  8. ^ Marikar, Sheila (2008-06-06). "Spike Strikes Back: Clint's 'an Angry Old Man'". ABC. Retrieved 2009-07-05. 
  9. ^ "Eastwood hits back at Lee claims". BBC News. 2008-06-06. Retrieved 2009-07-05. 
  10. ^ Lyman, Eric J. (2008-05-21). "Lee calls out Eastwood, Coens over casting". The Hollywood Reporter, The Daily from Cannes (Cannes) (8): 3,24. 
  11. ^ "MONTFORD POINT MARINES". Mpma28.com. Retrieved 2009-07-05. 
  12. ^ "African American Troops in World War II". Alexander M. Bielakowski, Raffaele Ruggeri (2005). p.4. ISBN 1-84603-072-2
  13. ^ Michael Clodfelter. Warfare and Armed Conflicts- A Statistical Reference to Casualty and Other Figures, 1500-2000. 2nd Ed. 2002 ISBN 0-7864-1204-6.
  14. ^ Flags of Our Fathers single-disc widescreen edition DVD at Amazon.com
  15. ^ Flags of Our Fathers two-disc, widescreen Special Edition DVD at Amazon.com
  16. ^ Flags of Our Fathers Blu-Ray at Amazon.com
  17. ^ Letters from Iwo Jima/Flags of Our Fathers Five-Disc Commemorative Edition at Amazon.com

Bibliography [edit]

External links [edit]