13 February 2007

Flags of Our Fathers; Letters from Iwo Jima

I wanted to review Flags Of Our Fathers earlier, but I decided to wait until I could view its sister film, Letters From Iwo Jima, as well.

I’ll start by saying that I believe Clint Eastwood has crafted two exceptional, but flawed films.

Flags Of Our Fathers tells the story of the U.S. Marine Corps landing on the island of Iwo Jima through the eyes of three of the six men that were immortalized by the photograph of the famous flag raising. This is the films strength and its weakness. Using three main characters to tell the story gives the film focus, but its continual use of flash-back and flash-forward editing takes away from that focus, and removes any type of emotional tie-in we might have with them. Instead, you are left as an objective viewer watching the stories of three individuals unfold. Maybe that was the point?

The battle scenes, as filmed, are truly horrific and powerful and play on the screen as they should; yet we seem to follow the main characters on their bond drive in the States more than on the island. This I believe is what makes me feel like the film lacks a proper denouement, and I figured maybe we would get to that in the next film.

Letters From Iwo Jima is the same battle as told from the perspective of the Japanese soldiers. While the obvious agenda of this film was to humanize the men the Marines fought, I was worried it would carry it too far. Some of the dialog has the Japanese commanding officer saying that if he could keep his home safe by continuing to fight, then he would do so. Yet history shows that the U.S. never made any type of military advance on Japan until after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. But the film did not move in that direction. A small part of the story even made a point of showing the cruelty dished out by the Japanese soldiers on those they captured.

Because the telling of the story of Letters from Iwo Jima remains on the island throughout the film, it comes across as more focused than its predecessor. It follows a few characters as they realize the hopelessness of their situation, and their willingness do to as their country wants them to do right up to the point of complete extermination.

While this is a great companion piece to Flags of Our Fathers, I still felt like I wasn’t given enough at the end. I was curious about the completion of the taking of the island, and I thought some stats showing what and how the U.S. used it once they had it needed to be included at the end of either film. So instead of a film trying to give you the complete war history of one island, you get two films telling the separate stories of a few characters involved in the same battle.

Two great films on human interaction in the face of horror, but lacking in the history department.

1 comment:

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