Clint Eastwood created a cinematographic masterpiece by the way he shows the brutality of war, but Flags of Our Fathers isn’t another superficial film highlighting the horrors of combat. It is a dramatic social critique of the people in America.
The Pulitzer Prize winning photograph of six courageous soldiers placing “old glory” at the top of “Sulfur Island” gave Americans hope that the war would soon be over and that our forces would soon be triumphant. This movie tells the personal stories of three soldiers played by Ryan Phillippe, Jesse Bradford and Adam Beach who suffer from massive survivor’s guilt when they are wrongly assumed to have planted the American flag on Iwo Jima. They quickly become public spectacles exploited by the media to sell war bonds, yet they feel far from heroic. Sinking deeper into the media frenzy, they are advised not to reveal the truth, as it will disappoint the American public whose support they need.
The film continues to juxtapose the life of these three soldiers in the aftermath of the war with the hardships that they encountered during the atrocity itself. Embedded in the movie is a scene showing the inner struggle of these “heroic” men while they make the “brave” journey up a man-made mountain in an attempt to recreate the act of hoisting the American flag to victory. Flags of Our Fathers exposes the suffering of both victors and losers reminding the audience that there are “men left behind” and that the media can obscure as well as magnify the cruelties of war. This film is a meaningful dramatization of a significant time in American history, but if you are in the mood for light-heartened entertainment, look elsewhere.