Monday, December 18, 2006

"Flags Of Our Fathers"

P and I went to a screening of Clint Eastwood's new Spielberg co-production "Flags Of Our Fathers" yesterday, and God, what a harrowing way to spend a Sunday morning. Released on 22 December, this is a bizarre choice of film to put out in the days before Christmas - but perhaps, since this is the least festive Christmas on record due to global warming, this is what we can expect from cinema schedulers in the years to come.

Coming in at over two hours long, "Flags Of Our Fathers" is a gut-wrenching, stomach-churning account of the true events of the American battle against Japan for Iwo Jima. The continually under-rated Ryan Rhilippe is again fantastic as John Bradley, one of the three surviving soliders who helped hoist an American flag at the top of the mountain, which was seen by the war-weary Americans as a symbol of hope. But the real story that unfolds is that it is all a con. Bradley and his colleagues - the Indian Ira Hayes and the naive Rene Gagnon - are thrilled to be taken out of the war and back to America, but stunned when they realise they are to be toured around America and hailed as heroes... when in fact they aren't the guys in the picture at all. The self-congratulatory back-patting of the American government and the ridiculous hyperbole that goes on is all highlighted here, and the irony of it is not lost in the wake of today's war-ridden climate.

The bloody images and severed limbs take their toll quite quickly, but the underlying message of pointless death and lie-fuelled governments is clear. But what really shocked was the appalling way the Americans dropped their "heroes" after the war was over, especially for Ira Hayes, who got a particularly bad treatment. Johnny Cash's song "The Ballad Of Ira Hayes" (not included here) says all you need to know.

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