Flags of Our Fathers (2006)

Flags of Our Fathers

 “The right picture can win or lose a war.”

I remember watching Clint Eastwood’s Flags of Our Fathers shortly after it was in the cinemas and feeling less than enthusiastic about it. I’d been watching my way through the best infantry combat movies at the time, so, obviously, Flags of Our Fathers fell short. After re-watching it yesterday I must say, it’s not bad at all. Quite the contrary. Sure, it has some corny Hollywood moments, but overall it’s a very interesting movie about topics that are still relevant today: the power of images and the making of heroes.

Flags of our Fathers tells the story of the iconic picture that rekindled the American war effort. Looking at the photo below I would say it’s extremely powerful. I’m not surprised it had such an effect.

APTOPIX OBIT ROSENTHAL

The movie starts with two elderly men reminiscing and telling their story to the son of one of them. The son knows his father took part in the battle of Iwo Jima and that he’s on the famous picture but he doesn’t know much more. His father never spoke about the war. From this initial moment the movie is composed mostly of flash back sections, some of which showing what happened on Iwo Jima, some telling about what came after the picture was shot.

Iwo Jima – or Sulfur Island – was a strategic point. Taking the hill meant that the US might after all have a chance to win the war. When the troops land, the island looks bleak, dark, forlorn and empty. It’s quite a creepy moment, which is enhanced through a change in point of view. We first see the troops land and slowly walk towards the hill, scanning the landscape and then we get the point of view of the hidden Japanese who observe the troops from their fox holes. Needless to say that this first wave of US soldiers is quickly heavily decimated. Still, many make it to the top and that’s when they plant the flag. A senior officer later demands this flag and the commanding officer decides to exchange it and to let him have another one. Both flag raisings are photographed but it’s the second, which is the better picture, that makes it into the newspapers.

Three of the men who raise the flag survive. However, inadvertently, one of the first six is named as the sixth of the second group, which will cause a lot of heartbreak.

The three survivors are sent back to the States where they are touring the country and trying to convince people to help the war effort and buy bonds.

The three men who haven’t done anything more heroic than holding a heavy pole, feel uncomfortable about being called heroes. One of them, an American Indian, is especially uncomfortable. He feels like a cheat. Not only because he doesn’t feel heroic but because they were not even part of the initial flag raising. It feels like he’s deceiving people. The mix up of the sixth soldier makes it even worse.

The movie is sleek and visually compelling. The combat scenes on the island are shot in gritty almost black and white pictures, which form a contrast to the colorful home front scenes.

The actors, notably Adam Beach and Ryan Philippe, are very good. The score is discreet and well-chosen. It stays mostly in the background.

I thought Flags of Our Fathers was really watchable. More than that actually. It’s very good. It shouldn’t be seen as a combat movie but more as a movie about the impact of pictures, an exploration of the true nature of heroism and the way society treats heroes when they aren’t needed anymore. It was sobering to see their treatment. At no point were they seen as soldiers and men but merely as a possibility for propaganda. This became even clearer after the war when people lost all interest in them.

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Movies on American Indian Wars: A List Part II

A few days ago I posted a list on movies on the American Indian Wars knowing very well that I was on slippery terrain since I am not an expert. The War Movie Buff has been kind enough to add and comment on the list and I would say it needed serious amending. Seemingly very good movies had been left out. I am glad that, thanks to his input, I can present you with a very good new list. Not in alphabetical order this time but in rated order. Thanks, Kevin.

Not yet rated (probaly good)
Custer’s Last Stand (1936, USA) by Elmer Clifton, starring Rex Lease, Lona Andre, William Farnum
Geronimo (1939, USA) by Paul Sloane,  starring Preston Foster, Gene Lockhart
Custer of the West (1967, USA) by Robert Siodmak, starring Robert Shaw, Mary Ure, Ty Hardin
Soldier Blue (1970, USA) by Ralph Nelson, starring Candice Bergen, Peter Strauss, Donald Pleasence, Dana Elcar
Good Movies
Geronimo: An American Legend (1993, USA) by Walter Hill, starring Jason Patric, Wes Studi, Gene Hackman, Matt Damon
Crazy Horse (1996, USA, TV) , by John Irvin, starring mit Michael Greyeyes, Ned Beatty, August Schellenberg
Buffalo Soldiers (1997, USA, TV) by Charles Haid, staring Lamont Bentley, Tom Bower, Danny Glover
Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee (2007, USA, TV), by Yves Simoneau, starring Anna Paquin, Aidan Quinn, August Schellenberg, Adam Beach
Very Good Movies
Fort Apache (1948, USA) by John Ford, starring John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Shirley Temple
Rio Grande (1950, USA), by John Ford, starring John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, Ben Johnson, Victor McLaglen
Major Dundee (1965, USA) by Sam Peckinpah, starring Charlton Heston, Richard Harris, James Coburn, Senta Berger
Duel at Diablo (1966, USA) by Ralph Nelson, starring James Garner, Sidney Poitier, Bibi Andersson, Dennis Weaver
Cheyenne Autumn (1964, USA) by John Ford, starring Richard Widmark, Carol Baker, Karl Malden, Sal Mineo
I Will Fight No More Forever (1975, USA TV), by Richard T. Heffron, starring James Whitmore, Sam Elliott, Ned Romero
Great Movies
Little Big Man (1970, USA) by Arthur Penn, starring Dustin Hoffman, Martin Balsam, Faye Dunaway
Dances with Wolves (1990, USA) , by Kevin Costner, starring Kevin Costner, Mary McDonnell, Graham Greene
Son of the Morning Star (1991, USA, TV ) starring Gary Cole, Rosanna Arquette
Top 100 according to Military History Magazine
They Died with Their Boots On (1941, USA) by Raoul Walsh, starring Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Arthur Kennedy, Anthony Quinn, Gene Lockhart
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949, USA) by John Ford, starring John Wayne, Joanne Dru, John Agar
The Searchers (1956, USA) by John Ford, starring John Wayne, Jeffery Hunter, Vera Miles, Natalie Wood
Ulzana’s Raid (1972, USA), by Robert Aldrich, staring Burt Lancaster, Bruce Davison, Joaquin Martine

Maybe this is still not a definite list but we are getting closer.

The first part of Son of the Morning Star is the only thing I found in lieu of a trailer. Enjoy.

Movies on American Indian Wars: A List

I recently came across a German website that went through every possible conflict, since the days of the Roman Empire and listed some of the movies depicting these wars. I can tell you, that was a huge list. There were conflicts I had never heard of and loads of movies I had never heard of either. One chapter struck me as being of interest, namely the American Indian wars. I studied cultural anthropology with one of my  specializations being American Indians. Logically I am interested in those movies. I have seen some but not many. I remember Geronimo very well and found it very good. I also remember Dances with Wolves but I think it is by far too long. Rio Grande and Little Big Man are classics, of course. Hidalgo is the one I would like to watch and Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee is one I will watch very soon. You will find a list below. Feel free to comment and add others. I did amend and add as well. Many of those movies are probably labelled western normally.

1. Custer’s Last Stand (1936, USA) by Elmer Clifton, starring Rex Lease, Lona Andre, William Farnum
2. Geronimo (1939, USA) by Paul Sloane,  starring Preston Foster, Gene Lockhart
3. They Died with Their Boots On (1941, USA) by Raoul Walsh, starring Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Arthur Kennedy, Anthony Quinn, Gene Lockhart
4. Fort Apache (1948, USA) by John Ford, starring John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Shirley Temple
5. She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949, USA) by John Ford, starring John Wayne, Joanne Dru, John Agar
6. Rio Grande (1950, USA), by John Ford, starring John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, Ben Johnson, Victor McLaglen
7. Major Dundee (1965, USA) by Sam Peckinpah, starring Charlton Heston, Richard Harris, James Coburn, Senta Berger
8. Custer of the West (1967, USA) by Robert Siodmak, starring Robert Shaw, Mary Ure, Ty Hardin
9. Little Big Man (1970, USA) by Arthur Penn, starring Dustin Hoffman, Martin Balsam, Faye Dunaway
10. Soldier Blue (1970, USA) by Ralph Nelson, starring Candice Bergen, Peter Strauss, Donald Pleasence, Dana Elcar
11. Ulzana’s Raid (1972, USA), by Robert Aldrich, staring Burt Lancaster, Bruce Davison, Joaquin Martine
12. Dances with Wolves (1990, USA) , by Kevin Costner, starring Kevin Costner, Mary McDonnell, Graham Greene
13. Son of the Morning Star (1991, USA, TV ) starring Gary Cole, Rosanna Arquette
14. Geronimo: An American Legend (1993, USA) by Walter Hill, starring Jason Patric, Wes Studi, Gene Hackman, Matt Damon
15. Crazy Horse (1996, USA, TV) , by John Irvin, starring mit Michael Greyeyes, Ned Beatty, August Schellenberg
16. Buffalo Soldiers (1997, USA, TV) by Charles Haid, staring Lamont Bentley, Tom Bower, Danny Glover
17. Hidalgo (2004, USA) by Joe Johnston  starring Viggo Mortensen, Zuleikha Robinson, Omar Sharif
18. Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee (2007, USA, TV), by Yves Simoneau, starring Anna Paquin, Aidan Quinn, August Schellenberg, Adam Beach

Is there any movie anyone can recommend? How are they to be rated?

Added on November 27: see amended list