Now in Cinemas: Reviews for March 29, 2007

Clint Eastwood's Flags of our Fathers
Reviews by Jason Pirodsky

Clint Eastwood´s Flags of our Fathers is a somber, heartfelt, beautifully rendered meditation on heroism and the politics of war. Though not the epic, definitive tale of the Battle of Iwo Jima that some may expect, the film´s true ambitions lie in telling a more focused story: one of a famous photograph, the soldiers that appear in it, and the politicians who use said photo and soldiers to promote a war. Technically flawless, with wonderful set design, composition, and cinematography, and a low-key score composed by the director. Icelandic beaches, complete with black sand, stand in nicely for Iwo Jima to memorably re-create the battle.

Flags of our Fathers
Directed by Clint Eastwood. Starring Ryan Phillipe, Jesse Bradford, Adam Beach, John Benjamin Hickey, John Slattery, Barry Pepper, Jamie Bell, Paul Walker, Robert Patrick, Neal McDonough, Melanie Lynskey, Thomas McCarthy, Chris Bauer, Judith Ivey. Written by Paul Haggis and William Broyles, Jr., from the novel by James Bradley and Ron Powers.
IMDb link

Five days into the Battle of Iwo Jima, one of the most famous of WWII, a small group of soldiers plant a US flag on top of a summit in defiance of Japanese forces. Soon after, another group of soldiers erects a larger, replacement flag on the same summit, as AP photographer Joe Rosenthal shoots it. The photo instantly becomes iconic, appearing on front pages across the US, and the men in the photo (though mostly unrecognizable) become heroes. After the war, the three surviving men from the photo are used by politicians to help raise money for the war effort, through speaking at public functions or planting yet another flag in a papier-mâché summit at a football stadium. Each of the men (Ryan Phillipe, Adam Beach, and Jesse Bradford) deals with their newfound ‘heroism´ in different ways.

Though none of the characters are fully fleshed out, Beach is excellent as Ira Hayes, a Native American who must deal with casual racism both during the war and after; Hayes is a quiet, tortured individual who provides the heart of the film. Minor complaints: the fractured story, while never uninteresting, can occasionally be less than compelling, and outside of the three central figures, we don´t get to know the other characters as well as we might want to; one almost wishes the film were longer and more straightforward. But Flags of our Fathers is wonderfully filmed and presents its central themes with a quiet dignity, never becoming overbearing or overly sentimental. An intelligent and thought-provoking war movie.


Also opening: Mr. Bean´s Holiday (showtimes | IMDb), Rowan Atkinson´s latest misadventures as the title character. Steve Bendelack´s film follows the exploits of Bean as he vacations in the south of France. Title is a reference to Mr. Hulot´s Holiday, as Atkinson´s Mr. Bean draws heavy influence from comedian Jacques Tati´s famous Mr. Hulot. Also starring Willem Dafoe, Jean Rochefort, and Karel Roden.

Lars von Trier´s latest film, The Boss of it All (showtimes | IMDb), also opens. Film has been called a ‘breezy comedy´ in contrast to some of von Trier´s previous work (Dogville, Dancer in the Dark); critical reception has been positive if lukewarm. Pic will be screening mostly in Danish (with some Icelandic, English, and Russian) with Czech subtitles.

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