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Scholar, Writer, Mother, Dreamer. Editor of Luminarium, an online library for English Literature of the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Oscar Watch Continues: Flags of our Fathers Review

I haven't watched a movie touching World War II since 1998—Saving Private Ryan and La Vita è Bella, powerful Oscar-winning pictures both, left me... bereft.. for so long, that I haven't had the heart to watch another war movie since them. I grieve and carry Weltschmerz with me for such a long time, that I hesitate to invite it in again.

Yet, determined to complete my quest to see the pictures nominated for Oscars in the major categories, I saw Flags of our Fathers tonight (nominated for sound editing and sound mixing), with the intention of seeing its sister-film, Letters from Iwo Jima (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Sound Editing) tomorrow.

Flags of our Fathers follows the stories of the men who raised the American flag on the island of Iwo Jima, immortalized in a photograph which gave America hope at a time of hopelessness. Instead of full-scale carnage, the kind displayed in Saving Private Ryan, this movie is quiet, contemplative, personal, melancholy. It doesn't focus on the why's of war, doesn't question which side is right or wrong, doesn't in any way glorify war, or "the American Way" — it is simply the story of what it was like for these individuals, and the private cost of war.

The cinematography is beautiful, the art direction superb. The acting performances are solid, and in the case of Adam Beach, who plays Ira Hayes, luminous. I want to go on record as saying that he was ROBBED of a Best Supporting Actor nomination, both for the Oscars and the SAG awards. Eddie Murphy for Dreamgirls? No; Adam Beach for Flags of our Fathers.  If you saw the two movies, you will agree, I'm certain.

Where the movie falls short is in the most important factor, and that is the screenplay. Based on a real memoir, the screenwriters have served the book too faithfully — third person narration that focuses on several characters from an external point of view simply is not a strong screenwriting choice. A great movie is always about Story, Story, Story. Had the screenwriters written the story from the first-person point of view of just one of the characters (I would say, from the point of view of John "Doc" Bradley), the movie would have had more cohesion and stronger emotional impact. It would have been a great movie, instead of just a good one.

Even so, Flags of our Fathers is a well-executed, moving picture (pun intended). I'm now looking forward to seeing Letters from Iwo Jima. In its genre, I give Flags of our Fathers a B/B+.

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Blogger SzélsőFa said...

Hello, I've just watched one of the ten (?) trailers available at the link you provided. While I'm all into patriotism and fostering traditions I think it is a bit dangerous (?) unclear (?) to have movies that support war during *this* war in the Middle East.

February 13, 2007 5:53 AM  
Blogger Anniina said...

It is not a movie supporting war - far from it. The trailers are misleading.

February 13, 2007 12:21 PM  
Blogger SzélsőFa said...

Allright then. I think there are many movies nowadays that support war or unjust activities. I'm glad that according to you this is not one of those propaganda items.

February 13, 2007 1:56 PM  

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