[Flags] fits into Eastwood's late-in-life agenda -- to make violence, even in self-defense, seem soul-killing, and to expose the gulf between reality and myth. After this, how can we ever again make our peace with the iconography of war?
The full weight of a lifetime's experience has been brought to bear in the unobtrusive staging, the delicate score (by Eastwood himself), and a thoughtful, honest accounting of World War II's bloodiest and most iconic battle.
Once this World War II drama finds its footing -- and much of the film goes by before it does - it's extremely moving. At the end, a flag dances quietly in a whispering breeze, celebrating the film's real-life heroes as eloquently as any words.
Eastwood storms Mt. Oscar again with Flags of Our Fathers, a stirring ode to American heroism during the battle of Iwo Jima - which also pointedly dissects how that heroism was cynically packaged for public consumption.
There's some slight, indefinable lack to Flags of Our Fathers, some piece of missing brimstone that keeps it from setting the heart afire, leaving it a wholly admirable piece of filmmaking, but nothing more.
Some movies and their makers are essential to our understanding of ourselves. Eastwood has become such a director. With Flags, he once again proves he is filmmaker for what ails us but also for what can make us extraordinary.
It can and will be seen as 'patriotic,' a tribute to the armed forces. But it is also, in its clear-eyed depiction of the chaos and carnage of battle, of the soldiers' quaking fear, and the cruel finality of a bullet or a bomb, very much an antiwar film.
his sad true story wrings you out emotionally because it's concerned with both the deaths of young men in battle and what happens when the needs of those who survive clash with what society expects and politics demands.
Clearly Eastwood wants the story of what happened to these men to resonate as much for our own era as for theirs. It's a movie about the toll that heroism extracts in a wartime culture ready-made for heroes.
Consistently the film is, while not exactly patriotic, at least respectful. And even though it focuses on a battle and a war that took place some 60 years ago, it remains all too resonant and relevant today.
With Flags, Eastwood has made one of his best films -- a searching, morally complex deconstruction of the Greatest Generation that is nevertheless rich in the sensitivity to human frailty that has become his signature as a filmmaker.
A pointed exploration of heroism -- in its actual and in its trumped-up, officially useful forms -- the picture welds a powerful account of the battle of Iwo Jima... with an ironic and ultimately sad look at its aftermath for three key survivors.