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Flags of our Fathers and the greatest generation

Filed under: — adrian @ 11:02 pm

Despite liking the book and Clint Eastwood’s previous directorial work, I hadn’t been looking forward to Flags of our Fathers much. Maybe I just felt that the World War II movie had been played out or that Eastwood’s touch wouldn’t be as deft in a subject that tends to be done in an epic and over-the-top manner. But the critics seemed to be liking it, so I thought I’d catch a show yesterday at the new megaplex down in Redwood City.

It’s about the photo and the people in the photo, Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima and more broadly about World War II, and “heros”. The book is written by one of the flag raisers’ sons and it goes through the story of each of the six flag raisers, the story of the flag raising, the history of the battle of Iwo Jima and other related topics.

I was surprised by how closely it stayed to the book. I was expecting that everything that wasn’t the battle of Iwo Jima would be stripped out. It’s not really a battle movie, as such, because of this because a lot of it takes place after the battle. The movie bounces back and forth between the post-battle scenes and the battle scenes; it might be a bit hard to follow for some, but I didn’t have much of a problem.

The cinematography has a very gritty quality to it for the battle scenes. It’s filmed in a way that it’s almost black-and-white for the battle scenes and, like similar scenes in Saving Private Ryan, it’s sometimes filmed in an unsteady manner such that it’s closer to what a soldier would have seen. The whole film is gritty too. Eastwood doesn’t sugar coat the situation or truth, here. It’s all here and laid out for you to see. He leaves out a lot of the feel good parts you might see in another war movie.

It’s good. Not amazing, but good. It is a film with some weight: it hits you and doesn’t leave immediately.

I was talking to a WWII veteran earlier in the same day who had served at Okinawa. He was 19 at the time and was in the campaign for 75 days. I don’t know about you but when I was 19 I couldn’t have handled that. I mean at 22 I lived in Germany for 75(ish) days and was marginally able to handle that. No killing people, no enemy combatants, no watching friends die. That was it, either: he was scheduled and was training to be in the second wave to invade Japan, if that had happened. And then they, for the most part, just went back to school or work and went about their lives. I always take the opportunity to talk to WWII vets when I have a chance. If you think about it, if a soldier was 18 when he was fighting in the last battles in 1945, then he’s 80 now. It’s a shrinking group of people, I imagine rapidly at this point.

I don’t know what it is about WWII, something gets me about it. All these young kids went off and fought, hopefully, the last war of that magnitude (110,000 Japanese died on Okinawa alone—the population of more than Menlo Park and Palo Alto put together died on one side during one battle). It was the whole country too. The whole country mobilized and supported the effort and sacrificied. (Interesting fact: we went to war with Japan because they attacked us. Why did the US go to war with Germany? They declared war on us.) I’m not saying anything for or against war here: just that the sacrafice of the WWII generation gets me.

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