There were five Marines and one Navy Corpsman photographed raising the U.S. flag on Mt. Suribachi by Joe Rosenthal on February 23, 1945. This is the story of three of the six surviving servicemen – John 'Doc' Bradley, Pvt. Rene Gagnon and Pvt. Ira Hayes, who fought in the battle to take Iwo Jima from the Japanese.
|Release Date||:||October 19, 2006|
|Genres||:||War, Drama, History|
|Production Company||:||DreamWorks SKG, Amblin Entertainment, Malpaso Productions, Warner Bros.|
|Production Countries||:||United States of America|
|Writers||:||Paul Haggis, William Broyles Jr.|
|Casts||:||Ryan Phillippe, Adam Beach, Jesse Bradford, John Benjamin Hickey, John Slattery, Barry Pepper, Jamie Bell, Paul Walker, Robert Patrick, Neal McDonough, Melanie Lynskey, Chris Bauer, Gordon Clapp, Judith Ivey, Joseph Cross, Benjamin Walker, Alessandro Mastrobuono, Stark Sands, Ann Dowd, Beth Grant, Brian Kimmet, Jason Gray-Stanford, David Rasche, James Newman, Beth Tapper, Shakti Shannon, Scott Eastwood|
|Plot Keywords||:||world war ii, dying and death, pacific, iwo jima, aftercreditsstinger, duringcreditsstinger|
I've always felt that when you fictionalize a story about war, you dishonor the memory of so many people who have a compelling story to tell by choosing to make something up instead *cough*privateryan*cough*.
The problem with war movies about real people is that you have to deal with complexities of character and plot that the genre simply doesn't lend itself easily to.
So when the story at hand aims to pose questions like "what does it mean to do the wrong things for the right reasons" and tries to debunk the popular myth of herodom, there's very little margin for error.
Enter Clint Eastwood. Never one to shy away from challenging stories, this is a much bigger effort than his usual understated character dramas. On the one hand, it doesn't "feel" like a Clint Eastwood movie, but on the other, it feels at home in his themes of used-up heroes -- the person behind the larger than life persona. These are complex characters in very difficult situations, and he presents them in a way that's straightforward and non-judgmental, so we're left to decide the answers to the film's central conflicts ourselves.
To a person, the cast is up to the challenge. It's hard not to admire Ryan Phillippe for a restrained and thoughtful performance, but the real kudos go to Adam Beach. Almost every aspect of Beach's character is cliché, with one minor exception - that's really the way Ira Hayes was. So the challenge was to portray Hayes as a real person despite the cliché, and the result is one of the most heartbreaking and troubling performances in the film. Here's a guy who is portrayed as a hero, who really has no answers at all.
There's a lot not to like about the film. It's not "entertaining" per se, in the same way that any war memorial in DC is not entertaining. Nor is it a particularly approachable film. What it lacks in popcorn-munching entertainment value, it replaces with gravitas. This is an important film, about an important time. It's status as a valuable history lesson is secondary to it's reflections on human nature and our society. As such, it deserves to be seen, and contemplated, and appreciated.
I can't wait for Letters From Iwo Jima (the companion piece, also from Clint Eastwood, told from the Japanese point of view.) Taken together, the scope of this project is breathtaking.