Clint Eastwood's Flags Of Our Fathers is a look at war from an unusual--and much more refreshing, really--perspective. With war movies, one can never be sure what you're getting until you've plopped down in the seat. Some war flicks have gone the traditional patriotic route , while some producers have used the medium to question motives for war. Some flicks--think The Thin Red Line--have been brilliant illustrations of the startling transformations that can take place in people when peace gives way to conflict.
Eastwood's film is different. Flags tells the often untold story of emotional turmoil that can occur when soldiers get caught within the politics of war, and exposes the financial motivations that might cause our country to create and push the concept of hero.
Flags Of Our Fathers tells the story of Doc Bradley, Rene Gagnon and Ira Hayes, three of the six troops photographed planting the American flag on a hilltop at Iowa Jima, soon after that famous World War 2 battle ended. The federal government realized quickly that the faceless picture resonated with the American people. So, they grab up the three troops who are still alive and take them on a whirlwind, cross-country tour, on which they are instructed to sell Americans on war bonds.
You know. To support the troops and all.
The White House realized that one picture--one simple picture--connected with people so strongly that it would make them pony up some dough. And lots of dough, at a time when it was really needed. Unless a windfall of cash comes in quick, the soldiers are told, the war would soon be over for the United States.
That picture was the key to the billfolds and purses of millions of people, and millions of dollars.
There was only one problem: The photo was staged.
The picture changed the lives of the three soldiers forever. Each handled the events that transpired with different levels of acceptance and dignity, but each was significantly changed.
Packaged into something they weren't, and sold as a commodity. They knew it, and it ate at them--it hit Ira Hayes particularly hard--from the inside.
Eastwood does a nice job showing true heroism on the battlefield, and contrasting that with the concept of "heroism" that the government packaged to sell. Flags is most successful, however, in showing how easily people can be swayed by something as simple as a photograph. We want to feel connected to our community and our country. We want to feel as though we share a stake in the outcome of decisions made by our political leaders.
And because of that desire, we often presume that what we see portrayed in pictures is a true-to-life representation of events, and that we are not being suckered by polished PR firms masquerading as government suits.
Flags points out that sometimes, at least, we are.
Maybe too often.