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Plot: What’s it about?
Sometimes a single moment can make all the difference in the world, or in the case of Iwo Jima, a single moment captured on film can inspire millions. A photographed was snapped as a group of soldiers raised the American flag on Iwo Jima, an image that moved both military and civilians. For three of the soldiers involved, it would prove to be reason to be called heroes and turned into crusaders to raise money to fund the war efforts. “Doc” Bradley (Ryan Phillippe), Ira Hayes (Adam Beach), and Rene Gagnon (Jesse Bradford) are the surviving soldiers from the incident and they’re shipped back to the United States, branded as heroes. The three men are used as the face of the war effort, to inspire sales of war bonds to fund the conflict. Each deals with the turn of events in their way, but some handle it better than others. Are these men being allowed to live up to their potential or just exploited to fund the war and in either case, how will the cope with their changed lives?
Just before I sat down with Flags of Our Fathers, I watched a mini marathon of war related movies, Black Hawk Down, We Were Soldiers, and God of War. In other words, I was used to fast paced action and tons of bloodshed, thanks to some gruesome deaths and brutal gunfights. Flags of Our Fathers doesn’t fall into that mold however, it is a war movie and it does have violence, but not on the same level as most recent genre pictures. The movie abandons the realism found in war scenes from films like Black Hawk Down, going for a more old school approach. The decision works and while the blood doesn’t flow like wine, this is war and as such, things do turn violent. The movie flashes between the war and things back at home, during the latter taking a more character study lean, to get inside the minds of these men. This works also, thanks to good writing and some great performances from stars Ryan Phillippe, Jesse Bradford, and Adam Beach. When you go to pick up Flags of Our Fathers, make sure to also get the companion piece Letters from Iwo Jima, both are well recommended.
Video: How does it look?
Flags of Our Fathers is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. As you’d expect from Dreamworks, the transfer here is top notch and shows no serious problems. The print is of course like new, this is a new movie after all, so detail is strong and the image is quite crisp. The visuals do have some stylistic choices that skew things somewhat, but just keep in mind, this is how the film was intended to be seen. The colors look natural, but bright when needed, while contrast holds up well, even in the darkest of scenes, so detail is never obscured. I wouldn’t put this with the elite transfers I’ve seen, but Flags of Our Fathers looks excellent and fans should be quite pleased.
Audio: How does it sound?
The Dolby Digital 5.1 option found here is up to the task, whether the film asks for power or more subtle presence. As I mentioned above, this film alternates between war elements and more natural settings, so the audio has change gears to be able to keep things in order. In the scenes back home, the soundtrack is reserved, but it should be. The focus is on dialogue and lower key elements, with clear vocals and no concerns to speak of. When the war moments storm in, the surrounds come to life and you’ll feel like you’re in the trenches yourself. A versatile soundtrack that never drops the ball, whatever the needs of the material. This release also includes a 2.0 surround option, a French language track, and subtitles in English and Spanish.
Supplements: What are the extras?
We start off with an introduction by Clint Eastwood, then move to half a dozen behind the scenes featurettes. Each focuses on a different element, from the book the film was based on to the special effects to a special look at the flag raising sequence. None provide in depth substance, but all have worthwhile information and are worth a look for fans. This release also includes the film’s theatrical trailer.