Pictures in War

Just caught Flags of Our Fathers. I’ve got some mixed reactions to the film. Overall, I liked it, but it felt very confused to me. At times, it wanted to be a war movie – The landing scenes on Iwo Jima were on par with Band of Brothers and Saving Private Ryan in energy, action, technical work and the overall scope. Other battle scenes were likewise as good. I got chills as the flag went up both times.
But then we get to the parts where the men are paraded around in front of the public, and the son speaking with the veterans, which were also very well done. There were some very powerful moments here, mainly ones that left me shaking my head, and which were summed up perfectly at the end, when the son tells the audience that heroes are products of ourselves, not of the men who we bestow the title – and it’s something that’s relevant today, especially given the importance of the media.
Also important was the mention at how a picture wins or looses a war – but I think that there’s more to it than that. The contrast between the image of the second flag raising and the picture from Vietnam – I think that reflects the changing state of warfare. In the Second World War, we faced a very clear enemy, and things were largely black and white. Come to Vietnam, and the picture blurs, and the public isn’t sure what’s true and what’s not true. I wonder, with that thought in mind, what the current war will be thought of, twenty, fifty, a hundred years down the line, once everyone has the ability to look back. I’m sure that that view will be just as muddled as it is today.
Back to Flags of Our Fathers – It’s a film that tries to be a war film and a political commentary – one that has strict relevance in our recent past, our present and most certainly our future. As a war film, it works spectacularly. As a political film, it works spectacularly. But together, something is lost. The energy from the war film abruptly stops at times while the three men are brought to a stage, and vice-versa. There are times when the transitions work, and overall, the result is good, but not nearly as good as it could be.

Advertisements