`Flags' explores story of famous Iwo Jima photo

Critics' Picks: New Dvds

February 04, 2007|By CHRIS KALTENBACH

FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS -- Paramount Home Entertainment -- $29.99

Few war photographs are as iconic as the picture of five U.S. Marines and one Navy corpsman hoisting a flag into the air on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima in February 1945.

Clint Eastwood's homage to those men shows the galvanizing effect that Associated Press photo had on a demoralized nation -- as well as the shameless propaganda campaign U.S. officials mounted to exploit the three surviving flag-raisers.

Flags of Our Fathers leaps back and forth between horrific scenes of carnage on the island and the surreal carnival that Navy corpsman John "Doc" Bradley (Ryan Phillippe) and Marines Ira Hayes (Adam Beach) and Rene Gagnon (Jesse Bradford) endured on a national tour to persuade the public to buy war bonds.

"We really didn't do anything," Gagnon tells a cheering throng, embarrassed to be called a hero when so many of his comrades had died.

The tour was marred by revelations that the flag was not raised in victory, as victory was more than a month away when the picture was taken; that it was not the first U.S. flag raised on the island; and that there was confusion about who was in the picture.

The nebulous concept of heroism is at the heart of the screenplay by Paul Haggis (Crash) and William Broyles Jr. (Cast Away).

The story includes the standard bantering introductions to the troops aboard ship as they approach Iwo Jima, but their identities become blurred.

When Hayes approaches the mother of a dead comrade and collapses in distress, his invocation of the name "Mike" does not immediately bring a particular face to mind.

And in a sequence in which Bradley attends to a succession of wounded Marines, the recurring set-up, with each Marine expiring, blunts the impact of their individual passings.

Still, Eastwood's evident affection for the men is neatly juxtaposed by his unblinking take on hypocrisy in high places.

Special features

This widescreen DVD has no special features, other than subtitles in English and Spanish. There's little doubt that Paramount will release an improved DVD with all the bells and whistles. Why not now?

NICK MADIGAN

nick.madigan@baltsun.com

ALSO ANTICIPATED

ALFRED HITCHCOCK: THE EARLY YEARS OF THE MASTER OF SUSPENSE --Lionsgate -- $39.95

The five years of films collected here all date from Alfred Hitchock's earliest years and show the future Master of Suspense honing his craft. The Ring (1928), his fourth feature, focuses on two boxers in love with the same woman; the wrinkle is that she's married to one of them. The Manxman (1930), Hitchcock's final silent film, explores a similar theme as a fisherman on the Isle of Man leaves, entrusting a friend with the care of his intended. The set also contains three of Hitchcock's earliest sound films, all from 1930: Murder; The Skin Game; and Rich and Strange -- a theme behind much of Hitchcock's work.

Special features

A new 16-minute documentary, Pure Cinema: The Birth of Hitchcock Style, traces his early career.

chris.kaltenbach@baltsun.com

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