Evelyn GoughIn the Picture

Flags of our Fathers

Directed by Clint Eastwood

Rated MA 15+

What defines a hero? If you ask me, its a word thats used far too freely these days, so much so that its losing its true meaning. Are you a hero if you run a shop? I dont think so! Are you a hero if you play sport really well? No, youre a champion, but youre not a hero.

What if you helped raise a flag?

In February 1945 five Marines and a Navy corpsman became instant heroes when the photo of them raising the American flag on Mount Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima appeared all around the world.

It was one of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific 2000 American soldiers died on the first day alone, but victory was crucial if the allies were to triumph over the Japanese. Twenty thousand Japanese soldiers were entrenched on the inhospitable piece of rock and it would take five days, with thousands slaughtered on both sides, before the Americans were able to reach the summit and raise the stars and stripes.

The moment was captured by photographer Joe Rosenthal and in that instant six men would be immortalised in what was to become one of the most iconic images in history.

Three of the flag raisers would die soon after and the remaining three, played by Ryan Phillippe, Jesse Bradford and Adam Beach, were taken back to the States where they were lauded as heroes and sent on a national tour to raise much needed war bonds. The title of hero did not sit easy with the three, especially native American Ira Hayes (Adam Beach) and they would much rather have returned to their comrades and the real heroes. But their country needed them. Believe it or not, the United States was almost bankrupt and needed the three young men to raise an incredible $28 billion in war bonds.

Theres no doubt about it, Clint Eastwood is a great director and he has made a very powerful movie. I had misgivings initially, fearing it would be overly jingoistic, but I neednt have worried.

Its not an easy film to watch. The battle scenes are gruesome, gritty and realistic, probably more so than Saving Private Ryan, and I was left feeling melancholic for days. As an examination of what war does to men Flags of our Fathers makes a strong statement and while this isnt easy viewing, I highly recommend it.

Listen for Clints atmospheric and haunting score.

Flags of our Fathers also stars Paul Walker, Jamie Bell, Barry Pepper and John Benjamin Hickey.

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