Wednesday, June 06, 2007


I thought Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers was a spot-on critique of propaganda and media manipulation during wartime. I had problems with the way the narrative jumped around; the flash-forwards and -backs and -betwixts were clumsy and jarring and exhausting, but nevertheless it was a brave and timely film, and demonstrated that Eastwood the auteur is not afraid to use his art to teach us something about where our country is right now. I got the sense that Flags of Our Fathers was an excellent film trapped inside a good movie.

Letters From Iwo Jima is an almost flawless companion piece. Here the primary themes--again brave and timely--are valor and the senseless waste of human beings. Like any resource, valor can be misappropriated and spent pointlessly. Valor can be used to hush criticism of foolhardy strategies and policies. Eastwood focuses on the Japanese soldiers who wait for an American invasion of Iwo Jima. The soldiers write letters home to their families. Everyone knows their mission is pointless, from the Emperor on down. Everyone understands that America's victory is inevitable. And yet the soldiers are asked to fight to the death, and many willingly and fanatically do so, in a catastrophic waste of life and resources.

Eastwood's decision to make such a film now is certainly no accident. This is no 'Hollywood liberal' cinematically attacking the Iraq debacle from a peacenik perspective. This is a sophisticated film-maker using the past in an effort to make us think about what's going on right now. You should see it today.

Strange to think that this is the same guy who starred in Every Which Way But Loose.

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