November 30th, 2007

Hijinks Ensue

Flags of Our Fathers / Letters from Iwo Jima

These two complementary movies tell the story of the battle of Iwo Jima near the end of WWII; the first from the perspective of the American attackers and the second from that of the Japanese defenders. Flags of Our Fathers focusses on the soldiers who were pictured in the infamous photo of the US flag being raised on mount Suribachi, in particular what happened to the survivors when they were called home, proclaimed heroes, and made to tour around the country selling war bonds. I don't think it quite works - it feels about 45 minutes too long, and the plot is related as a confusing jumble of flashbacks. Letters from Iwo Jima, on the other hand, is a much stronger story (though I'm unable to attest to its historical accuracy), which is further enhanced by already having seen the earlier movie. Both are downbeat (some might say depressing) portrayals of the horrors of war. The first is an explicit denouncement of jingoistic flag-waving; the latter manages to put a human face on the Japanese soldiers, many of whom were conscripted and had no choice other than to fight or commit suicide.