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Flags of Our Fathers


Stars: Adam Beach, Ryan Phillippe, Jesse Bradford, Barry Pepper, Jamie Bell, Melanie Lynskey, Judith Ivey

Director: Clint Eastwood

It's a famous image. Six servicemen raising the American flag at the top of a peak on the previously Japanese-held island of Iwo Jima in World War Two. But they weren't the sextet who planted the original flag - just Johnnies-on-the-spot posing for an arranged photo. Three of them die soon after.

Clint Eastwood's fine film, which covers some of the same ground as the underrated 1961 Tony Curtis film The Outsider, surveys the subsequent hell and civilian fates of the remaining three.

Naturally, the focus is on American Indian Ira Hayes (the Curtis role), here poignantly played by Adam Beach, who was least able of the three to deal with the phony fame that swamped their return to the States.

The beach landings at the beginning of the film are just awesome: for sheer combination of horror and pictorial spendour, they knock spots off those made by Steven Spielberg - co-producer here - for Saving Private Ryan.

The film's - and Eastwood's - problem is that everything that follows is something of an anti-climax, a flaw that the director does his best to minimise by keeping the war footage going, in between the indignities suffered by the returning trio on a war bonds tour.

Only the President has a genuine word for Hayes (humiliatingly called Chief by fellow soldiers), when he tells him that he's a 'truer American than any of us'. The result is one of the best World War Two films of recent times.

David Quinlan

USA 2006. UK Distributor: Warner Brothers. Technicolor.
132 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 19 Dec 2006