Flags of Our Fathers

iwo-jima-flag.gifHeroes don’t call themselves heroes. That is the message that comes through strongly in Clint Eastwood’s new film. It’s a humility common in heroes and a point completely missed by those posers asking the world to consider themselves heroes.

Three boys return from war to act the part for the fundraisers looking to payroll the war. They don’t once consider themselves the heroes – pointing instead to those left behind.

The three boys/men have wildly varying responses to their newfound hero status. Rene Gagnon laps it up. He understands the media attention is a way to get away from the war – a war he wasn’t really cut out for anyway, seen with his demotion to “runner”. Ira Hayes can’t handle what he feels is a betrayal of those left behind and Doc Bradley just acts as Doc Bradley always does: he looks after people and acts with dignity.

Ultimately the film is a depressing take on how these boys were taken advantage of and that the idea of the Heroes of Iwo Jima was bigger than the reality. The image and story helped a nation feel positive about a war that had gone on too long.

edit: Here’s a link to a story about a group of kids visiting Washington who meet the author of the book and get a background story on the six boys in the statue.

4 Responses to Flags of Our Fathers

  1. writerchick October 30, 2006 at 7:40 pm #

    I remember seeing the original movie on tv that was done about Ira Hayes – It too, had such sadness that you almost didn’t know how to respond. I like Eastwood, but I’ve found that most of the films he does are kind of a bummer. Maybe he just sees things through that prism.

    I have to be honest I don’t enjoy films that have to deliver a political message (unless it’s about politics) – just makes me feel like I’m paying someone to lecture me.

    I don’t know if these men were heroes because they placed the flag – but they certainly were for going in behalf of their country to save lives.


  2. Matt Langdon October 30, 2006 at 7:55 pm #

    Thanks for the comment Writerchick. Your last sentence is exactly right. The problem was they were treated as heroes for the flag and not the fighting/dying.

  3. writerchick October 30, 2006 at 9:38 pm #

    I guess I don’t see anything wrong with using symbolism to mirror patriotism. Yes, it was symbolic and probably over the top, as most things are when presented to the public. But it was a significant moment in history that warranted attention. The problem is that most people place too much significance on symbols – not the symbol themselves.

    My opinion.

  4. thepaintwarrior November 6, 2006 at 3:11 pm #

    To quote page 4 of “Flags of our Fathers”
    “For me, a middle child among the eight, the mystery was tantalizing. I knew from an early age that my father had been some sort of hero. My third-grade schoolteacher said so; everyone said so. I hungered to know the heroic part of my dad. But try as I might I could never get him to tell me about it.
    ‘The real heroes of Iwo Jima,’ he said once, coming as close as he ever would, ‘are the guys who didn’t come back'” -James Bradley author of Flags of our Fathers and son of flag raiser John “Doc” Bradlry USN.