Following the Ebert & Roeper and MCN early breaks, Variety ‘s Todd McCarthy and Hollywood Reporter‘s Kirk Honeycutt have posted thumbs-up reviews of Clint Eastwood‘s Flags of Our Fathers. McCarthy calls it sad, ambitious, powerful and exemplary in its physical aspects, and Honeycutt writes that the film “does a most difficult and brave thing and does it brilliantly…it is a movie about a concept…not just any concept but the shop-worn and often wrong-headed idea of ‘heroism.'”
“Tackling his biggest canvas to date with a pointed exploration of heroism — in its actual and in its trumped-up, officially useful forms — Eastwood’s picture welds a powerful account of the battle of Iwo Jima,” McCarthy writes. “This domestic Paramount release looks to parlay critical acclaim and its director’s ever-increasing eminence to strong b.o. returns through the autumn and probably beyond.
“One way to think about Flags is as The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance of this generation. That 1962 John Ford Western is famous for its central maxim, ‘When the truth becomes legend, print the legend’, and Flags resonantly holds the notion up to the light. It is also a film about the so-called Greatest Generation that considers why its members are, or were, reticent to speak much about what they did in the war, to boast or consider themselves heroes.
“Such is the carnage at the initial Iwo Jima landing (the Americans suffered 2,000 casualties that first day alone) that there will be some temptation to compare the scene to current co-producer Steven Spielberg’s justly celebrated D-Day invasion sequence in Saving Private Ryan. But Eastwood does it his own way, impressively providing coherence and chaos, awesome panoramic shots revealing the enormity of the arrayed armada and sudden spasms of violence that with great simplicity point up the utter arbitrariness of suffering and death in combat.
“The visual scheme Eastwood developed for the picture is immediately arresting. Perhaps taking a cue from the island’s black sand, as well as from WWII’s status as the last war shot, from a filmic p.o.v., in black-and-white, pic is nearly as monochromatic as anything shot in color can be. Dominated by blacks, grays and olive greens, cinematographer Tom Stern‘s images have a grave elegance, a drained quality that places the events cleanly in history without diminishing their startling immediacy.”