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PCR # 343  (Vol. 7, No. 42)  This edition is for the week of October 16--22, 2006.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review
"Flags of our Fathers"

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith
Four stars

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

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Monster Mish-Mash! ScreamFest 2006  by ED Tucker
"Flags of our Fathers"  by Mike Smith
Things Are Changing In Tampa!  by Mark Terry
Attention Movie-Going People!  by Drew Reiber
Remembering Buck....This Won't Get You To Heaven....What's That You Said?....The End....It's Not A Dream, You're Fired....Brother, Can You Spare A Dime....Passing On....My Favorite Films, Part 42: "Used Cars"  by Mike Smith
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Warner Brothers     
Starring: Ryan Phillippe, Jesse Bradford, Adam Beach and Barry Pepper
Directed by: Clint Eastwood
Rated: R
Running Time: 2 hours 12 mins

The power of a single photograph is amazing. In our current struggles in Iraq the government does not want photos of flag draped coffins being published for fear they will lessen support for the war. In 1968, a photograph of the South Vietnamese National Police Chief, Brigadier General Nguyen Ngoc Loan shooting a suspected enemy officer in the head put a major dent in promoting our mission in Vietnam. But sometimes, a photo can unite and bring pride to a nation. "Flags of Our Fathers" tells the story of three servicemen who were part of one of the most iconic photos ever, the raising of the American flag on Mount Surabachi during battle on the island of Iwo Jima. The single image of six men (three of them died in battle on the island) and the flag, tied to a piece of drainage pipe, was the shot in the arm this country needed.

The power of the photo was used by the United States in many ways. While the image was a great boost to morale, it also gave the war effort a huge financial windfall. With the country deeply hurting due to the costs of the war, the 7th Bond Drive was ready to be held, and the image of the flag raising was used on the posters. Deciding that America needed to see her heroes, the State Department brought the three remaining servicemen back to the states, where they were heralded as "the heroes of Iwo Jima." But these three men - Navy man John Bradley (Phillippe) and Marines Rene Gagnon (Bradford) and Ira Hayes (Beach)- stressed that the real heroes were the ones that didn't get off the island alive. Each man carries around a sad burden. Bradley is haunted by the fact that one of the soldiers who helped raise the flag was never officially recognized. Gagnon, who was purposely used as a runner because his commanders did not have faith in his battle ability, tries to find a way to justify his ticket home. And Hayes, a native American, finds that even his status as a hero won't get him served at the local watering hole.

Based on the book by James Bradley, "Flags of Our Fathers" is another milestone in the film making career of Clint Eastwood. Using an almost documentary style of filming during the battle scenes, Eastwood puts the audience in the middle of battle and shows that war IS hell. He also faithfully recreates 1940s America, including a spectacular bond drive at Soldier's Field in Chicago. His camera movements and almost sparse musical score help capture the mood and effect these young men had on our country.

The cast is outstanding, with Phillippe, who had a small part in last year's Oscar-winning "Crash," showing he is more then just Mr. Reese Witherspoon. Bradford is fine as Gagnon, a soldier who collects business cards from those who congratulate him in the hopes of lining up a job after the war. Supporting work by Barry Pepper, Jamie Bell and Paul Walker help carry the story. But it is Beach that gives the award worthy work here. As the tour goes on, Hayes begins drinking to the point of self destruction, anxious to get back to his unit and unsure why he has been selected to be away from the men he so badly wants to fight side by side with. The story so struck Eastwood that in a few months he will be releasing "Letter from Iwo Jima," which tells the story of the battle from the Japanese perspective. As the year draws to an end, "Flags of Our Fathers" has arrived to announce its inclusion as one of the year's best films.

On a scale of zero to four stars I give "Flag of Our Fathers"  Four stars

This week's movie review of "Flags of our Fathers" is ©2006 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2006, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2006 by Nolan B. Canova.