Eastwood Takes Fresh Look at WWII Heroism in 'Flags of Our Fathers'

ByABC News
October 19, 2006, 12:55 PM

Oct. 19, 2006 — -- Clint Eastwood's last two films -- "Mystic River" and "Million Dollar Baby" -- were nominated for 13 Oscars and won five, including two for him. At 76, he directs with the guts and vision of a kid just out of film school who doesn't know any better.

"Flags of Our Fathers" tells the story, the whole story, of what may be the single most iconic photograph in American history.

The photo of U.S. soldiers' raising of the flag at Mount Surabachi during the battle of Iwo Jima didn't rally the troops. It rallied the home front.

By 1945, America was tired of war. The government used the photograph -- and the men in it -- to raise $14 billion for the war effort. This is a great film, an important film. The truth is, because those men were there, we are here. And Eastwood deserves our thanks for not letting us forget that.

Shot in a monochrome (as close to black and white as color can be), we not only feel as if we're watching history, the storytelling is so powerful, so immediate, we feel as if we're watching history being made. Grade: A-

Why is this film called "The Prestige"? It's the moment in a magic trick when the woman you've seen sawed in half comes back together. It's that split second when the card that's been cut into 50 pieces reappears whole in somebody else's pocket. It's that magic coming together this movie doesn't have.

Christian Bale is in jail for murdering Hugh Jackman's wife, and this sets up a life-long feud that should be a hatful of fun: Hey, it's Batman versus Wolverine, only this time they're magicians. They destroy each other's careers, steal each other's tricks, attempt murder and, sometimes, succeed.

Add David Bowie and Michael Caine and "The Prestige" is a very good film but not a great one. The magic doesn't touch the audience. It stays on the screen. Grade: B-

Kirsten Dunst is Marie Antoinette, married at 15 to Louis XVI. Call it an '80s brat-pack movie ... from the 1780s.

Jason Schwartzman is the clueless king. It takes him seven years to consummate their marriage. It takes the film a half hour before there's dialogue with any substance. Let them eat ... eye-candy.

You can't take your eyes off Milena Canonero's slam-dunk Oscar-wining costumes. And the court you'll see isn't a Hollywood set. It's the palace at Versailles, and it's breathtaking. This is the first movie I've seen where a chair steals the scene.

What Sofia Coppola's tried to do, I realized, is not tell us the story but show us the story. And she almost succeeds. Watching the first hour is akin to binge eating two pounds of the richest chocolate you can imagine. Watching the last hour is how you'd feel if you really did. Grade: C+