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Fast-Paised review: 'Flags of Our Fathers'

Director Clint Eastwood adapts James Bradley's novel of the same name about marines (Ryan Phillippe, Jesse Bradford, Adam Beach) honored for hoisting the American flag at Iwo Jima during WWII. The photo of the flag being raised has been immortalized for decades as a symbol of triumph on the battlefield.

Big question: Between Eastwood ("Million Dollar Baby," "Mystic River"), co-writer Paul Haggis ("Crash," "Million Dollar Baby") and producer Steven Spielberg ("Saving Private Ryan," duh), "Flags of Our Fathers" seems primed for Oscar attention; does it deserve it?

Catch it: "Flags" captures the look and feel of the '40s, and the movie has tense battle sequences and stirring exchanges that show how one picture gave hope to a nation. Though present-day recollections are over-simplified and sentimental, the movie successfully wonders whether the public needs to know who the real heroes are, or if they just need to know that they're out there.

Skip it: If seeing the marines honored at Soldier Field makes you long for the pre-renovated version of the stadium. You know, when it still looked like a war memorial.

Bottom line: The characters are defined neither as a unit nor as individuals, as the film neglects to present who each man was before the war or why he got involved. And Haggis (who wrote the script with William Broyles Jr.) couldn't write a subtle line if his life depended on it. But the theme is on-target even when the characterizations are lacking, and "Flags of Our Fathers" makes its mark in the moments when war is fought man-to-man--when we can see on these young soldiers' faces that home is far, far away.

Bonus: Considering getting hitched, guys? Make sure your explanation is more enthusiastic than Rene's (Bradford): "Yeah, it's something she wants …"

Matt Pais is the metromix movies producer.


'Flags of Our Fathers'

Directed by Clint Eastwood; screenplay by William Broyles Jr. and Paul Haggis, based on the book by James Bradley with Ron Powers; cinematography by Tom Stern; edited by Joel Cox; production design by Henry Bumstead; music by Clint Eastwood; produced by Eastwood, Steven Spielberg and Robert Lorenz. A Paramount Pictures release; opens Friday. Running time: 2:17. MPAA rating: R (for sequences of graphic war violence and carnage, and for language).

John "Doc" Bradley - Ryan Phillippe

Ira Hayes - Adam Beach

Rene Gagnon - Jesse Bradford

Michael Strank - Barry Pepper

Keyes Beech - John Benjamin Hickey

Ralph Ignatowski - Jamie Bell

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