Last night I saw Clint Eastwood’s Flags of our Fathers at the Ziegfeld theater in Manhattan with a crowd that included many Marines in uniform. At the end of the credits, when the famous flag raising picture that is the heart of this story came on the screen, one of the men shouted “Hoorah, Marines!” It’s hard to not be moved by that moment. I walked out of the theater still feeling that, but also feeling something else: like this movie was very incomplete and that I wanted to see Clint’s other Iwo Jima movie, Letter from Iwo Jima, immediately.
Letters from Iwo Jima (once superiorly titled Black Sand, Red Sun) tells the story of the battle of Iwo Jima from the Japanese point of view. Iwo Jima and the long, bloody battle are important to Flags of our Fathers, yet they’re never fully explored. The movie really just occupies itself with the first five days of the battle; the other 35 are briefly touched on but never given any real examination. This leaves Flags of our Fathers feeling lopsided, with too much time spent on the subsequent war bond tour, and ultimately unfulfilling.
Which, I hope, is where Letters from Iwo Jima comes in. The film is, as far as I know, completely set on Iwo Jima, and is told from the Japanese point of view. This film actually shows events that we see in Flags of our Fathers, but from the other side of the war. It should be interesting, and at the very least it should fill in the gaps in the story.
Sadly I’ll have to wait a while to see Letters from Iwo Jima – while Flags of our Fathers is coming out next week, the Japanese story, released by Warner Bros, is being held until February 9th. I don’t think that Flags is an Oscar movie – it’s just not quite as good as it needs to be – but I wonder if the true scope of Clint’s work is only revealed when seeing the two films? Could holding Letters until February – which I assume is a marketing move, looking to avoid crushing and confusing audiences with product – lose him the Oscar for both? And heck, if Guns n Roses can release two albums at once, why can’t Clint Eastwood do the same with movies?