Aside from an episode of the TV anthology series Amazing Stories in 1985, Flags of Our Fathers marks Clint Eastwood's first collaboration with Steven Spielberg. The movie, which is based on the bestselling book by James Bradley and Ron Powers, tells the story behind one of the most famous photographic images in history - the raising of the American flag by five U.S. Marines and a Navy corpsman atop Mount Subirachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945.
Directed by Eastwood and produced by Spielberg, Flags of Our Fathers aims to be something larger than a visceral war picture like Saving Private Ryan: More than half of the movie's running time, for example, centers on what happened to the three surviving men from the photo (played by Adam Beach, Jesse Bradford and Ryan Phillippe) after they returned to the U.S. and were drafted by the government to serve as poster boys for a war-bond drive.
But comparisons to Ryan are inevitable, especially a long, harrowing sequence depicting the Marines' landing at Iwo Jima that instantly evokes the Omaha Beach invasion from Spielberg's film. Still, Flags contains some of the most vital and logistically complex filmmaking of the 76 year-old Eastwood's career. It also leaves you aching to see Letters From Iwo Jima, the movie he shot immediately after Flags, which recounts the same battle from the perspective of the Japanese (who are barely ever seen in Flags).
Flags of Our Fathers opens on Oct. 20. Letters From Iwo Jima is currently scheduled to premiere in Japan on Dec. 9, then gradually roll out across the U.S. in January.