Anthony's Film Review
Flags of Our Fathers (2006)
An emotional in-depth look at a defining moment in American history.
Clint Eastwood directed both Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima as complementary films to show both sides of the famous World War II battle on Iwo Jima. Any war movie has the potential to tell a great story. However, the best way to appreciate the details of a war or other historical event is to see it from all sides. It would be a matter of time before some filmmaker would come up with the idea of making two concurrent films about the same war. Clint Eastwood stepped in to do so, and I think what he did was very clever.
Flags of Our Fathers chronicles the American side of the Battle of Iwo Jima. It specifically centers on the historical photograph of soldiers raising the American flag on the Japanese island and the moments these flag-raisers experienced during and after the war. The film doesn't just repeat what a history textbook would show. It goes beyond it, providing more insight into who these men were. This is one of the film's many strong points.
These history-making soldiers include John Bradley (Ryan Phillippe), Rene Gagnon (Jesse Bradford), Ira Hayes (Adam Beach), Hank Hansen (Paul Walker), Iggy Ignatowski (Jamie Bell), and Mike Strank (Barry Pepper). The film doesn't present much about who these men were before being shipped overseas, but that's OK. What's important is the sacrifice they would have to make. The moment they set foot on Iwo Jima, their only focus is engaging the enemy at any cost. The initial battle sequence is a very dramatic spectacle where enemy fire would come from anywhere at any time. Clearly, the war will not be easy.
The story also features scenes of some of these men at home after the war. They depict a series of celebratory events that surround the now-famous Iwo Jima flag-raising photograph. There are so many Americans who cheer for these heroes. Yet, these "heroes" appear emotionally subdued. They can never forget the horrors of war. They know that war is nothing to cheer about. From this, it becomes clear that there is a striking contrast between these veterans and everyone else who never set foot on Iwo Jima.
Interestingly, these components are not presented chronologically. The film alternates between war scenes and post-war scenes and devotes a little more than half of the two-hour running time to the latter. The post-war scenes form the actual present-day story with the war scenes as flashbacks. Like Michael Cimino's The Deer Hunter, Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers discusses war while turning its direct focus away from it. By contrasting two time periods, two locations, and two groups of people, the film illustrates the meaning of heroism. It is a personal and emotional sacrifice for the greater good. American soldiers do not return home feeling ecstatic about killing enemy soldiers. The glory of warfare is something only the rest of the American people perceive. This is also shown in scenes that reveal truths about the Iwo Jima flag photo that the flag-raisers know but everyone is too optimistic to see.
Directors of war movies are often associated with the specific wars they're portraying on film. For the Battle of Iwo Jima, Clint Eastwood would certainly be the first one who comes to mind. He has directed a memorable cinematic portrait of a major time in American history. It has certainly helped me understand much better the men involved in that moment and what war is really about. Flags of Our Fathers is, no doubt, a masterpiece in my book.
I’m not the first person to have this idea. I am planning a fan edit that combines Flags of our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima. I’m also considering using about 5-10 minutes of footage from The Pacific. I plan to structure the new film in chronological order covering the events from the beginning of the invasion until the end. They’ll be no flashbacks or character exposition after the battle. I may use a couple of the flashbacks as a prologue and I may use the monument dedication as an epilogue. The movie ends w/ the Americans securing the island.
This a very basic structure of the film:
-introduce the Iwo defenders (Saigo and Kuibayashi)
-introduce the Marines at Camp Tarawa (Bradley, Gagnon, Hayes, etc)
-introduce the Marines at Camp Pendleton (Basilone and his MG unit)
-Kuribayashi sends Adm Ohsugi back to Japan and is informed of the fall of Saipan
-Marines train for the invasion and ship out
-The Japanese prepare their defenses
-bombing and shore bombardment of the island
-The initial invasion and Basilone’s death
-The assault on Mt. Suribachi
-Suicide in Mt. Suribachi
-the raising of the flag
-Saigo almost loses his head
-Nishi is blinded
-Suribachi survivors escape the American crossfire
-Saigo and Shimizu agree to and attempt surrender (Shimizu survives and it not shot by the Americans)
-Strank is killed in an ambush
- Kuribayashi leads the final assault and is wounded
-Bradley is wounded
-Kuribayashi’s death; Saigo captured
-Bradley at the aid station
-Saigo at the aid station
Please let me know your thought and suggestions.
"There he goes. One of God's own prototypes. A high-powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die."
this was an idea i had too.but don't have the time or energy to get it done.have you finished this?
"you make a living by what you get,but you make a life by what you give" winston churchill
Yes and no. I had a cut that was about 90% done. Then my HD crashed and I lost everything. It's on my list, but on the back burner for now. I trying to finish up my Man of Steel and Die Hard 5 edits, then I'm going to move on to my Clones Wars edits. After that I think I'll revisit my WWII edit ideas.
"There he goes. One of God's own prototypes. A high-powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die."
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“Letters From Iwo Jima,” Clint Eastwood’s follow-up to his critically acclaimed World War II drama “Flags of Our Fathers,” originally scheduled for a February 2007 release, opened in limited release to qualify for the upcoming Academy Awards! Like “Flags of Our Fathers,” “Letters From Iwo Jima” chronicles the pivotal battle for the Japanese island of Iwo Jima. However, while the first film is centered around the six men who raised the flag on Mount Suribachi in the famous photo, “Letters From Iwo Jima” views the battle from the perspective of the island’s Japanese defenders. Clint Eastwood offered, “I have been extremely gratified by the response from the press and the public who have seen Flags of Our Fathers, and what all of us keep hearing is that they want to understand the other side of the story. While working on Flags, I was intrigued by the idea of revealing what happened during this important battle from different perspectives. I’m happy to know that others feel the same way about seeing both sides. The two films were meant to complement each other, so it just makes sense to release ‘Letters From Iwo Jima’ this year, closer to the release of ‘Flags of Our Fathers.'” “Letters From Iwo Jima” has already screened in Japan, where it received an enthusiastic response. Sixty-one years ago, U.S. and Japanese armies met on Iwo Jima. Decades later, several hundred letters are unearthed from that stark island’s soil. The letters give faces and voices to the men who fought there, as well as the extraordinary general who led them, Tadamichi Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe). With little defense other than sheer will and the volcanic rock of the island itself, Gen. Kuribayashi’s unprecedented tactics transform what was predicted to be a quick and bloody defeat into nearly 40 days of heroic and resourceful combat. In an effort to explore an event that continues to resonate with both cultures, Clint Eastwood was haunted by the sense that making only one film, Flags of Our Fathers, would be telling only half the story. With this unprecedented dual film project, shot back-to-back to be released in sequence, Eastwood seeks to reveal the battle of Iwo Jima-and, by implication, the war in the Pacific-as a clash not only of arms but of cultures.
Starring: Ken Watanabe Shidô Nakamura Hiroshi Watanabe Ryo Kase Yuki Matsuzaki Kazunari Ninomiya Takumi Bando Tsuyoshi Ihara Eijiro Ozaki Takashi Yamaguchi
Genres: Drama History War
Directed By: Clint Eastwood
Runtime: ">141 minutesFeatured Trailer Letters From Iwo Jima Posters and Photos
November 18, 2009
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Actual Southern California locations where 2007's " Letters From Iwo Jima " was filmed.
" Letters From Iwo Jima " and "Flags of Our Fathers " are like bookends, Clint Eastwood's
two views of the same World War 2 battle in the Pacific, as seen from both sides.
In "Letters From Iwo Jima", we see the conflict from the side of the Japanese soldiers
who were faced with the impossible task of defending the rocky island.
But while much of "Flags of Our Fathers" was shot far away in Iceland,
almost all of "Iwo Jima" was filmed here in Southern California.
The trick was to get the SoCal locations to look like the Japanese island.
For instance, there was the problem of the black sand beaches of Iwo Jima.
Since Iwo Jima was an island in the Pacific, naturally we often see the
ocean in the film. But the actual filming location was nowhere near Japan.
Those beach shots were actually filmed on Leo Carrillo State Beach. in Malibu.
Leo Carrillo beach, and its picturesque rock formations, has been seen in
many movies, including the opening scenes of "Grease " and "Gidget",
and in television shows, such as "The O.C. "
But the beaches on the island of Iwo Jima have black sand -
something you won't find naturally on any beach in Malibu.
So what did the producers do? They trucked in black "sand", laid down plastic
(to preserve the natural environment) and - voila! - instant "black sand" beach!
You will find Leo Carrillo beach west of Point Dume, at 36000 Pacific Coast Highway ,
just west of where Mulholland Drive meets Pacific Coast Highway,
in Malibu (28 miles northwest of Santa Monica).
So, where did they get all that black sand? The same place where they filmed many of
the scenes where you couldn't see the ocean: at a volcano. A California volcano.
It's the Pisgah Volcano. a 321 feet-high, 1,600 feet-across volcanic cinder cone
in the Mojave Desert (30 miles east/southeast of Barstow, CA ), south of I-40.
Because of mining, the cone no longer resembles a traditional volcano, and
is usually referred to as "Pisgah Crater". But the surrounding lava fields are
deep with black volcanic soil/cinder that resembles rough sand (on camera).
So, they not only shot scenes at Pisgah (using the cliffs of the crater
for background), they also trucked its black cinder to the beach for
shots where they needed us to see the ocean in the background.
So, what about all those scenes inside the caves & tunnels. where
the soldiers were hunkered down during the bombardment?
Well, they didn't have to travel far. Just 30 miles northeast of the Pisgah Crater is
the historic spot that served as Walter Knott's inspiration for Knott's Berry Farm:
the original Calico Ghost Town in Barstow, CA.
Before it was a ghost town, Calico was a booming silver mine, so the hills
and rugged canyons behind the town are riddled with weaving tunnels
and caves, dug by Old West miners in search of precious ore.
The producers they used these caves & canyons of the Calico Mountains to recreate
the tunnels that the Japanese soldiers dug into the side of Mount Suribachi
(along with a few later shots filmed on sets built at Warner Bros. studio).
You'll find Calico Ghost Town at 36600 Ghost Town Road , in Yermo, CA.
One flashback scene shows the Japanese general, Kuribayashi, receiving a gift of a
Colt 45 handgun from an American friend at a farewell banquet at what is
supposed to be the " Fort Bliss Country Club " in Texas.
They shot that ballroom scene at the clubhouse at the Griffith Park Golf Courses ,
off Griffith Park Drive. in L.A.'s own Griffith Park.
The photos on this page are stills from the DVD of "Letters From Iwo Jima "
(which you can buy by clicking here ) and are copyright DreamWorks SKG.
From Flags of Our Fathers to Letters From Iwo Jima: Clint Eastwood’s Balancing of Japanese and American Perspectives
History, like the cinema, can often be a matter of perspective. That’s why Clint Eastwood’s decision to narrate the Battle of Iwo Jima from both the American and the Japanese point of view is not really new; it had been done before in Tora Tora Tora (1970), for instance. But by dividing these perspectives in different films directed at Japanese and international audiences, Eastwood makes history not merely an issue of which side you are on, but of how to look at history itself.
Flags of Our Fathers, the American version, is less about the battle than the memory of war, focusing in particular on how nations compulsively create heroes when they need them (like with the soldiers who raised the flag on Iwo Jima) and forget them later when they don’t. Instead of giving the national narrative of bravery in capturing Iwo Jima, the film shows how such stories are manufactured by media and governments to further the aims of the country, whatever may be the truth or the feelings of the individual soldiers. Against the constructed nature of public heroism, Eastwood poses the private real bonds between men; against public memory he focuses on personal trauma.
The Japanese edition, Letters from Iwo Jima, could—and perhaps should—have been about similar issues, but Eastwood changes his approach to history itself with this film. It, like Flags, begins decades after the war is over, but tells its story not through the traumatic flashbacks of the survivors, but effectively through the letters of soldiers unearthed from an island cave. Flags is about how to remember the war, giving a new view on an incident everyone knows; Letters is about listening to those who fought it, trying to create a memory tableau of something most people, including Japanese, know little about.
Mostly relating the battle as if it is the present, Letters is a more conventional war film. If Flags is an ambitious attempt to deconstruct the Hollywood war movie and similar media that work to create fictions of heroism, Letters, initially inspired by Eastwood’s encounter with the letters of General Kuribayashi Tadamichi, the Japanese commander on Iwo Jima, appears more simply as an American effort to understand the complex human beings on the other side, to tell the world that they were brave too.
And some of the figures are fascinating. Kuribayashi (Watanabe Ken) had studied in the United States, wrote loving letters to his son with comic illustrations, and protected his men against abusive officers; his close associate, Baron Nishi (Ihara Tsuyoshi), was a gold medalist at the Los Angeles Olympics and a friend of Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks. These two are in conflict with more traditional officers like Ito (Nakamura Shido), who seem more concerned with achieving a glorious suicidal death than defending the island and thus delaying the Allied forces’ march on Tokyo. Under Kuribayashi’s unconventional command, a garrison that was supposed to fall in 5 days lasted for 36. (The result was that just 1,083 of Japan’s 22,000 troops from army and navy units survived. The United States suffered the highest casualties of the Pacific War to that time. The 70,000 Marines thrown into the battle suffered 26,000 casualties including 6,821 deaths.)
Ito played by Nakamura Shido
The fear when one country’s artist dabbles in another nation’s history, is that unwitting mistakes of fact and interpretation will be made. Usually the problem is inaccuracy or distortion, but that does not figure much here: the drama is convincing, the characters well developed, and the acting superior. The question is whether this film, like The Last Samurai, might unwittingly feed into and actually bolster the contemporary rise in chauvinist nationalism in Japan. Some of the Japanese ads for Letters from Iwo Jima in fact seem to promote the movie along those lines.
Eastwood does much to undermine the military glory. Despite ads touting the vigorous defense, very little of that is shown as the film quickly turns to the soldiers’ choice between suicide and surrender. Suicide itself is shown as a grisly—and in contrast to old Japanese war films—distinctly unaesthetic experience. Watanabe’s superbly acted Kuribayashi may show shades of Katsumoto (his character in The Last Samurai) in ordering a last charge. But there is none of Samurai’s overblown celebration of martial valor, since it is shot at night as a chaotic melee. The soul of Eastwood’s film is the baker-turned-soldier Saigo (Ninomiya Kazunari, in a strong performance), who has promised his wife to return alive and never fires a shot.
Yet one can sense Eastwood treading carefully, trying not to offend his audiences. The fact that Kuribayashi and Nishi emerge as basically liberal humanists friendly to America makes them more palatable to American viewers. Letters curiously also seems to parallel some of Japan’s recent war films like Aegis and Lorelei, which, by preaching life not glorious death, attempt to offer a kinder, gentler nationalism for contemporary Japanese (see my article in Japan Focus).
Yet just as Japanese atrocities are mostly shown in Flags and American crimes in Letters, so Eastwood completely avoids the controversial issue of how Japanese should remember the war—even though he allows some of his characters, one in fact ironically, to survive. The critique of national history through personal trauma that centers Flags is barely raised in Letters.
One thus wonders whether Eastwood, in honoring these other soldiers in Letters from Iwo Jima, may be unwittingly engaging in the same process of creating “heroes” that Flags of Our Fathers criticized, albeit for another country. The primary hero here is Kuribayashi and he is someone whom the virtually pacifist Saigo eventually comes to revere and actually fight for (though with a shovel).
Eastwood, however, by walking the tightrope between mutual deference and mutual criticism, remains somewhat detached and never openly declares what kind of hero Kuribayashi is (or should be): a public hero like the beleaguered flag-raisers in Flags, or simply a private hero (like Mike, the skilled sergeant in Flags) for a life-loving baker. Both remain open as possibilities and it is left up to the audience—and possibly the media context they inhabit—to decide. The National Board of Review of Motion Pictures voted Letters From Iwo Jima the best film of 2006, proclaiming it Eastwood’s “masterpiece”.
Some may urge him to take a clearer position, but perhaps his detached but deferential stance also reminds us that cinema, like history, can often be a matter of perspective. It is up to us, not just the films, to determine the perspective, as well as our history and our heroes.
Title: Letters from Iwo Jima
Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Watanabe Ken, Ninomiya Kazunari, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Kase Ryo, Nakamura Shido
Title: Flags of Our Fathers
Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Ryan Phillippe, Jesse Bradford, Adam Beach, Barry Pepper, John Benjamin Hickey, John Slattery
Aaron Gerow is assistant professor in the Film Studies Program and in East Asian Languages and Literatures at Yale University. He has published widely in Japanese and English on Japanese cinema.
This is an extended version of a short review of Letters from Iwo Jima published in The Daily Yomiuri on 9 December 2006. It was published at Japan Focus on December 12, 2006.
For another review of Letters From Iwo Jima by a Canadian critic in Tokyo see.
With Flags of Our Fathers (2006) and Letters from Iwo Jima (2006), Clint Eastwood made a unique contribution to film history, being the first director to make two films about the same event. Eastwood's films examine the battle over Iwo Jima from two nations' perspectives, in two languages, and embody a passionate view on conflict, enemies, and heroes. Together these works tell the story behind one of history’s most famous photographs, Leo Rosenthal’s "Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima." In this volume, international scholars in political science and film, literary, and cultural studies undertake multifaceted investigations into how Eastwood's diptych reflects war today. Fifteen essays explore the intersection among war films, American history, and Japanese patriotism. They present global attitudes toward war memories, icons, and heroism while offering new perspectives on cinema, photography, journalism, ethics, propaganda, war strategy, leadership, and the war on terror.Details Published
Columbia University Press on Jun 04, 2013Related Editors' Picks
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With Flags of Our Fathers (2006) and Letters from Iwo Jima (2006), Clint Eastwood made a unique contribution to film history, being the first director to make two films about the same event. Eastwood's films examine the battle over Iwo Jima from two nations' perspectives, in two languages, and embody a passionate view on conflict, enemies, and heroes. Together these works tell the story behind one of history's most famous photographs, Leo Rosenthal's "Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima." In this volume, international scholars in political science and film, literary, and cultural studies undertake multifaceted investigations into how Eastwood's diptych reflects war today. Fifteen essays explore the intersection among war films, American history, and Japanese patriotism. They present global attitudes toward war memories, icons, and heroism while offering new perspectives on cinema, photography, journalism, ethics, propaganda, war strategy, leadership, and the war on terror.Details
256 pages 15 COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY PRESS Language: English Readership: Professional and scholarly;MARC record More.
Anne Gjelsvik is professor of film studies at the Department of Art and Media Studies at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. She has written about popular cinema, film violence and ethics, and the representation of gender in the media. She is currently working on representations of fatherhood in contemporary American cinema.
Rikke Schubart is an associate professor at the University of Southern Denmark. Her research concerns gender and genre in horror, war films, and action cinema. She is currently writing on women, horror, and emotions. Among her publications is Super Bitches and Action Babes: The Female Hero in Popular Cinema, 1970–2006 .Comments (0)
Flags of our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima are two films that epitomize what it means to be a hero. Directed by Clint Eastwood, both movies portray various acts where soldiers risk their lives in order to defeat the enemy and protect their country. As depicted by Eastwood, war is brutal but it can also elicit behavior that is deemed heroic. Heroism, though, may differ depending on the culture of the nation that the soldiers are a part of. In these films, Eastwood shows how what is heroic for the American soldiers differs from what is heroic for the Japanese soldiers. Although these movies are both considered as Iwo Jima WWII films, Eastwood shows the soldiers' motivations for fighting are different as well as contrasts how heroism is demonstrated in both the Japanese and American militaries.
The American troops show acts of heroism for their comrades whereas the Japanese do so for their Emperor. Early on in Flags of Our Fathers the viewers see the Americans soldiers, who do not know anyone in their respective platoons, help each other out by providing cover, healing, or even conversing with each other. Through the war they become the very best of friends and are even willing to die for one another, unlike the Japanese who die for their Emperor. By maintaining these soldiers as point-of-view characters, Eastwood is able to show the differences in philosophy between the fairly self-less Americans who want to win with the least number of casualties and the more determined Japanese who are committed to exterminating the enemy without pausing to save their injured comrades.
The American soldiers from Flags of Our Fathers consider soldiers who sacrifice for a fellow comrade as heroes whereas the Japanese soldiers from Letters from Iwo Jima achieve heroism by fighting for their families and protecting their Emperor. The first instance of a heroic deed in Flags of Our Fathers is when a soldier is shot and is calling for help in the midst of crossfire. Almost immediately, Doc, a corpsman, ignoring the pleas of Sergeant Mike, runs into the Japanese line of fire and drags the injured soldier to a safe area. The Japanese are shooting at Doc, but his loyalty to his comrades prevents him from leaving the injured marine to die. Another instance of a heroic deed is when Doc scurries around the battlefield, searching for wounded soldiers to heal, and suddenly, he hears someone call, "Corpsman Down!" (Flags). Doc hurries to his injured comrade and sees that he has been shot in the neck, "He's pleading with Doc to save his life" (Flags). Doc applies pressure to the wound, but "He can't save him" (Flags). Doc continues wanting to help others and shows his frustration for not saving his comrade when he flings down his tools in disgust, walks over to the side of the ridge and is shot in the leg. But this is not enough to stop him from doing his job; he crawls over to a nearby soldier shouting for help and gives him a shot of morphine and manages to succeed in saving the soldier. Doc risks his life for the injured corpsman because Doc, like most of the American soldiers, feels a bond towards his "brother" and is willing to risk his life to save his fellow fighters. Although both movies have soldiers that perform acts of heroism, in Letters From Iwo Jima, the Japanese soldiers do so for their families and Emperor rather than their comrades. Robin Clifford, of Reeling Reviews, describes the Japanese way of heroism as "The rift that the men feel between their loyalty and willingness to die for their emperor and their desire to stay alive to see their families once again is palpable." Despite the fact that Kuribayashi, the main general of the Iwo Jima operation, states, "I am determined to serve and give my life for my country," he writes "letters that paint picture[s]" to his daughter, Taro--who is the most important person in his life--showing that although he is forced to give his life for the emperor, he feels a connection to his family and fights for them, in an attempt to see them once more. (Corliss) Likewise, Saigo, a newlywed with an unborn daughter, was drafted by the emperor; "Your husband is going to war!" (Letters) the landlady says as she opens the door to Saigo's quarters. He is reluctant to accept the royal edict, but is forced to, even when his wife pleads with the officer who brings this news. Saigo, completely torn by the news, tells his wife "I will not die, (he leans towards his wife's stomach) do not tell anyone this, but I will come back just for you" (Letters). In this scene, Eastwood shows that Saigo, "a baker who was drafted, sent to Iwo Jima without training while his wife was pregnant, was lucky enough to survive when comrades near him died", devotes his life to providing for his family (Political Film Society 1). In contrast, Sergeant Mike from Flags of Our Fathers, when called into Captain Severance's office, rejects the offer to become platoon general even though it puts him farther away from the bullets, because he does not want to break a promise he made to his soldiers. When Severance questions his actions, he simply replies "I made my soldiers a promise that I will bring them back to their mothers, which means I already lied to half of them and I can't lie to the rest" (Flags). Both movies show not only the sacrifices that the American soldiers make for their comrades, but also the sacrifices the Japanese make for their families.
The soldiers in Flags of Our Fathers are loyal and treat their comrades as family, as opposed to the Japanese soldiers from Iwo Jima, who are loyal only to their commanders and Emperor. When one of Doc's friends from the boat falls in battle, Doc takes full responsibility for him and tells him, "You got a girl back home? I'm gonna make sure she sees you" (Flags), while Doc "Tries to keep [the soldier's] guts from spilling through the huge wound in his belly" (Corliss). In the following scene Doc and Iggy are stationed in a trench to shoot at any sneaking Japanese soldiers, due to the fact that the Japanese are notorious for their ambush attacks. Suddenly, Doc hears a cry for help, and immediately leaves Iggy alone and goes to save his fellow comrade ignoring the gunfire that is directed at him. Doc's instincts take control when his friend Hank is shot while running, "Hank! C'mon Hank you'll be fine" (Flags) and Doc immediately tries to remove the bullet and keep his friend alive. On a larger scale, all of the soldiers act like Doc, which Jim Emerson of rogerebert.com describes as, "And Eastwood fully commits to a boots-on-the-ground POV," when their fearless leader, Sergeant Mike, is mortally wounded after being hit by an explosion. These soldiers who have been with Mike since the beginning rush