Sunday, October 29, 2006

how a great book doesn't necessarily make for a great movie

"flags of our fathers"
starring ryan phillippe, adam beach, barry pepper and others
written by paul haggis and william broyles jr.
directed by clint eastwood
viewed at the amc van ness 1000, san francisco, ca

it is very difficult to make a great movie from a great book, but it can be done. namely, the ones that work take the human truth and the essense of the plot and tell it in a completely different way. i'm not talking about changing the story, but changing the way it's told. books are meant for a certain audience. films, another. and most times, they don't match up without some tweaking.

"flags of our fathers" is an amazing book that tells a great story. what made it unique was that it was essentially a research paper of the author finding out all about his father's military exploits on iwo jima and his dealing with the guilt of being labeled a "hero" afterwards. this movie does the same thing.

and, to me, it doesn't totally work.

there's brilliance in this movie. the scenes at iwo jima and the war bonds tour afterwards are just magical stuff. they're compelling and intelligent and moving. in fact, had the whole movie been in that same vein, we'd be talking oscar.

but the problem is that the other half of the movie is about the author finding all this stuff out and writing a book about it. which doesn't make sense or is even slightly compelling, just because it's a movie. the "writing a book" part is nonsensical and gets in the way. it gets in the way. it becomes a research paper. that doesn't make for cinema magic.

and still, i really enjoyed the movie. as usual for an eastwood movie, the acting was great and the directing and cinematography smart and elegant. but i didn't leave thinking it was a great movie, feeling it was a great movie, knowing it was a great movie.

all because something got in the way.

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