Flags of Our Fathers appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Across the board this was a terrific transfer.
No issues with sharpness emerged. At all times, the movie seemed crisp and detailed, as I detected no signs of softness. I found no edge enhancement or shimmering, but edges occasionally seemed a little ropy. No source flaws emerged at any point.
Most of Flags went with a severely subdued palette. The Iwo Jima scenes looked nearly black and white, as they consistently seemed desaturated and colorless. The shots back in the US were a little brighter and included some reasonably lush reds when necessary, but the visual design kept things flat. Within those constraints, the tones looked appropriate. Blacks were deep and full, while shadows seemed clear and concise. Overall, the movie presented excellent visuals.
Along the same lines, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Flags worked exceedingly well. The soundfield proved involving and effective. Unsurprisingly, battle sequences offered the most active sections. They used all five channels well to integrate the viewer into the warfare. Elements meshed together smoothly and created a broad, seamless environment. Music showed good stereo imaging as well, and speech was accurately localized.
Audio quality seemed positive. Speech was concise and natural, with no edginess or other problems. Music sounded lively and bright, while effects were well reproduced. Those elements sounded accurate and tight, with good, deep bass response. No problems emerged during this excellent soundtrack.
While the original Flags DVD included virtually no extras, this Special Edition adds a mix of components on its second disc. We begin with an Introduction by Director Clint Eastwood. In this five-minute and five-second clip, Eastwood really offers his reflections more than he introduces anything. He discusses his own memories of the battle and the WWII era along with notes about the current status of the Iwo Jima location. It's a decent enough little piece but not anything particularly memorable.
Most of the other supplements come from a collection of featurettes. Words on the Page, we get a 17-minute and two-second piece with comments from Eastwood, author James Bradley, and screenwriters William Broyles, Jr. and Paul Haggis. “Page” looks at the origins and development of Bradley’s book. We get notes about why he took on the project and his research. From there we find info about the book’s adaptation into a screenplay.
Both sides of “Page” offer rich details, but the first half seems the most satisfying. Bradley provides many nice backstories about the various soldiers on Iwo Jima and fleshes them out well. The show coalesces into a nice program.
Six Brave Men goes for 19 minutes, 51 seconds as we hear from Eastwood and actors Ryan Phillippe, Adam Beach, Jamie Bell, John Benjamin Hickey, Jesse Bradford, Barry Pepper, Benjamin Walker, Joseph Cross, and John Slattery. In “Men”, we get a little more info about the movie’s characters as well as casting and the performance choices made by the actors. As with “Page”, this one splits between its two topics, and it does so well. It balances the background with the filmmaking information in a tight manner that allows it to become useful and engaging.
Next we find The Making of an Epic. This 30-minute and 11-second show features Eastwood, Phillippe, Pepper, Walker, Bradford, producer Robert Lorenz, director of photography Tom Stern, editor Joel Cox, costume designer Deborah Hopper, military technical advisor Sgtmaj. James D. Dever, USMC (Ret.), production designer Henry Bumstead, art director Jack G. Taylor, Jr., special effects coordinator Steven Riley, property master Mike Sexton, and actor Paul Walker. Here we learn about Eastwood’s interest in the project, how he got involved in it, and elements of his working style. After that we move through various aspects of visual design, editing, casting, costumes and period details, and military specifics. We also find out about locations, shooting the battles, visual effects, research, props, Eastwood’s work with the actors and others, and some closing thoughts.
Though “Epic” includes a lot of good details, it doesn’t explore these in a terribly logical manner. It just sort of flits from one topic to another and doesn’t manage to flow very smoothly. I like the information included, but I think the program needs to move in a more coherent manner.
For the three-minute and 26-second Raising the Flag, we hear from Eastwood, Cross, Pepper, and Benjamin Walker. They give us some details of recreating the iconic flag raising. This is a perfectly serviceable little piece, though I’m not sure why it wasn’t simply incorporated into the longer “Epic”.
Visual Effects lasts 14 minutes, 55 seconds and includes Eastwood, visual effects supervisor Michael Owens, Digital Domain visual effects producer Julian Levi, and Digital Domain visual effects supervisor Matthew Butler. As expected, this show looks at all the ways visual effects were used to bring the battles and other elements to life. We get a little of this material in “Epic”, but “Effects” digs into things with much greater depth. Some nice “before and after” demonstrations work especially well. All of these components allow it to become a nice exploration of the subtle use of digital elements and other forms of effects.
Finally, Looking into the Past fills nine minutes, 26 seconds with archival film. We get historical footage and stills of the assault on Iwo Jima. The featurette also includes a short newsreel look at the three Iwo Jima survivors whose story fills Flags. This is quite interesting to see; I wish the DVD had included more of this sort of material.
An ad for Letters from Iwo Jima appears at the start of DVD One and also in its Previews area. In addition, we find a trailer for Flags on DVD Two.
Flags of Our Fathers ends up as one of Clint Eastwood’s strongest movies. Indeed, it’s one of his few efforts that really connects with me. Flags tells a rich story in a clear, nuanced manner that makes it satisfying. The DVD presents excellent picture and audio along with a pretty informative collection of extras.
If you don’t already own a copy of Flags, then this Special Edition is the way to go. If you do already have the original movie-only disc, then I can understand if you’re not too happy with the folks behind this re-release. They put out a bare-bones disc and follow it with a two-disc special edition barely three months later – and don’t warn people in advance that this will happen? That’s awfully tacky, and it’s the kind of move that alienates buyers. Enough people are already leery of copious double-dipping; products like this don’t help. This SE is a good release in its own right, but I’m not wild about the cynicism behind it.
One other purse-strings note: you can buy this SE of Flags on its own or packaged with Letters from Iwo Jima in a “Commemorative Collector’s Edition”. That one also includes the two-disc SE of Letters and an exclusive fifth disc, and it retails for $49.96 – or about $20 less than it’d cost to get the two SEs on their own. That makes it the best deal for fans of both flicks.
To rate this film visit the original review of FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS