Flags of our Fathers (HD-DVD) Studio: DreamWorks Home Video Rated: R (Sequences of graphic war violence, carnage and language) Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 HD Encoding: 1080p HD Video Codec: VC-1 Audio: English, French, Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Subtitles: English, French, Spanish; English SDH Time: 132 minutes Disc Format: 2 SS/DL HD-DVD’s Case Style: Keep case Theatrical Release Date:2006 HD-DVD Release Date: May 22, 2007 Told from the perspective of the men who landed on Iwo Jima, and funneled through the narrative lens of one of their children, Flags of our Fathers shows how one image can change the world. The image in question is the famous photo taken by Joe Rosenthal of several U.S. Marines hoisting the American flag on Mt. Suribachi on Iwo Jima soon after we landed as part of a World War II offensive. The picture reaches the press and the powers-that-be in the States and the government sees it as a way to reclaim waning American support of the war and generate a needed $14 billion dollars to finish World War II. The brass jumps to it trying to hunt down the men who were in the picture only to find some of them dead, and the living ones hesitant and deceptive. John “Doc” Bradley (Ryan Phillipe), Ira Hayes (Adam Beach), and Rene Gagnon (Jesse Bradford) are the three Iwo Jima veterans tasked with drumming up support for war bond sales. They are escorted across America by Keyes Beech (John Benjamin Hickey) and Bud Gerber (John Slattery) reading the government rhetoric extolling their virtues and the need for war bond sales. While traveling, the men are still fighting the demons of the battle at Iwo Jima as well as those that reside in themselves: Hayes drinks, Bradley relives the gruesomeness of the battle, and Gagnon enjoys the personal glory. The narrative takes us through the bloody battle and the trek across the States. We are shown that the war didn’t end for these soldiers when they came home, and the American propaganda machine must be fed…even at the cost of the truth. Clint Eastwood takes a picture that is a thematic and cinematic brother to Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan (Spielberg also produced this picture) and focuses into a wholly American film. Saving Private Ryan concerned itself with the cost of saving one life; Eastwood focuses on how the war affected the men and women of America and America itself. He casts a cloud over a seemingly patriotic, singular image and shows how quick we are to turn the patriotic picture into a means to make money. Eastwood uses the story to validate the men who fought in Iwo Jima and just as quickly turns to condemn their masters and their means. While we can sit here all day and argue the right and wrong of what our government did, Eastwood infuses the picture with the deep veins of red blooded American patriotism, showing three men on a journey to support their country in any way they can. Video: Note: I am watching this title using a Marantz VP 12-S4 DLP projector, which has a native resolution of 720p. I am using a Toshiba HD-A1 for a player and utilizing the HDMI capabilities of both units. The picture is framed at 2.35:1, and it is encoded in VC-1 at 1080p. Eastwood borrows the look of Saving Private Ryan with its de-saturated color scheme, taking most of the colors to near mono-chromatic levels. The Iwo Jima scenes in particular maintain this washed out look while the scenes in the US tend to revert to more natural colors. Contrast levels remain very good in this video presentation and black levels are exceptional. Detail in the shadows (and there’s plenty of them) is precise and defined. Sharpness, however, seemed to be slightly diminished overall, but this helped to give the picture a less polished look that I believe Eastwood and his cinematographer Tom Stern were going for. This HD-DVD still provides some very nice detail in the image, such as in the crowd scenes and the long shots of the battleships landing on the island. Edge enhancement was not noticed and there was no film dirt. This is a very nice, refined presentation. Audio: The Dolby Digital Plus soundtrack was attained by a 5.1 analog connection. I watched the disc with the Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 track engaged. This is an exceptional soundtrack featuring great panning effects across all the channels and a very spacious soundstage. The Iwo Jima scenes scream with the sounds of rocket, bullets and planes whizzing all around the five channels. Bass effects are low and thunderous enough to rattle you in your seat. Mixes such as this can easily lose the dialogue in the effects, but that is not the case here: each actor is clearly heard in harmony with his surroundings. Voices are natural and guttural, emphasizing the desperation in the soldier’s plight. The scenes in America are more subdued as they should be and they stay planted in the front channels. There is no distortion or hiss in the soundtrack either. As is the case with the video, this audio presentation is excellent and a great show piece to a home theater. Bonus Material: With the advent of HD-DVD, we are faced with several different audio and video codecs being used on each disc. Due to this, I have begun adding the encoding details as part of the explanation of bonus features when applicable and relevant. For this release, the extras are in VC-1 encoding unless otherwise noted. Introduction by Clint Eastwood (5:07): Eastwood gives a brief overview of the story and the history while showing Iwo Jima today. Words on the Page (17:03): James Bradley talks about his father, John, and the real life events behind the story. Bradley delves into the psychology behind what the photo did to his father, the other soldiers and their families. James also explains why John never spoke about Iwo Jima and he relates some really heart wrenching stories that didn’t make it into the picture. Screenwriters William Broyles, Jr. and Paul Haggis also contribute talking about the soldiers, the inception of the picture and its production. Six Brave Men (19:51): the six actors who portray the flag raising soldiers talk about their characters and their motivations. Eastwood also comments on them and the piece is interspersed with behind the scenes shots. The Making of an Epic (30:11): Eastwood’s crew, most of which have been with him many years, discuss how the production came about and what went into making the picture. Again, lots of great behind the scenes shots. Raising the Flag (3:25): Eastwood and cast members talks about the difficulties in maintaining historical accuracy while filming specifically in the film’s key moment. Visual Effects (14:54): The visual effects guys from Digital Domain talk about the effects showing some of the CG shots and the various layers that make up the complicated composite shots. Looking Into the Past (9:26): Archival, newsreel footage of the actual attack on Iwo Jima and a couple quick pieces of the War Bond drive. Theatrical Trailer Conclusions: Proof that one picture is worth a thousand words, Flags of our Fathers is not only a tribute to the men who fought at Iwo Jima, but a firm comment on America in general. DreamWorks two disc HD-DVD is a pleasure to behold in the home theater environment boasting a great picture and a dynamic soundtrack. There is also a great set of extras to enhance the experience.