IT’S easy to throw up one’s hands in horror and say, ‘‘ Oh, no, not another battle epic.’’ But the times in which we live demand something more than a head- in- the- sand approach to the realities of armed combat. As with Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan , Clint Eastwood’s Flags of Our Fathers doesn’t skimp when it comes to showing the face- to- face catastrophe of war. Also like Ryan , Flags is epic cinema, with utterly incredible large- scale depictions of the landings and the sky over the battlefield, as well as the small, personal horrors of war, the obligatory wounds, dismemberments and decapitations. But where Ryan has as its core the typically sentimental Spielbergian premise of making sure a woman doesn’t lose every man in her family to the ravages of war, Eastwood looks into the nature of heroism, how it is something imposed from without, and not necessarily wanted or warranted. The main story of Flags revisits the invasion of Iwo Jima, a tiny but significant island 1800km south of Tokyo. The point was to take over the airfields of the island for the US push into Japan. The momentous flag- raising depicted on the cover was taken by Joe Rosenthal and it became the symbolic image of the battle. The film cuts back and forth in time in a sometimes confusing fashion, with a second tale woven in about a war bond drive featuring three of the flagraisers. An education, and a reminder of the similar horrors unfolding in Iraq today.
Ian Cuthbertson EXTRAS: An entire disc of extra material: profiles, featurettes, making- of documentary and another on the real battle Flags of Our Fathers ( MA 15+) Warner ( feature runs 126 minutes) $ 39.95 SHOULD there be any defenders of the excesses of the war on terror and its associated disasters still standing, they may suggest that Michael Winterbottom’s The Road to Guantanamo is a little naive.
The film tells the story of four English boys, in Pakistan for a wedding, who cross into Afghanistan on the eve of the invasion out of apparent curiosity. There is an uncomfortable feeling that some of the story has been glossed over. However, the horrors they endure when one is killed and the others are handed over to the Americans quieten any questions about what they were doing there. Like David Hicks, the Tipton Three ( Ruhad Ahmed, Asif Iqubal and Safiq Rasul) were brutalised and abused in a journey of rendition that takes them from Afghanistan to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
This docudrama- style movie is the modern version of Midnight Express , but the twist is that this exotic nightmare is orchestrated and inflicted by soldiers and governments of the so- called civilised world. The three are beaten and tortured during three terrible years in Guantanamo. They are not allowed legal representation and are not charged with any crime.
Although it is gruelling to watch any representation of torture and abuse, it is doubly so when we know that this is standard practice for the US and its allies, which believe that September 11 has licensed them to do whatever it takes. Winterbottom’s movie shows that when the good guys behave like this it is a clear indication that the terrorists have won.
EXTRAS: None The Road to Guantanamo ( MA15+) Madman ( feature runs 95 minutes) Rental Fast Food Nation ( M) Magna Pacific ( feature runs 113 minutes) $ 24.95 THIS disjointed but powerful critique of the fast food industry is a fictionalised adaptation of the thought- provoking book of the same name by American reporter Eric Schlosser. If it whets your appetite for knowing more about the food you eat, I highly recommend the book.
Director Richard Linklater and Schlosser ( who co- wrote the screenplay) focus on one aspect of the book — hamburgers that literally are full of shit — to explore the horrors of factory farming, specifically rendering cows into patties for a thinly fictional burger chain called Mickey’s.
The drama unfolds via three interlocking stories: Mickey’s marketing man Don Anderson ( Greg Kinnear) visits a Colorado abattoir to investigate the source of contaminated burgers; a group of illegal Mexican immigrants find work in the meat plant; and a teenage Mickey’s employee becomes involved with green activists.
This is an anti- fast- food polemic, certainly, but it’s not as gimmicky as Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me or as strident as Michael Moore’s anti- capitalist oeuvre. The story moves slowly, like a timeignorant cow, but with a grim inevitability as to how it will end, in stomach- turning scenes on the abattoir’s kill floor.
Watch for big stars in small roles, including Kris Kristofferson, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke and the great Bruce Willis as a meat broker who sums it all up for Anderson’s benefit: ‘‘ There’s always been a little shit in the meat. You’ve probably been eating it all your life.’’
Stephen Romei EXTRAS: None, as befits an anti- fastfood film