The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv -

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.

Peter Lalor

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

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