To tell just one side of an armed conflict isn't telling the whole story, and Clint Eastwood's companion movies released last winter in time for Oscar season expertly uses that idea to illuminate the capture during World War II of the Japanese island Iwo Jima. Even more thrilling than the movies' exploding bombs or CGI parade of tanks is the deft and sensitive way Eastwood depicts the psyche of men at war. Honor, loyalty, bravery and human connection are just a few of the themes that both movies touch upon movingly. Flags of Our Fathers follows the fortunes of the men turned into icons for raising the flag over the island in the well-known photograph, while Letters From Iwo Jima examines the Japanese attempts to fortify the outpost even though most everyone involved knows it's a suicide mission.
Now that these two movies are both out on DVD, it's even easier to watch them as a double feature, further enhancing their bookend qualities. Certain fateful moments from the battle are depicted from both vantage points and one small character is appears in both movies to heart-wrenching effect. Regardless of if you think of yourself as a war movies person or even someone all that interested in the nitty gritty of the Pacific theater of World War II, Eastwood has made two incredibly lasting and beautiful pieces of cinema that resonate beyond their plot particulars.
Other movies get the home viewing treatment this week include Mel Gibson's jungle adventure Apocalypto, Peter O'Toole's Oscar-nominated performance in Venus, Steven Soderbergh's war time noir The Good German and even Hal Hartley's newest with Parker Posey which just went to theaters, Fay Grim.
[Pictured: Adam Beach, Ryan Phillippe and Jesse Bradford in Flags of Our Fathers.]