Actually, she knew. So ,OK, maybe Clint doesn't do such a bad job of establishing the characters.
But Ailz agreed about the structure- all that to-and-froing in time. You've not only got to keep track of who all the young guys are but also who all the old guys are and which old guy corresponds to which young guy. Ailz said the effect was to point up the artifice and stop you caring. Good point.
Three men survived to tell the story of how the flag got planted on Iwo Jima. The government promptly grabbed them by the scruff and sent them round America on a whistle-stop tour selling war bonds. Interesting story. Well worth telling. Trouble is Eastwood gives most screen time to the least interesting of the three- the saintly "Doc", a bona fide hero with no apparent flaws, a chiselled jaw line and a blameless, middle-American life back home. It would have been better to concentrate on the guy with the French name and the pushy girlfriend who didn't make it as a salesman and wound up as a janitor or- even better- on Ira Hayes, the native America who came off the battlefield reeling with shell-shock, made such an drunken exhibition of himself on tour that he was sent back to his unit and afterwards became a bum and died of "exposure" in a farmyard.
So what's the film about? Actually it starts all sorts of hares- war is hell, racism, how you go about selling war in a democracy, truth and lies- but never chases any of them to the kill. You know it's lost confidence in itself when someone we've no reason to be interested in- Doc's son as it happens- appears in the final reel to spell out the moral in voiceover. According to him, it's all about the nature of heroism. But if that's the case, why have we just been treated to a sickly-sweet deathbed scene between saintly old Doc and his eldest son? You know what? One of the reasons I hate Hollywood so much is every bloody movie that comes off the production line turns out to be a sickly sweet movie about fathers and sons. What's the problem with you guys? Don't you have mothers in California?
I wanted to like this movie- I really did- but I'm afraid it's a mess. What would be good is if Eastwood went back into the editing suite and recut it as the Ira Hayes Story. I guess the result would be a whole lot shorter- an hour and a half instead of two- but- hey- is that a problem?