Conventional wisdom suggests directors slow down as they reach a certain age (Eastwood is now 76), become more cautious, recycle old ideas, fall out of step with contemporary tastes, look a bit stodgy. Eastwood has impertinently ignored these options not only by undertaking by far his most expensive and logistically daunting picture, but by creating back-to-back bookend features offering contrasting perspectives on the same topic; the Japanese-language "Letters From Iwo Jima," showing the Japanese side in intimate terms, will be released by Warner Bros. next year.
Feeling from the outset that their participation in the tour is a "farce," that the real heroes are the guys who died or are still out there fighting, Hayes drinks heavily, embarrassing himself while having to stomach the everyday casual racism of being called "chief" or being refused service.
And once they've done their bit raising billions for the government, they're left on their own to put their lives back together. It's not an easy road, particularly for Hayes, who in one moving, genuinely Fordian moment, treks a long distance for a brief visit with the father of one of his fallen comrades.
Given this dramatic, wrenching arc, Hayes' story becomes the heart of the movie, and Beach, who previously played a Native American in the Pacific campaign in "Windtalkers," unquestionably takes the acting honors with it, delivering a full sense of the character's pain and sense of entrapment in an absurd situation.