Ty Burr
February 07, 2007 AT 05:00 AM EST

As Letters From Iwo Jima barrels through awards season on a groundswell of rave reviews, Clint Eastwood’s earlier Iwo Jima movie, Flags of Our Fathers, hits DVD with a whimper — not a single extra — rather than a bang. That’s a disservice to a film that honorably but fatally tries to be all war movies to all audiences. Is Flags (A) a bullet-pocked battle re-creation à la Saving Private Ryan, (B) a meditation on what heroism means under fire and at home, (C) a Media Culture 101 essay on the ways in which the iconic flag-raising photo was used and abused, or (D) a study of post-traumatic stress among the Marines? (E) All of the above. Unfortunately, multitasking has never been Eastwood’s forte — straightforward eloquence is — and the lack of focus muddies a fine performance from Adam Beach as a Marine torn between honoring his country and his fallen fellows. Here’s one case where a director’s commentary, rising to the defense of an overshadowed work, would be most welcome. Consider this a stopgap release until the proper — and inevitable — special-edition pairing with Letters. B

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