A Great Classic triumphs over age and minor flaws.5/10
Yes, today some of it seems campy and jingoistic, but Sands of Iwo Jima, is such a classic that it can't help being a worthy way to spend 100 minutes.
First of all, there is John Wayne as Sergeant Stryker. Stryker was the model on which virtually every screen portrayal of a tough sergeant is based. The character's angst and intensity also give us a rare glimpse of John Wayne's true acting ability. In most movies he just portrayed himself, but there is no swagger in Stryker, just loneliness, fear, and hope. He is by far the most convincing character in this movie, and one of the top from any war movie, period.
Next: the history. Ok, the actual characters have no basis in fact, but the battles certainly do. The battles for Tarawa and Iwo Jima were very important to the war and tragically costly in lives. They deserve to be remembered. The production mixed a lot of actual footage taken at the actual battles and mixed it in with the regular film. The two look fairly similar since both are black and white, but you can tell what is real and what was shot for the movie. One's first reaction to this might be that the production went cheapskate, but, in a way, the use of real stock battle footage was more moving than an epic legion of extras like in The Longest Day. You just can't beat reality for realism, and seeing the real islands and the real marines is an eerie reminder of how many men died in those horrific battles.
Finally: the supporting cast. Ok, I can't rave about them all, but most were entertaining, especially Wally Cassell. Also, Forrest Tucker puts in a fine performance, the only one remotely close to Wayne's in its depth.
Some of the anachronisms are a bit funny, but my only real complaint in the whole movie was John Agar's character Peter Conway. I don't know who was at fault for it, Agar or the writers, but his character is hard to take. I think we are meant to like him, but for about the first 90 minutes that is pretty much impossible.
Otherwise, it's a great movie. See it!