Taking place towards the end of WWII, 500 American Soldiers have been entrapped in a camp for 3 years. Beginning to give up hope they will ever be rescued, a group of Rangers goes on a dangerous mission to try and save them.
Set in the Philippines in 1945 towards the end of WWII, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Henry Mucci and Captain Robert Prince, the 6th Ranger Battalion undertake a daring rescue mission against all odds. Traveling thirty miles behind enemy lines, they intend to liberate over 500 American Soldiers from the notorious Cabanatuan Japanese POW camp in the most audacious rescue ever. Written by
Although he was not among the real-life officers portrayed in the movie, Colonel Arthur "Bull" Simons was a young Army Ranger Captain who took part in the raid on Cabanatuan and was awarded the Silver Star for his actions during the raid. During the height of the Vietnam War, Colonel Simons led the famous raid on Son Tay in an attempt to rescue POWs. See more »
The exact same background shot of a Ventura bomber followed by two single-engine planes flying left to right is used three times during the film, twice at the beginning as they are planning the mission on the beach and then once at the end when the raid is over. See more »
Very well done and educated snapshot of a country at war
This was a great film, and a nice escape to reality from all the superhero, fantastical, and over-hyped movie star fare we've gotten this summer.
The biggest accolade I can offer this flick is that it sticks to history in ways rarely seen in Hollywood films, and even then it's not dry or boring, not inaccessible to those not particularly versed in history. It shows beautifully how exciting and thrilling real history can be. The liberties it takes aren't too offensive (I can't say much without spoiling the story, but although the "romance" in this film didn't exist, it's not particularly gratuitous or hard to believe, and there were many wartime romances between people who met in the occupied Philippines), but on a whole they valiantly stuck to the stories. It doesn't revel in clichés or surrender to the cheap thrill of pyrotechnics, which so many war films do. Since it looks to true events for inspiration, there's a happy lack of predictibility and "been there, done that". Not to say that there are any talk-of-the-summer plot twists, but it keeps you on your toes because you're dealing with life, and is often surprising. The film brings you down to the level of its characters, and it doesn't treat you like an outsider.
As a Filipino American and history buff, I was thrilled and proud to see so many Filipino actors in the film (particularly the wonderful -- and gorgeous -- Cesar Montano) and to finally see this little known but mammoth part of WWII recalled on such a public scale. The film takes place over 5 days in January, as the Rangers prepare to take the camp. Its three interconnected story lines -- the prisoners in Cabanatuan, the Rangers, and the underground movement in Manila (including a nurse played by Nielsen who smuggles in Quinine to prisoners) -- give a fairly accurate and well rounded portrait of the landscape of war in the Philippines, although by the end of the film you do feel as if you've only seen the tip of the iceberg.
The acting is lovely. There aren't any "Oscar" scenes or the like, just solid ensemble acting, and the leads, Benjamin Bratt, James Franco, Cesar Montano, and Connie Nielsen, are excellent for what they're given. The writing doesn't try to over-dramatise or "soapify" anything, it stays level headed and just plays. It felt a lot like a less ridiculous "Gettysburg" or a much tamer "Black Hawk Down" or a much MUCH shorter "The Longest Day". Surprisingly, for a war film, there are relatively few "what I'm here for" speeches, which is refreshing. The ones it does have aren't particularly irksome or obnoxious. It's not particularly violent (except for the unnerving opening scene -- a recreation of the Palawan massacre -- and one scene in the camp, I'd have given it a PG-13 rating), but it IS disturbing. And although they hardly began to show the full extent of the atrocities committed, the point is made clear, heartrendingly I might add. Two scenes, involving Filipino underground workers and another at the camp, had me in tears.
Honestly, this is NOT for people looking for a testosterone fueled action flick. The action is strictly historical (except for a hand to hand fight at the end which I doubt happened). At times it feels like a documentary, and other times it's like watching a memoir. Neither is this film the "rah rah" flag waving fest the advertising makes it out to be (thank goodness). In fact it pays great homage to the work of the Philippine people, underground resistance (a portion of the film which seemed a bit out of place in the film but which had me enamored and on edge), and guerilla fighters, all of which touched me deeply. As a Hollywood studio film goes, it's an academic, nearly blow by blow accounting of the events surrounding the raid on the Cabanatuan prison camp, but because of the nature of the story and not because of empty manipulation, it is intense, inspiring, and exciting. Don't expect the next "Paths of Glory" or "Bridge on the River Kwai" or that calibre of film-making, but I hope that this does well because in its own way it's different from so much of the mindnumbing junk that is out there, it attempts to portray a war story smartly, chose to tell a story that doesn't spell out big money, and without being overbearingly in-your-face patriotic, it pays homage to and shares the experiences of the American and Filipino men and women who endured the hell that was World War II in the Philippines.
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