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Pleasantly surprised...
eckmanmj-118 August 2005
I knew almost nothing of this film before I saw it but based on a couple comments I had heard, I went with my dad to see it tonight.

Some people commented on how slow the movie is during the beginning, and although that is true, it is there to give you time to develop a story and actual care about the characters. This is definitely not a movie for people with near zero attention spans from the MTV Generation.

This movie also doesn't rely on gimmicks such as CGI or what I call "shaky camera syndrome" where the filmmakers insist on making the audience nauseous by running around with handy-cams (ala Bourne Supremacy).

I really enjoyed the story and thought all the roles were well acted. The final raid scene is amazing. They did a really good job of explaining exactly what they wanted to do beforehand and when it actually happened, you understood where everyone was running to and what they were trying to accomplish.

Excellent movie, and highly recommended. Definitely one of the best movies so far of the year, I'm just sad that almost no one has heard about it and the movie has received so little promotion. I doubt this picture will even make $20 million here.

And one more thing, I thought it was a very tasteful and respectful thing to do at the end during the credits where they showed archival footage of the real soldiers being rescued.
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Small tale told in a big way
Greg Eichelberger3 August 2005
While Hollywood has gone after the Nazis and the European campaign in World War II over and over again, ad nauseam, little has been produced depicting the Pacific Theatre or the thousands of Americans and others who perished there.

In fact, only a handful of motion pictures have touched on the subject over the last two decades, namely Steven Spielberg's "Empire of the Sun," Terrance Malik's "The Thin Red Line," and the Nicolas Cage bomb, "Windtalkers." The best film in this genre was probably 1957's "Bridge On The River Kwai," which won Oscars for David Lean and Alex Guinness, among others, but that was almost 50 years ago.

Now John Dahl ("Rounders," "Joyride," the TV series "Tilt") has shed some light on a little-known rescue attempt in the waning days of the conflict in the Philippine Islands. "The Great Raid" is a fine little film, smart, patriotic and fairly historically accurate.

The film begins with a crisp narration (accompanied by actual film footage) of the quick successes of the Imperial Japanese Army in the days following Pearl Harbor. Gen. Douglas MacArthur - thanks to Roosevelt's decision to devote more to the European effort through the Lend-Lease to Churchill program - is forced to evacuate the Philippines and retreat to Australia.

Meanwhile, thousands of American troops are trapped by the swift-moving Japanese forces on the islands of Bataan and Corrigidor and are compelled to surrender. While WWII German brutality is everywhere in motion picture, few have addressed the stark horrors of the Bataan Death March. Even this movie skirts the terror with a simple voice-over in filling in the background story of a group of surviving prisoners held for over three years.

Receiving word of mass killing of American POWs by the Japanese, top brass in the Pacific orders a raid on a camp still behind enemy lines, led by Army Ranger Lt. Col. Mucci (Benjamin Bratt, "Law & Order) and Capt. Prince (James Franco, "Spiderman," "Spiderman 2").

Military minutia abounds with the planning and execution of the assault, which pits a handful of rangers against over 200 battle-hardened Japanese troops, led by sadistic Maj. Nagai (Motoki Kobiyashi).

The movie also shows the strong relationship between the Americans and Filipinos which was not the greatest in the years after the Spanish-American War, but was cemented against the common Nipponese enemy. Nice composition between rangers, prison camp and the occupied capital of Manilla, where civilian nurse Margaret Utinsky (Connie Nielson, "Gladiator," "One Hour Photo")is working with the Filipino underground resistance.

This is no "Saving Private Ryan," and the acting sometimes leaves a bit to be desired, but the strength of the story, the fact it was inspired by true events, and the historical importance of the film, make this one a must-see, even for casual fans of the genre. It will not make much money, but it was very important that it was made.
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Good movie, good ensemble cast
jackov13 August 2005
Old fashioned movie with an ensemble cast instead of A list powered star who uses the movie as a vehicle to command top dollar is rare these days in Hollywood. That's why this movie worked. They assembled a great cast of fine, top notched actors together from the USA and the Philippines but no "superstar". They all portrayed their characters and meshed out the story without any modern day politicking and criticism. I don't know about you but that is truly refreshing in this day and age of movies.

I'd recommend this movie to anyone. Major criticisms seem to be that there's no deep complex characters and no protagonist. I think that is a positive for this movie because the POWs are the main characters themselves. The men and women just did what needed to be done for their countrymen and their country. There was deep motivation because someone had been scarred when they were 15 and thus acts this way. Most of the characters are real life people and you can't focus on one or two characters like in a fictional story that someone wrote.

It's too bad this movie won't do well at the office because it doesn't cater to the teens and their expendable income. The limited wide release also won't help it but I know for those who watch it they'll be touched. They'll know that there were and are sacrifices being made to ensure that the country they live in are safe and protected.
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Very well done and educated snapshot of a country at war
Mercy Bell (mercybell)12 August 2005
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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The Great Raid proves that history is always more compelling than fiction
elsewhere90005 August 2005
This film expertly balances the need for authenticity with the need for compelling drama. It starts out great, slows slightly in the middle, and finishes off with the best filmed action sequence I have ever seen. The raid itself is choreographed and paced perfectly, so that the viewer understands exactly what is happening, why it is happening and who is doing it. Many aspects of this film have never been done before in a war movie. The craft is also expertly balanced - the film looks, sounds and feels accurate and not bounded by Hollywood conventions. Simply put, it will go down as one of the very best modern war films, among those who can tell when a film is exceptional.
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Filipinos Fight Side by Side for Freedom and U.S. Democracy
tcbautista16 August 2005
The Great Raid ----- August 12, 2005, a review by Teresita "Terry" Bautista

Berkeley, CA – In the near-empty Shattuck Cinema, I gave myself the birthday gift of watching The Great Raid on opening night. This film, a chronicle of early 1945 events in The Philippines, has been highly anticipated in the U.S. Filipino Community, mostly by those of us who are fighting to achieve full equity for our Veteranos.

My mom, aunt and uncle joined me, as the initial documentary footage validated the historical scenes of war and resistance, as if you were there over 60 years ago. As expected, my mom made constant commentary throughout the film, as the scenes brought back, often frightening, memories. Anxiously, she recounted in soft whispers of her bout with malaria, which meant sure death, until her father decided she would not be left behind, as they ran every day to escape the Japanese. Like the film's prisoner of war, quinine was the saving prescription for my mom's malaria-stricken body.

The Great Raid is an army flick, similar to the scores I've seen in the past 50 years. Less melodramatic, though powerful in its interpretation of the human condition during war, the movie takes you into a POW camp where 500 detainees eke out survival under the Japanese flag. The acting was understated and reflected deep agony and despair without the flair of cinema-edged bravado. No John Waynes or Anthony Quinns in this version. The casting was done with a sense of nuance for each of the heroic personas.

The subplots were gripping. The valiant efforts of the underground that smuggled medicine to the ill and dying prisoners; the array of authority figures in the military who made heart-rending decisions about strategy and tactics; the rescue mission that galvanized a unit of 120 special rangers who had yet to see the extreme fires of combat; the unlikely relationships that bound survivors in their fate.

Some high points of the painful, two and a half- hour mendacity tensed you to the edge of your seat ----- the brutality of the Japanese, not withstanding the execution of ten prisoners for one escapee; the burning funeral of a hundred Filipinos, many of them women and children villagers, near the Cabanatuan Prison; the spectacular, surprise invasion of the Japanese camp; the courage of the Filipino Guerrilas and their exemplary warrior spirits led by Captain Pajota, as their steeled defense of a bridge held the Japanese and their tanks captive and effectively severed an avenue of retaliations to the explosions and attack in their war camp.

The sacrifices of the fighting forces to liberate the Philippines were stark and many. The younger generations, especially those of Filipino descent, are urged to see what their homeland heroes were made of. This long war was waged in face-to-face, hand-to-hand combat with bravery for duty and beyond.

I went to see this as a way of honoring my dad, a U.S. Army private, who survived WWII, found his war bride, and fathered his first-born. I have deep respect and admiration for those like my Pop, who still live to tell their stories, who today are still struggling for full recognition of shed blood, sweat, and tears, at a time where their homeland joined the world's battlefields.

WWII Filipino Veterans soldiers deserve Full Equity Now!

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True account of Historical WWII Rescue
ybeafool6 August 2005
I feel that this is an important film for people to see regarding the little known but most impressive rescue attempt made during WWII. I went with some friends who enjoyed it very much also and considering that we were women going to see a war movie, we did not know what to expect. We were treated to a satisfying and moving entertainment experience and also learned new things about what the previous generation had to go through. We already know about the horrors of war and it was moving to see the heroic exploits undertaken by some very brave men to save their comrades from Japanese annihilation. There were good character developments as well as action sequences. THe newsreel and actual footage that bookends the film add to its impact as one can compare the actual characters with their counterparts in the film. History classes in schools should be taken to see the film.
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read the books, skip the movie
fjohnnson17 September 2006
I found this movie totally unwatchable and carelessly produced, directed, and acted. It struck me as being completely, almost laughably inauthentic as to time and place, and bordering on farce in its presentation of Americans and other nationalities who lived and fought during that time.

If any American soldier as depicted in this film were somehow transported back to Mucci's unit in 1945, he would be seen to be an alien from another planet. American soldiers in 1945 did not look, speak, dress or interact the way the actors in this movie do. Maybe this is some comfort to American audiences with short attention spans and even less education (or exposure, even to recent American history), but it left me wondering if the story of this raid will ever be made into a movie for grown-ups.

No American soldiers looked or talked or interacted in 1945 the way these actors portrayed them; they did not line up and sound off like soldiers in a 21st century Army recruiting ad, and they did not have perfect teeth, perfect hair, and perfect Los Angeles non-accented diction or speech patterns straight out of this year's crop of war films and television dramas.

Those islands were hot and dirty and crawling with bugs, and as far as I know there were no dry-cleaning facilities nearby to keep everyone's uniforms so clean and squared away. Chow was not sufficient to build up and maintain the body types we see in the movie, and I'll bet there weren't any gyms or circuit training equipment nearby either - or "juice" to keep these athlete-soldiers so cut-looking. There was lousy food, worse coffee, lots of heat, lots of bugs and plenty of cigarettes.

Soldiers were scrawny, dirty, and scared most of the time, and to say so takes nothing away from their courage and bravery under fire. But it was simply impossible to suspend belief at any time during this movie because elements (or all) of every scene I was able to watch looked and sounded false and forced.

There've been plenty of very good books about this raid and those Rangers, any one of which is a better investment of time and money than The Great Raid.
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once we started laughing we couldn't stop
dylanmcarthur6 December 2006
Problems with this film:

1) Joseph Fiennes is supposed to be a great leader of men, the last bastion of American authority in a Japanese POW camp. But he's always sick, and the only guy he interacts with is his buddy. He writes his girlfriend that "my love for you is all that makes me strong, and that strength makes the men strong...", but he ignores everyone, and hardly ever gets out of bed!

2) The journey to the camp by the rescue team is drummed up as a glorious, seat-of-your-pants epic. And then suddenly they're just there, no problem. Actually, they set up a base half a mile from the camp and pore leisurely over maps, discussing their plan of attack.

3) The Japanese camp commandant becomes the Terminator at the end, darting out from underneath huts, smirking maniacally.

4) You keep hoping and praying you won't have to hear the letter Joseph Fiennes' girlfriend writes him. Then, at the end, the voice-over of the extraordinarily long, clichéd letter begins---and you realize that God doesn't exist.

5) Benjaminn Bratt as the hard-as-nails platoon leader. You wouldn't follow this man into a Baskin Robbins, let alone a Japanese POW camp.

6) Complete, entire lack of suspense.

Want a good war movie you may not have seen? Try Stanley Kubrick's "Paths of Glory". Leave this mulch-heap alone.
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Superb War Movie Done Right
odinz96 August 2005
THE GREAT RAID does everything right, on all levels, especially by framing itself with real footage from those times which, in some cases, features the actual events and participants. The acting is uniformly excellent, the pacing is flawless, and the historical context does not short-change any aspect of the story, be it cruelty and horror in war or bravery and nobility in suffering or even dignity and honor in combat. This is in many ways a movie made the way they used to make movies, but without the rah-rah patriotism or sneering social commentary. What it brings home simply by presenting the story in a straightforward manner is what we used to be capable of, what we once were and stood for, and what we fought against, and why. To be reminded of this is sobering, if not harrowing. Definitely one of the best movies my family and I have seen in a long time, it's recommended whole- heartedly for everyone. And Benjamin Bratt turns in a mature, restrained performance that marks him for great things on the big screen.
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A moving, inspiring film, but.........
cecilelogan200017 September 2005
My name is Cecilia and being from Manila this film is very personal to me because my grandfather sacrificed his life during WWII. According to eyewitness accounts, he was tied to a post, doused with kerosene and set on fire. I am watching this film to somehow pay tribute to him and those who selflessly gave up their lives to ensure a free and humane future for all of us. I felt though that the film underestimated what we Filipinos really went through during the war. It would have been just to include the other atrocities perpetuated by the Japanese: babies thrown in the air and caught with bayonets, women brutally raped and breasts carved out, or the massacre of approximately 100,000 unarmed and innocent civilians during the battle for the liberation of Manila on the first days of February 1945. Nevertheless, I am grateful for director John Dahl for shedding light on a chapter in our history that many people hardly know about , specially the present generation, The Bataan Death March.
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a bad movie trying to make you think it's a good one.
spirit99127 May 2006
This is a movie which fails on all levels: Directing, Actors, Storyboard, Music, Camera What a waste of money to produce such a movie.

Directing: this is the worst directing I have seen for years; a good story wasted with bad directing, the people whether in the POW camp or in the camp of the ranger supposedly to free the Prisoners of War (POW) are all depressive; as director you show the clash between the two parties, one who are the heroes rescuing others, full of motivation, vs those in the prison - but no, this main theme is wasted.

Actors: James Franco from Spiderman 1+2, bad actor, unclear speaking, uninspired, other actors are either 2nd or 3rd class actors, just bad. With a bad director those figures never deliver anything convincing, those who made the movies have no clue of human behavior in such circumstances they tried to portray. Captains or Ltl, all are portrays with hollow personalities. The prisoners look sad, depressed, but it never touches me, why, because I don't believe them - good actors convince me.

Storyboard: good moments are wasted for nothing, the whole happens at sunset, and then during the dark night - near sunset they rub on the ground toward the POW camp, after the sun has set (not showing the slowness of the actual sunset), all of the sudden it's dark, and people watch of their watches for the start of the raid, the entire suspense of getting closer to the POW camp during sunset is not used to show the challenge in that, neither we are shown really how the troops actually reach the fences, because we just see darkness . . . I rarely have seen such a bad storyboard, where moments to portray depth is wasted, instead banalities are captured on celluloid or digital hard-disk.

Music: it's nice, but it's way too dramatic for the bad performance of the movie, and the music is completely out of sync of what's happening on the screen; heroic music meanwhile the raid is over, but all the prisoners still have to walk to the next village, instead of a sunrise, it's still dark, and the whole situation anything but clear, we hear fanfare - man, I can't believe how misplaced music can be.

Camera: this cameraman I would have fired after 10 mins, this is a blunt beginner, there are no closeups, none, people are seen like from distance, no emotion, no intimacy, that's what the entire movie is lacking, it is not convincing. The camera shows and hovers around where nothing is to be shown, great moments (from the storyboard) are not capture, missed, wasted.

To summarize: this is a bad movie in disguise - and those soldiers whose story should be told are ashamed of such a bad movie supposedly glorify their "raid". This story is worth to be told, but NOT THIS WAY.
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Very disappointed
richtaylor2 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Maybe nobody commenting on this movie has read the book "Ghost Soldiers", so they really don't know the TRUE story behind this raid, but this movie was pretty dreadful. Some facts left out or barely addressed: 1)There were several P.O.W. camps liquidated and there was a real urgency to get to this camp quickly. 2) The march to the camp was a great ordeal with Japanese reinforcements growing in the surrounding areas almost hourly. 3)They had no recon of the camp itself and it was the ALAMO SCOUTS who reconned the camp at the last minute with great risks to all of those involved. 4)The raid was postponed 1 day because of said recon (causing great consternation to all involved) 5)There was a turf war brewing among the 2 philipino resistance leaders (both wanted in on the raid) and Musci showed great diplomatic skills in solving this last second problem. 5)The raid itself was a 100 times more harrowing and exciting then what the movie showed, they had to low crawl in daylight up to the wires and was nearly detected by the Japanese several times. 6)The ordeal back after the raid was barely mentioned, few of these prisoners could walk and the enemy was on their tails the whole way back, causing the raiders to doubt their chance even returning. 7)The tears and gratitude of the rescued was so poorly portrayed in the movie. 8)To a man, the Rangers wanted so badly to go and complete this mission, the debt they felt they owed to these prisoners and the emotions they showed at being a part of this great mission was not shown properly. I urge everyone to read the book.
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very strange war film
loydmooney15 August 2005
There are some strange things about this film that nobody seems to have noticed. But before delving into them probably this should be said: to a certain extent it is a throwback to way films used to be made, separating itself from the host of films done the last few years.

First of all it is a rah rah picture, not so different from the host of world war two propaganda pictures. It seems to me a more realistic picture, although also nodding towards the rah rah a little was something like Objective Burma. Errol Flynn's captain under the direction of Walsh was the more enjoyable performance.

Somebody mentioned the music as being fine. Not to me. Actually for years now music in films has been so over-hyped and pounding it is bothersome, this film could have been done with a lot less of that. And as for realism, well to have not one soldier use the F word, to anybody in the service, is fantasyland.

Not that I missed it. Glad I didn't have to listen to a lot of swearing, but I had the feeling that Dahl was doing it out of some strange respect to the actual very brave men who made the raid.

Even so, the Raid was fairly well done, but for me the most gripping scenes were with the nurse. And Manila had a very nice feel to it.

All in all no more than a five for this, but I am glad it was made as a reminder of just how price was paid by the men of world war two. And compared to the junk that is made anymore, its a classic.
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A must see movie: "The Great Raid"
LovesValjean28 July 2005
I saw a preview in Michigan, last Monday. I liked the love story. As mentioned in the former comment, the graphics, scenery, etc. were excellent. I thought the actors were great. I especially liked the music; I thought it matched the movie well. The movie was realistic, profound and inspiring; I was impressed. Additionally, my fiancé (who has a degree in history), his sister, and my brother, also thought the movie was exceptional. The director was there after the showing I went to as well, and one thing that stands out that he said was that war veterans, in general, are reluctant to tell about themselves and their heroics, as they felt that they were simply doing their duty. Especially after seeing the movie, I think it is even more important for war veterans and heroes alike, to come forward with their extraordinary stories, to inspire us all, and to remind us that there are honorable people out there. Thank you to everyone who has served our country!
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A Rare Movie Look At A Japanese POW Camp
sddavis632 December 2013
After the American evacuation of the Philippines following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, thousands of American servicemen were abandoned to the Japanese enemy, finding themselves facing brutal conditions in Japanese POW camps, and feeling forgotten by their country. "The Great Raid" is the portrayal of a rescue mission to save five hundred of those POWs at the Cabanatuan camp before they're killed by their captors, as the Americans begin to close in during the closing days of the war.

As far as I can recall there haven't been very many movies depicting conditions in Japanese POW camps. "Bridge On The River Kwai" springs to mind, but this is the only other one I think I've come across. It's always hard to judge the accuracy of how the enemy is portrayed in a movie like this. In this case, though, we do know that the Japanese were in fact brutal captors. Surrender was the ultimate dishonour, and prisoners, therefore, were seen as deserving of neither honour nor respect. The conditions portrayed in the camp, therefore, were believable and probably historically accurate.

The portrayal of camp conditions is one of the highlights of the movie. The other is the actual raid carried out. It was portrayed in great detail and, again, in a very believable way. The basic problem with this movie, though, is that it repeatedly seems to get bogged down. Frankly, when the movie strays from those two subjects it just isn't that interesting, and all the various sidebars end up making this longer than it needed to be. The character of Margaret Utinski (played by Connie Nielsen) was especially problematic. Utinski was a real person - and a winner of the Medal of Honour - but there are historical questions about her life, and there was certainly no romance involved in her actions, as is suggested throughout the movie.

Aside from Nielsen, the cast were fine, but in all honesty no one stood out to me as outstanding. As I've suggested, there are certainly aspects of this movie that make it worthwhile viewing, but it certainly can't be mistaken for a masterpiece. (6/10)
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due respect for filipinos
technicalstuff10110 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I am Don, a Filipino. It is not every time that you see a movie where we Filipinos fight with Americans and at the same time play an important role. I just hope this film will clear our country of being called "The sick man of Asia". I just hope that after you watch this movie, you will see how we fought the Japanese with just our own ingenuity. Australia and New Zealand has banned Philippines from their tourist spots thereby contributing to the already ailing Filipino economy-which gets most of its dollar income from tourists. I guess this is how their "great" countries repay us for delaying the Japanese invasion-which could have reached them if the Philippines just caved in to the Japanese. Have they forgotten that it was because of our raped Filipino women, impaled children, and beheaded and/or butchered men were the reasons why they are so "great" now? Foreigners ask us why can't we rise from our past like the Japanese. We Filipinos usually just bow down and think solemnly of the past and say to ourselves "How can we?! When all of our gold were taken by Japan?!". How unjust it is that the world just treats our country with such disgust when it is the Philippines who endured the most for them so that they can have the liberty and abundance that they are enjoying now.

I just want to add a spoiler here. I was so filled with emotion when Capatain Pajota faced the tank with just the submachine gun - knowing the bomb might not work and that he could have been ripped or blown away by the tank rounds. I applaud the people behind this movie for not cutting that part for it is a revelation of the bravery of the Filipino. I could just remember the time when our troops were pulled out of Iraq because two of our fellowmen were hostages. Our president pulled them out. It would create political instability if she did not do so. We are not cowards. We can fight anyone carrying a laser gun with just our fists. We can find Bin Laden and hunt him down with our rangers for days,months even carrying only a tin can for water supply and just using a rusted Enfield or a worn down M1Garand. Our rangers in Mindanao battle the terrorists knowing they will die on that day because of insufficient armor and bullets. The Filipino rangers' only defense is their superb knowledge of the terrain. Our rangers count the trees and even know their location thereby making them immune to traps or landmines. We Filipinos are not cowards. I hope when you watch this film you will have a different view of us. That we deserve the proper respect and acknowledgment. We are the proud Filipino - and we have been fighting foreigners off our land for five hundred years now...and you know what-- we are still fighting foreigners off our land.

It is not because Philippines was backward that's why it was colonized and invaded... it is because the Philippines was colonized and invaded over and over again that's why the Philippines is backward.
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Great movie!!! My new favorite for a long time to come.
fxrt87guy-16 August 2005
Just returned from an early screening.

I read "Ghost Soldiers", and I think that the producers of this movie did a very good job of keeping the film as close to the actual story as is possible under the limitations of cinematic limitations.

As a New Mexican with family and friends who were at Batann and in the Death March (some survived, some didn't), and a former NM National Guardsman, I have always had a keen interest in this and any WWII Pacific Theater story.

There were many New Mexicans at Bataan, and they still honor them to this day there. I drove down Bataan Blvd. outside of Santa Fe to drill for years.

The father of my mother's best childhood friend was a Colonel in the NM National Guard (200th Coastal Artillery) who died in a camp there, and the father of my own best friend, who had never had a cavity in his life, lost all his teeth in a Japanese camp, and my uncle escaped capture and fought with the Filipino guerrillas for years.

In today's poly-cultural, politically correct world, Hollywood types don't usually like these kinds of stories, because they shine the light on another culture's brutality, so bravo to Ben Bratt. He does an admirable job of portraying Ltc. Mucci. I'm not familiar with the other actors, but they all did a great job. I'm surprised this movie was ever even made, let alone released (even if it was released late).

All in all, I think it's a great movie. I'm going to buy it as soon as possible and make my 19-year old daughter watch it. If kids her age could fight, she can certainly watch a movie about it.
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A well-meaning but watered-down war epic
TheFilmProf6 June 2006
Warning: Spoilers
The war film, like its cousin, the western, has been a staple of American cinema almost from its beginning. Both genres share common character underpinnings of determination, confidence, and, relatively anyway, moral certainty. Westerns, of course, are generally fictional, as the old west that's depicted in the movies never really existed. War films, on the other hand, while often fictionalized, are generally based on real events.

"The Great Raid" is one such film. Based on the details of an actual rescue, as presented in William Breuer's comprehensive book "The Great Raid on Cabanatuan", and Hampton Sides' "Ghost Soldiers", "The Great Raid" is director John Dahl's portrayal of those events, executed in very broad strokes. While the film was 'inspired' by the true story, as noted in the opening credits, some unnecessary creative license is taken in detailing an event, which on its own, is compelling, and needs no embellishment.

In January, 1945, a battalion of U.S. Army rangers plotted a raid on a POW camp at Cabanatuan in the Philippines. Most of the prisoners there were survivors--and just barely--of the Bataan Death March. The able-bodied had been sent to the work camps in Japan and only the sick and near-dead remained at Cabanatuan. Essentially useless liabilities to the Japanese, the POWs would likely have been killed as had others, so this mission was a desperate, last-ditch effort to save them. With little time and minimal intelligence information, the U.S. Army's 6th Ranger Battalion, led by Lt. Colonel Henry Mucci (Benjamin Bratt), planned one of the most audacious and dangerous missions of the war.

Occurring over five days, three intertwined stories tell of the plight of the POWs, the related efforts of the Philippine underground in Manila, and the strategy of the rescue mission. With a cast of mostly 'B' actors, the characterizations are marginally effective, but not particularly strong, with the exception of Connie Neilsen's performance as American nurse Margaret Utinsky. Utinsky, was a key member of the Philippine underground in Manila and was instrumental in the smuggling of medical supplies to the prisoners, which undoubtedly kept many of them alive long enough to be rescued. Unfortunately, the role included a tenuous love connection between POW Major Gibson (Joseph Fiennes), a composite, fictional character, and Utinsky, who was quite real. It's an unnecessary and gratuitous fabrication. Utinsky's efforts in the underground are notable, well-documented, and worthy of inclusion in their own right. The contrived relationship between them was more distracting than involving, as were a few other things.

After watching the film for about twenty minutes, I had the nagging feeling that something was missing. It was profanity. Hardly a single utterance can I recall. Anyone who's ever sat around a barracks knows how soldiers talk, and it isn't like these guys do. Even the most provincial person, while maybe not approving of such salty slang, knows that it exists, especially in a wartime context. Steven Spielberg, who's certainly not known for being offensive, recognized the need for such realistic, linguistic candor in "Saving Private Ryan." But, heck, there just wasn't any here. Paradoxically, Dahl has no problem showing the graphic brutality of the Japanese who, with frightening indifference, summarily executed prisoners and civilians alike, which undoubtedly accounts for the film's "R" rating.

Considering the flat romantic tie-in, the MPAA-friendly dialogue, and much of its visual style, this film has the look of a production that could have originally been intended for television, but was instead hung on the coattails of current events and put into widespread theatrical distribution, perhaps intended to rally support for a war that the nation seems to be tiring of. But although it lacks a certain verbal grittiness at times, and is often rife with platitudes, "The Great Raid" is a film whose heart, if not its mouth, is in the right place.

© 2005
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One of the greatest stories/movies ever!!!
phcctrucks5 August 2005
I went to the LA Premier of this movie last night and I must say it was AWESOME. The movie did great justice to the book, "Ghost Soldiers". Additionally, it was a great "War" movie without going too far over the line with blood and guts.

Throughout the movie, you feel as if you're actually "in the camp" hoping, waiting, and wishing for relief to arrive. These heroes are portrayed not only in a positive but realistic light of what obstacles needed to be overcome to accomplish the mission.

This is a great movie for all to see with a great story of how strong the human spirit really is.
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One of the best films of the Year
espenshade556 August 2005
John Dahl has done his share of good films over the years but none of them came close to this film about American POW's being held in Japan and the soldier's that risked everything to get them out.

Knowing the history of what these men went through, you go into the film expecting to see images that will be hard to watch. You do see these but they don't go over the top, they show you the hardships that these men faced and the intensity of the battle sequences put you right in the middle of everything.

The cinematography is worth mentioning. It was interesting how they kept the image slightly over exposed in the background to focus you in more and more on the actor's. It made this film about the people and not the spectacle, which is obviously how this film was intended.

The performances were good all around. Franco and Brat are both talented performers that fit well into there perspective parts. The stand out in this film for me was Joseph Fiennes as a POW who kept command of his troops and did his best to help them through while he fought his own battle with malaria. His physical performance was superb and he made you feel what his character was feeling.

When I was waiting to get into this film, I talked to an elderly man who showed up a little after me. I learned that he was a POW in Germany for a year in WW2. After the film, all they had to say was how powerful it was, and what an affect it had. The film showed these men as just that, men. Great men that were willing to sacrifice everything for there fellow soldier's, for there brother's in arm's. As they said in the trailer, "there is a price for freedom, a price that some are willing to pay." All of these men were willing to pay that price.
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Solid traditional semi-historical war film
mstomaso21 August 2005
In terms of lasting value, I believe The Great Raid is one of the best films to have graced the screen this year. It's a straightforward war movie about unsung heroes. The story involves the basic facts of a Japanese POW camp which was liberated near the end of the Japanese occupation of the Phillipines. American soldiers and Phillipino resistance fighters teamed up to chance a daring raid on the heavily guarded camp. Fictional elements are added to the story, such as a surprisingly compelling love story, and believable explorations of friendships among both prisoners and fighters.

The script is good, the acting and editing superb, and the photography is very good. The film is violent, but does not wallow in flying guts and body parts as has been the recent fashion. Nothing flashy, nothing overwhelming, just solid craftsmanship. This is a film which is less concerned with making an impression than it is with telling a story, and I found that very refreshing. In my opinion, the film succeeds completely in telling its simple story and will likely be recognized for years to come as one of the better war films of recent times. All of the acting in this film is excellent, but watch for the standout performances from Marton Csokas, Joseph Fiennes, James Franco and Connie Nielsen.
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A fantastic film, a must see....!!
bojangles55558 August 2005
I saw a sneak preview last Saturday night. The first time in years where I have been to a movie which was applauded at the end by the audience. Will be in the running for "Best Picture" and may take home several Oscar's. Minus the gore of "Saving Private Ryan" yet realistic and seemingly factual with an intertwined love story. It is a must see on the big screen. My girlfriend wants us to see it again...! There are a few sequences that even non-military viewers will be scratching their heads from a military tactical and logistics point of view. I don't want to give away any scenes but these are easily spotted, the films major glowing error. This film would not have worked with a cast of Hollywood power actors, yet the performances delivered are equal to the task. Go see it.....!!
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A tear in my eye as I sat watching, proud to be an American
fact275-18 August 2005
I am a former US military historian and had the opportunity on Saturday evening to view an advanced screening of The Great Raid. The screenplay was based on two books: William Breuer's "The Great Raid on Cabanatuan" and Hampton Sides' "Ghost Soldiers."

It is January 1945. The U.S. Sixth Army has landed in Luzon in the Philippines and is advancing upon Manila. The retreating Japanese Army are under orders from Tokyo to kill all the prisoners of war they hold. The Japanese do not respect those who surrender and also do not want the POWs to testify to the many Japanese war crimes committed from the invasion onward. Early on the movie, we are shown the real life war atrocity at an island POW camp where Americans are forced into air raid shelters and then immolated.

The Sixth Army's commanding officer, General Kreuger (Vietnam veteran Dale Dye, Captain, USMC (Ret), who was the film's military adviser) has intelligence from "stay behinds" (Americans who fled into the hills after the surrender) and Philippine guerrillas that the Cabanatuan POWs are in grave jeopardy as the Sixth Army closes in.

Kreuger turns to Lieutenant Colonel Henry Mucci (Benjamin Bratt, commander of the 6th Ranger Battalion. Unlike other Ranger battalions, Mucci's Rangers are untested, comprised primarily of soldiers who came to the Pacific Theater of Operations as animal handlers. Mucci has trained his men well though and yearns for a mission where they can prove themselves.

Mucci selects Captain Bob Prince (James Franco), a young Stanford graduate, to plan and lead the raid on Cabantuan. Though Mucci tells Prince that the Captain will lead the raid, Mucci is to accompany Prince and his 120 volunteers on the mission, causing frictions along the way.

Meanwhile, at Cabantuan, the remaining 500+ POWs are in the worst state, the healthier ones having been moved to work forced labor elsewhere in Japanese territory. The POWs are led by Major Gibson (Joseph Fiennes) who is racked with malaria. He does his best to keep his men disciplined and away from the wrath of their sadistic Japanese captors. Gibson's best friend is Captain Redding (Marton Csokas), a man who admits to no friends except the Major and who plans of escaping despite the Japanese threat to kill ten POWs for every man who tries to escape.

In Manila, Margaret Utinsky (Connie Nielsen) is an American nurse with a forged Lithuanian passport working with the Filipino underground. She is part of a smuggling ring that is getting needed medicines into Cabantuan. She was married to a friend of Gibson who later died. Gibson and Utinsky carry the torch for each other and wonder if they will ever be reunited.

Thus, the movie moves on three fronts: Mucci and Prince and the 120 Rangers who must cross 30 miles of enemy held territory to Cabantuan amidst thousands of Japanese soldiers; Gibson and the POWs at the camp; and Utinsky and the Filipino underground.

Some critics have complained that the movie is a bit slow and talky. This is true in the early going but it is absolutely necessary to establish the conditions the POWs were living under and the acts of brutality and torture that occurred not only to the POWs but the Filipino resistance. You cannot understand just how important the raid is until you understand what is happening to the POWs and what horror is to come. That said, the unrequited love story between Gibson and Utinsky was unnecessary and tacked on 30 minutes to the movie.

The Filipino and Filipino-American community should love this movie as it portrays their people in a very positive light. Prince's Rangers are dependent upon Captain Juan Pajota, a skilled guerrilla leader who scouts and leads the Rangers into enemy territory, and then is tasked with holding off several thousand Japanese troops while the Americans raid the camp.

The desire for historical accuracy is also very impressive in this film. For example, Cabantuan curiously featured a few British POWs, gathered in from British possessions in Southeast Asia. One minor character is shown with an accent. There is the "stay behind" American officer. Most impressive is the inclusion of the Alamo Scouts, a little known Army long-range reconnaissance unit that helped scout the camp in preparation for the raid. Weapons appear to be accurate--the Filipinos with older M1928 Thompsons and water-cooled .30 caliber machine guns and the Japanese even carrying Japanese arms (rare for Hollywood). We are even shown a Japanese Banzai Charge--a suicidal rush of soldiers with bayonets, successful against a poor Chinese Army in the 1930s, but not so successful against the American forces.

I read Sides' book and the plot hews very closely to the real-life events. In reality, this is a 3 1/2 star movie but the detail to historical accuracy is worth another 1/2 star. It is the best movie I have seen in what is an admittedly poor year for Hollywood. It should do very well in Red State America. Maybe even in Blue States: at the end of the film, newsreel footage of the actual Rangers and POWs is shown as the credits roll. Only one person that I could see got up to leave. Almost the entire audience stayed until this segment was over.

This movie is patriotic and not politically correct. The Japanese military police are portrayed as they were: sadistic, brutal, and cold.

If you watch this entirety of this movie, with the Rangers storming the camp and carrying the emaciated POWs on their shoulders and don't feel proud to be an American, then you're just a Communist.

**** out of ****
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A story worth telling but not told well
R FC13 March 2006
I like a good war story but this is not one. The film has a Disney look and the characters all look like they're acting. It feels like it has all been done before and a lot better, especially by David Lean. With a feel of a Hollywood set,combined with a make-shift love story, I never became involved, except when the shooting starts in the last 20 minutes. Up until then, I had my finger on the fast forward button a great deal. The actual war footage, and the fact that the raid was based on a true story is all that keeps this film from being ignored. Such an event deserves to have been given a better director. I did enjoy the bonus materials much more as they had interesting interviews with the real POW's, and the time-line of the pacific war was a good synopsis of what occurred. Too bad the film was not as captivating.
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