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Although the film stands by itself perfectly well you may want to read the books "The Great Raid" by William Breuer as well as the critically acclaimed "Ghost Soldiers" by Hampton Sides. Both books put into context the feats of heroism and valor depicted in this stunning picture. How easy it is to forget the people that helped shape our history and the human sacrifice associated with war. It is difficult to convey perfectly in 90 minutes the scope of this event but the film does an excellent job of doing justice to a True story of a daring rescue mission. The actors did a fine job, in particular Benjamin Bratt's portrayal of Lt. Colonel Henry Mucci. Overall a great unforgettable movie with real substance.
I saw this movie August 6 as a sneak preview. I enjoyed it very much,
as I have always been a history buff, particularly of the Pacific
Theater of WWII and have always enjoyed well-made war movies.
The acting is good, the action well-choreographed, and the suspense palpable. I do feel a bit more of the interpersonal stories should have been cut, but it did not overly distract from the film.
In retrospect, I can't recall any foul language and the violence was chiefly of the implied rather than graphic variety, aside from showing the aftermath of some off-screen violence.
I highly recommend it.
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 ****
I have seen the movie and find it excellent. It was well made and worth
the money. We didn't know it but the man sitting next to us was there
and said it was correct. It is well directed, acted, written and
edited. I am not in the business but I have had film classes so I know
what I am talking about. The actors were very well chosen. No one
character stands out, except for the leading ones. Even the minor ones
get screen time. The men are made human. You should recognize Mark
Consuelos, Mateo, from All My Children. And I think I saw the guy who
plays Todd Manning in One Life to Live. Go see it. You will enjoy it
very much.I did.
It is not a chick flick so if you want to see an interesting and true story, by all means go to The Great Raid.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
So I was invited to the premiere screening of this movie in Washington
DC and found the movie both exciting and longer than really needed.
The action portions were very well filmed the acting was also superb.
The only problem I had with the film was the portions having to do with the flashbacks involving the female nurse which seemed to me to be really long and after the first three times boring. But that was the only thing I could find that upset me.
The film also showed actions by the other side that might make people who have not been involved in the military a little upset.
In the premiere there was extended clapping when the enemy officer got shot and killed. But he was playing the heavy and this was to be expected.
I will see this movie again and try not to give bad comments about the flashback scenes.
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.....!!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a very expensive and carefully scripted scenario of a real raid
staged by Army Rangers in the Phillipines towards the end of World War
II. The raid was designed to liberate a prisoner-of-war camp before the
Japanese could kill all the inmates. The raid was successful and the
cost not as high as it might have been without the help of the
The Japanese occupation of the islands was undeniably brutal. Germans treated their prisoners relatively well, as if they were captured warriors. But for the Japanese, the code covering treatment lay not in the Geneva Accords or, for that matter, in Bushido. The traditional warrior's code usually called Bushido varied a great deal over time. Earlier versions counseled patience and mercy.
The Japanese militarists had subverted Bushido and turned it into an ideology in which all conquered people were characterologically inferior. The result was described to me by a friend who had grown up in Ilo-Ilo. "The river was filled with heads."
The producers shot the film in swampy northern Australia and the city scenes in Shanghai. The period detail is impeccable -- right down to the herringbone pattern of the GI fatigues and the leather (not rubber) soles of their boots. The action scene is believable if confusing. It all rather resembles "Saving Private Ryan", which is understandable in view of SPR's success: a small elite unit sneaking through enemy territory on an important, life-saving mission. I suppose many other films would qualify too -- "The Guns of Navarron," "The Professionals," et al.
But there are problems with both the writing and the performances. It's not one story but three: (1) the mission led by Benjamin Bratt to rescue the prisoners; (2) the misery of the captives; and (3) the true experiences of a nurse, played by Connie Nielson, living in Manila on a forged passport.
The film is too long and seems sluggish. Way too much time is spent on the prisoners, whose abject despondency, if not taken for granted, could have been sketched in more briefly while remaining just as compelling. The nurse's story could have been dispensed with. As it is, a fictional romance is constructed to link her to the prisoners.
Joseph Fiemannes must have lost a lot of weight because he looks extremely drawn, but again, too much time is spent with him for no discernible reason except that he's a movie star. At least his malaria is shown for what it is -- a crippling and sometimes lethal disease that involves more than a spasm of shivers.
I enjoyed Benjamin Bratt as Detective Ray Curtis on "Law&Order". He was just relaxed enough in his role. Unfortunately, the role of commander of this raid requires a character with more power. My God, imagine George C. Scott! Bratt's money scene is when he gives his Rangers a pep talk, and the scene wilts as he recites his lines.
Another problem, not an uncommon one, is that few of the other faces are familiar, and in their dark, sweat-stained uniforms and fatigue caps they're hard to tell apart. No particular performance stands out in any way except, perhaps, that of the Japanese major played by Motoki Kobayashi, a handsome and convincing but humorless officer.
The director had a hell of a time getting the Japanese to be brutal but finally persuaded them by explaining they were playing soldiers who were "just following orders." It may not have worked in Nurenberg but it worked in Australia.
An incredibly exciting, true account that will move you to tears at this superb film's conclusion. Pulling no punches and accurately depicting the absolute savagery of the enemy, it is a courageous motion picture that everyone should see. The cast is uniformly excellent, with Benjamin Bratt giving the performance of a lifetime. Director John Dahl does outstanding work in bringing this story to the screen and deserves accolades for showing what kind of butchery our soldiers endured at the hands of their captors. The battle scenes are stunning and the musical score is one of the most beautiful ever composed. When the film nears the end and the actual newsreels of the liberation are shown, I was sobbing. The POW's were heroes who suffered so very, very brutally while held in Japanese camps. This film is a terrific tribute to those Army and Filipino heroes who ended the ordeal as well as the brave, courageous men and women who never cowered before the bloody swords of the beasts who savaged them.
It was a Risky Thing, No Not the Raid that Liberated Over 500 American
POW's from the Brutal Japanese Prison Camp in the Philippines, but the
Way Director John Dahl Approached the Story. He Left Behind the Stylish
Neo-Noir Sensibilities of His Early Work that Contain Edgy Violence and
In This (inspired by true events) Historically Accurate Film, the Emphasis is Placed on a Methodical Message of Urgency Carried Out by Careful Planning and a Wait-for-It Attention to Detail. The Suspense Builds to an Almost Unbearable Length that Reflects the Mindset of the Prisoners who Must Have Thought that They were Left Behind.
The Malaria Stricken, Tortured, and Starved POW's were Grinding it Out Day after Dismal Day and the Movie Grinds it Out Until the Actual Raid Itself is Unleashed in a Frenzy of Fighting that Overwhelmed the Japanese and the Result is the Most Successful Rescue in American History.
Somewhat Forgotten Today, Except in the Philippines. The Natives were Instrumental in the Mission and were Actively Helping the Prisoners Even Before the Actual Raid via the Underground with Intelligence and Medicine. They Lost 21 in the Rescue, the Americans 2. The Japanese Hundreds.
But the Winner was the American Spirit. The Almost Indescribable Intensity and Fortitude that it Took to Win the War. The Movie was Not a Hit, Mostly Panned or Ignored by Critics, and Audiences are Mixed. But, it is a Respectable, Slowly Paced, Effort that if Given the Patience it Needs, Comes Across as a Deliberate and Heart-Wrenching War is Hell Portrayal of an Important and Necessary Mission.
In the notorious POW camp at Cabanatuan in occupied Philippines, the
Japanese hold about 500 American prisoners who had survived the Bataan
Death March. The Japanese are getting orders to liquidate the
prisoners. Over the course of 5 days starting at Jan 27, 1945,
Lieutenant Colonel Mucci and Captain Prince (James Franco) lead the 6th
Ranger Battalion along with the Alamo Scouts and Filipino guerrillas to
liberate the prison camp some 30 miles behind enemy lines. The movie
switches back and forth between the rescue, people like Margaret
Utinsky (Connie Nielsen) who is a nurse in occupied Manila, and the
prison camp where men led by Major Gibson (Joseph Fiennes) suffer under
It's an old fashion traditional war movie. It does stray into melodrama from time to time. It's also scattered among the various character sideplots. The scale of production is just below epic. There are a lot of good actors at work. However that does make me question why Benjamin Bratt is cast as the soldier in charge of the rescue. That seems to be the more important role and a more established actor like Fiennes should be doing it. This would work better if the movie picks between a prison movie or a rescue movie and put Fiennes in the lead of either. The final rescue action is done well and the movie is generally good but not great.
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