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|Index||177 reviews in total|
This is a really well written, directed and acted war movie. I wish it
had been filmed in real, natural color, not the grey overtone to make
it look like it was filmed during WW II.
Everything about it is great except the photography. The cinemaphotographer tried to create the same effect in "Sky Captian, World of Tomorrow" with Jude Law. This greyed out effect is unnatural and detracts from the overall quality of the film. There is nothing wrong with depicting real color, rather than cheapening it to look like a lesser quality film was used. There is some archive footage that was undoubtedly filmed during the war and is black & white. That's fine, but modern film doesn't need to be made to look like it's lower quality film.
The war scenes are very realistic. The film is a great depiction of the underground activity in Manila, as well as realistic scenes from the POW camp. The rescue operation is suspenseful and detailed. GREAT STORY!!! 9/10
I watch a lot of films but have never felt the need to contribute a review of any kind before.Many films can show the brutality of war but i was moved to tears by the treatment of the prisoners and the barbarity of the Japanese in this factual story.The cast of relatively unknown actors (to me anyway)pulled me into this account of America's most succsesful p.o.w.retrieval in history,Don't get me wrong ,this is far from a gung ho movie but a very well made account of these events. Full marks must go to the location shooting and the direction for the splendid work on this film. I would recommend this film to anyone with an interest in history,or anyone who enjoys a true story well made.
Late January, 1945, World War II: at the point at which this film
begins, the horrible toll of war has already happened - the infamous
Bataan Death March, in which thousands & thousands of American &
Filipino prisoners eventually died. The film, from director Dahl,
doesn't shy away from impressing this point, including showing an
example of Japanese military brutality in the early going - burning
some prisoners alive. From the outset, we seem to be instructed, or
reminded, that war is not a matter of just heroism, exciting action
scenes, or battle strategy - though this is how it culminates in this
particular true story of rescue. But the majority of the film
concentrates on the brutality; it's not a pleasant picture of what the
POWs endure, nor should it be. Likewise, there is a parallel storyline
taking place in the nearby city of Manila, controlled by the Japanese,
where members of an underground who smuggle medicine to prisoners are
all targets of the oppressors. Quick gangster-style executions are not
The aforementioned death march hangs like a pall over all the proceedings and the American military, which had ordered the soldiers to surrender, thereby inadvertently causing all their eventual deaths, seem compelled (or shamed, depending on how you see it) to mount some unusual rescue attempt of about 500 prisoners. It's mentioned that this plan has no real strategic significance, no pragmatic value; it's a decision of the heart, not the head. Specially-trained army rangers form the unit which will carry out this raid, all anxious and willing to do what is right. This is about glory all right, but not the kind we may think; it's not about publicity, cameras, medals, and so on. It's about the personal glory each soldier will feel inside, knowing he did something right. This is spelled out by Bratt's Lt. Colonel Mucci; Bratt, with whom I was familiar with for lightweight characters, surprised me in this picture. He seems to play older than he is, a man who had chosen to be a warrior and leader of men. His speech to his rangers before the mission was true-to-life and inspiring at the same time. Franco plays the captain under his command in charge of the strategy and the mission.
Besides the expected interest in seeing these historical events play out, this film can be instructional, as well. I'd forgotten, for example, about the strong bond forged between the Americans and the Filipinos (the guerrilla fighters) during this struggle against the Japanese oppressors. When some might question why it's necessary to relive such past events in the context of today's completely revamped modern world (why bring up past hates, past tragedy?), it also relives & reminds of past alliances and mutual respect. Of course, I doubt any descendants of the death march victims would want such history ignored or forgotten. The DVD I acquired was packaged with the book by William Breuer.
It is truly a shame that "The Great Raid" was such a bomb at the box
office, given that it was such a powerful and insightful telling of a
truly amazing event in American history. I was particularly impressed
with the way the movie paid service to so many different players in the
event. Not only were the struggles of the prisoners and U.S. Army
Rangers planning the raid told, but also those of the Filipino freedom
fighters, and the underground resistance leaders, helping the POW's at
great risk to their own lives. I thought the movie was an honest,
unglamorous, yet incredibly compelling re-telling of the sacrifices of
heroes in the midst of a brutal war. Heroes are individuals who put
themselves in harms way in order to protect others, and you will find
so many different examples of heroism in this incredible, true tale.
And yet the movie was a financial bomb. The sad fact is, if "The Great Raid" had been released in July instead of August, with a star such as Tom Hanks in the cast, it would have maid ten times as much, easily. I am not judging the movie based on its box-office performance, I am just detailing the melancholy truth that the story shown in this movie, every bit as inspiring as "Saving Private Ryan", reached a far smaller audience because its stars, James Franco, Benjamin Bratt, Connie Nielsen, and Joseph Fiennes, are not quite as well known as those found in that other movie. I hope that this movie attracts a large following in video form, because an amazing story, told with such passion and conviction as this, inspires people to be better, to have greater perspective on their world situation, and maybe believe in something larger than themselves. I hope everyone who sees this film takes away as much from it as I did. And I also hope that it finds a much greater audience in time.
Well maybe it's not all history. The screen writer may have inserted the love story. However, the love story did not get in the way of the history. What a wonderful slice of history. I rented this movie and enjoyed the extras that were included in the DVD. Why aren't there more movies like this one? See this film. It's just a good film made in the way films used to be made. No twists and turns, no funny camera angles, no cartoons (known as computer generated special effects to some); it's just a straight up story. Some might complain at the portrayal of the Japanese, but according to the survivors interviewed for the DVD extras, the film maker got it right.
If ever a film, especially a film about war, deserved the designation "sleeper", this work should head the list. Over the years I can recall but 7 or 8 war films that I would classify as superior. "Saving Private Ryan", "The Bridge On The River Kwai", "Paths Of Glory", "Das Boot", "The Cruel Sea", "Four Feathers" (1939 version) "In Which We Serve", "Tora Tora Tora" and "The Red Badge Of Courage" with honorable mention to "Gung Ho", "The Enemy Below"( without its ridiculous ending) and "The Battle Of Britain" (if for nothing else than its exquisite aerial sequences). The wonderful picture "Patton" I do not classify as a war film as much as the definitive film biography. And then along comes "The Great Raid". A tight, believable, no nonsense story about a little known operation of WW2, and one that should make all Americans proud. Excluded are ,thanks be, to all the mind numbing clichés',which over the years screenwriters felt duty bound to have our ethnically correct collection of (mostly lovable) G.I.'s, mouth on screen. The palaver to which I refer has ruined many potentially decent films about war and its stern reality. However this neat little film sidesteps the chronic pitfalls of the genre and is meticulous in portraying most of its combat sequences regarding weapons, battle dress, tactics and combat-speak. (take note of the 30 caliber, bolt action, Springfield Rifle Col. Mucci uses at the river instead of the semi-automatic M-1 Garand issued at that point in the war).And when I saw that Captain Dale Dye (USMC Ret.)was military adviser on the set as well as acting in a small part, I knew that all would be in order. The cast is excellent,especially Ben Bratt as Col. Mucci. So if your in the mood for a well above average action flick with a tension filled ending, where you will be cheering for the good guys, "The Great Raid" will not disappoint. (The use of real wartime newsreel footage at beginning and end provides an excellent touch.) NOTE: Because of some brief disturbing violent scenes of executions,I would not recommend this film for children up to age 16. ADDENDUM: The 6th Ranger Battalion was the only Ranger outfit to serve in the Pacific theater. It may be argued that it was the toughest, best trained unit in the U.S. Military. Col. Mucci, a West Point graduate,proficient in boxing,judo,hand to hand combat, use of the bayonet as well as night fighting and small unit tactics, trained his men personally through 1944 in the steaming mountainous jungle terrain of New Guinea. Only the best made it through and they followed one of the most charismatic leaders in the U.S. Army into battle. It is too bad that some of this part of the story did not find its way into the film to let the audience know of the uniqueness of the men being portrayed.
For those of us who read Hampton Sides short history of the rescue, Ghost Soldiers, this film had a double meaning. The events depicted in the film are based on the heroic rescue of these men who had been held in captivator for the duration of WW2. While there may well have been some padding to heighten the romance, the fact of the matter remains that a small number of Rangers did indeed penetrate the jungle and rescue these men. While some of the reviewers may have wanted a more blood and guts, shoot 'em up kind of war film ala Rambo, the fact remains this is a testament to the sheer guts and determination of Col. Mucci and his rangers. Actors Bratt, Fiennes, Csonka and Franco turn in great performances as the principals in this event. As avid history buff of the Pacific theater of WW2, I found the film to be well done. Sure, there are some details that don't jibe with Sides's book, but so what? In the final analysis, Col. Mucci and his gutsy Rangers get their long overdue kudos and the spotlight of attention that they certainly earned.
Much of what happens during war is not apparent to the general public:
events that place American military personnel in a less than gratuitous
light historically have been downplayed by the media, current events in
Iraq excepted. Such was the case in World War II when Washington more
or less ignored the imprisonment of hundreds of GIs after the Japanese
attacked and took over the Philippines. This is their story as
excerpted from the novels 'Ghost Soldiers' and 'The Great Raid on
The action of the movie takes place over five days in January 1945 during which time a battalion of Army Rangers finally lead a successful raid on the POW camp in Cabanatuan to free the remaining American prisoners after their survival of the Bataan Death March and three years of beastly, brutal incarceration. The leaders of the raid are portrayed by Benjamin Bratt and James Franco and the survivors in the camp to be freed are held together by the characters portrayed by Joseph Fiennes, Marton Csokas and Logan Marshall-Green. Flashbacks to the period of time before the Death March are inserted to introduce those freedom fighters lead by Margaret Utinsky (Connie Nielsen) whose smuggling of medicine into the camp helped save the lives of her lover (Joseph Fiennes) and the others. This story is history so the ending is not a secret. The Rangers exhibit great bravery and succeed in the impossible mission of freeing the prisoners, with the important help of the Philippine military led by Captain Pajota (Cesar Montano), in a truly synchronous mission.
The film is very understated for the most part: real life black and white photographs of the events in the film are inserted to add credibility and they are gut wrenching. The devastation of battle is not ignored, but the attention is focused on the very human plights of the victims and their freedom soldiers. The film is shot in the muted tones of sepia with enough color to make the effect appear as an old 1940s movie. It works. Though the script is not great, the message is and the actors committed to this retelling of an important event do a fine job. John Dahl directs with a sense of pathos and while there are no raging overblown heroes, he allows the simple men involved in this story to stand taller than most heroes of the 'big war movies'.
The film met with disinterest and criticism when released. Perhaps now that people can view it in the privacy of their homes the quiet message within will make a more poignant impact. These ordinary people have dignity in the face of being ignored by their own government. And there is a lesson there we should not forget. Recommended. Grady Harp
I've seen hundreds of war movies. I've studied the history of World War
II since I was a small child. I knew the background going into the
theater, having read not only the two books the script was drawn from,
but also others containing the point of view of the guerrillas who were
instrumental in making the jailbreak possible.
Even given all that knowledge and knowing how it turned out, The Great Raid still mesmerized me. That's how good a war movie it is.
I believe part of the reason why is both of the authors (William Breuer and Hampton Sides) were technical advisers on the film. When you have two authors who between them have spent almost half a lifetime researching the material, you know they won't let the director get away with much! Not that he needed to; the story is compelling.
The plot is simple. 500 survivors of the Bataan Death March, most too sick to work and all too weak to walk very far, are being held at the main Japanese POW camp at Cabantuan. Intelligence from the guerrilla forces in the Phillipines has reached Sixth Army headquarters that the Japanese intend to execute all Allied prisoners before they pull out of the camp area. It is known that at least one prisoner massacre has already taken place.
The 6th US Army Ranger Battalion is handed the mission: Rescue the prisoners locked up 30 miles behind enemy lines before the Japanese can kill them and bring them home. Oh, yeah, one other thing. You've got at most 5 or 6 days to plan and stage the mission before the killing starts.
The camp is located on the main road the retreating Japanese are taking into the mountains. Whole regiments and divisions are retreating past it at night, the only time the Rangers can make the element of surprise work for them. There is a beaten fire zone 200 yards deep all around the camp, with no cover for the Rangers to hide in. There may be tanks in the POW stockade; there certainly are tanks present in a transit camp across a nearby river. There's a large concentration of Japanese troops in Cabantuan City, four miles away. And the Ranger force Colonel Henry Mucci selects for the strike is one reinforced company.
All things considered, this is a job even Jim Phelps of Mission: Impossible would turn down. Yet Colonel Mucci and Captain Prince, whose company has been selected for the job, must make it work. The lives of 500 Allied POWs depend upon it.
The movie builds tension beautifully right up to the moment the strike on the camp begins. The tension is superbly released as the Rangers get the job done. It's good movie-making.
I could have done without the grossly inaccurate portrayal of the Manila Underground; I'd love to know where they got, and why they used, that Lockheed Hudson, a type which had long since been retired from frontline service by 1945; and the platonic love story left much to be desired and borders on the irrelevant. However, the melding of the guerrilla force under Captain Pajota with Mucci's rangers was accurately shown, and the raid itself is almost 100% faithful to what really happened. I also approved of the US Army Combat Photographers' film being used over the end titles, including showing quick glimpses of the real Colonel Mucci and Captain Prince.
The performances aren't likely to win any Oscars; the material rather forbids it. But in terms of historical accuracy, attention to detail and special effects not involving a computer, this movie is the best thing you'll see this year. It stands as proof that before you can have a good movie, you have to have a good script. This script was a great one. You'll want to see it in the theater before you buy the DVD. It's that good.
I saw this film at the Montreal premier last week with my father in law who is a WW II U.S. Navy veteran. During the warm-up, the MC asked if there were any vets in the audience. My f.i.l. raised his hand and was awarded the book on which the film is based (Ghost Soldiers). As he is visually impaired, he gave me the book to read. And read I did! I finished it off by the next day. As I said, it is a good movie, but it is indeed based on a great book and shows the terrible horror the POW's were subjected to. I do recommend to any to go see this film and then after get the book and read the truth about how and what really happened. By the way, Japan never apologized for the maltreatment to the soldiers nor to the civilians tortured during the war.
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