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I had never heard an account of the rescue of the American POW's at
Cabanatuan. WWII was over 20 years before I was born, so obviously I
wouldn't have heard first hand accounts. But I would have thought in
history lessons, or TV documentaries, somewhere I would have heard of
this tale of extreme bravery and heroism. It is stories like these that
make me proud to be an American and make me indebted to our men and
women in the military.
I don't remember hearing about this movie when it was released in the theaters, so it must not have gotten great press. I just happened to have caught it playing on AMC today, and I am glad I did. It really is a compelling story, although I know some license was taken with the romantic angle between the major and Margaret.
The action was pretty intense and I have to say the shooting scenes were extremely realistic and graphic. It showed just how brutal the Japanese were in killing.
The cast did a good job. Connie Nielsen was quite gripping in her depiction of Margaret. I did think Bratt looked a little young to be playing a Lt. Colonel. I liked the soft, muted colors of the cinematography as it gave the film a dated, historical look.
I have noticed that war movies tend to fall in one out of three
categories. There movies that show how boring war can be between
violent outbursts of combat. There are movies that show how horrible
war is with realistic depiction of wounds and combat. And there are
action movies that use the backdrop of war for large scale
pyrotechnics. "The Great Raid" however sidesteps this and shows
something completely different. Instead of these loud battles of bouts
of boredom we are shown how a carefully planned strategy is thought up
and finally executed in the film's most exciting sequence. Seeing war
as a precisely calculated battle of wits and nerves is not something
that the big screen has not shown us too often.
However, this film, which runs at over two hours, has a few too many subplots. Well, maybe not too many subplots since they are all clearly relevant, but the screen time they are given versus the screen time of the soldiers performing the raid, makes this a movie with essentially no subplots, but three parallel plots. Thus the suspense of the upcoming raid is largely obscured. We are only told that the soldiers have thirty miles of enemy patrolled territory to cross, but aren't quite shown. The constant nerve wracking threat of discovery isn't really done justice here and that thirty miles seems to go by rather smoothly. Though seeing that the scenes of the soldiers creeping their way through patrolled enemy territory are cut out in order to show us the two parallel plots - one showing the inside of the prison camp and the other the smuggling of medicine into it - there is enough here to keep the viewer interested.
In the end, the film is more than worth it and easily could have been much worse. For instance, the film is not just about the courage of American soldiers, but the Filipino underground resistance is shown in the same fair light. This makes for good historical accuracy and surprisingly convincing military accuracy. So even if the suspense is a bit lax, "The Great Raid" has enough of what is needed for a compelling story from the books of military history. --- 7/10
Rated R for violence. Ages 13+
Great Movie about World War2 about one of its forgotten front and
events. Hopefully a whole lot more would come out stories of the
occupation and the guerrilla's of the Philippines their action is
comparable to the French underground and it may even surpass some of
the thing they did despite hundreds of miles away from allied supplies.
A well done movie, sticking close to the real story and the not egos of
celebrity actors. Too bad it won't do well in the box office because it
does not have the typical normal flare of a Hollywood "big gasoline
explosion war movie making". Just a little bit of liberty on some of
the script to make it interesting. Add this to your collection.
Another recommended movie about this genre is "The Longest 100 miles"-1967, "American Guerilla in the Philippines" which was filmed only a couple of years after World War2, and "AN UNTOLD TRIUMPH" 2003 PBS Special. Some recommended reading "BLOODY LIBERATION OF MANILA", LT RAMSEY'S WAR AND "BEHIND Japanese LINES"
My parents lived through the occupation and my father help the guerrilla's by supplying them with information on who's ( Japanese ) in town and food supplies. The Japanese stuck close to small town where food supply, personnel( under bayonet ) forced laborer and creature comforts.
I wish Hollywood would rediscover more of these events, granted they are not like saving private Ryan or band of brothers, but they are just as important part of World War 2 that needed to be told.
Read more about world war 2 history and you'll discover more. Read the history of the 82nd Airborne Division because that division was one of the longest serving division in the ETO. More than the 101st. I admire the 101st but I admire more the 82nd, they seem to be the forgotten airborne division of WW2.
The book is even better, I recommend this movie, you'll enjoy it.
Lots of sensitive portrayals here. This is NOT a Rambo, shoot'em up
type of film. It's a true story about how 511 Americans were rescued
out of a Japanese camp by Phillipinos & Americans but doesn't go the
blood & guts routine. I don't know how James Franco remembered all
those lines he had about direction, maps, instructions, etc! He played
Capt. Prince while Benjamin Bratt played his superior. The tall blonde
was a treat to watch (Connie ?, pardon me for forgetting). I think the
R-rating was given because of the actual war footage shown of dead
& charred bodies. (Horrific & NOT for the squeamish!) This one won't be in my Franco Collection of films simply because one viewing was enough. Probably ANYone could have played the 2 main roles here & the film would've been just as good a history lesson.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
What a very uplifting story! I enjoyed the movie very much. It was pretty true to the story in the book "Ghost Soldiers" by Hampton Sides. I read the book before the movie, and was glad I did. That book is superb with many more details than the movie about all three aspects of the story, i.e., the POWs, the underground in Manila and the countryside, and the raiding party. Just the scene alone about crawling up to the compound is full of details and suspense in the book. The trip back to friendly lines was also very good with many details about problems encountered, including a separate group of bad Phillipino rebels that hindered their return. I thought the acting and rescue scenes in the movie were excellent. I was also very pleasantly surprised by the real-life film footage just before the credits. The book covers that well in the epilogue. Also, the rangers took a film crew with them during the operation, but the film crew could not film the rescue operation itself due to darkness. You could see some of the film taken when they were returning to friendly lines and afterwards.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In January of 1945 a group of 120 men staged the most triumphant and successful rescue mission in U.S. Military history. This is their story. In the epic tradition of Saving Private Ryan and The Thin Red Line, THE GREAT RAID tells a grand story, inspired by true events, filled with both drama and plenty of action. After Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the US was drawn into World War II. The next year, after the Battle of Bataan, our forces were in the Philippines fighting the Japanese. Our men were overwhelmed there, and 70,000 were taken prisoner. It was the largest American army in history to surrender (besides the Civil War). The Japanese led their prisoners on a forced march out of Bataan. Before the "Bataan Death March" was over, those who survived would march more than 60 miles through intense heat with almost no water or food. 15,000 men died in the march alone. The Japanese captors were brutal, abusing their prisoners in an effort to annihilate these men, who they disrespected for surrendering. Some are burned alive in group executions, and others die from the diseases which are running rampant in the camps. Five hundred survivors of the march are transferred to Camp Cabanatuan, and the POWs wait over the next three years, holding onto the faith that their country would not abandon them and allow them all to die in a foreign prison camp. Some try to escape and are caught and executed. Others wait with the unwavering hope that it will end, and they will see their loved ones again. This movie takes place over five days in January of 1945, and tells the story of the daring rescue of those POWs from impending death in the Japanese prison camp, by a group of men with little or no combat experience. We get to see three different points of view as the story progresses - the prisoners rallying all their strength and fortitude to survive, the Filipino underground movement smuggling medicine and food into the camp, and finally the US Army Rangers who attempt the daring rescue. The Great Raid showcases true idealistic heroism, making it a truly moving and satisfying war story. With great historical accuracy, director John Dahl brings this great and often forgotten piece of military history to the screen. With all the war movie staples, but adding one thing: a strong female lead in the action, the nurse in the Philippines risking her life by smuggling supplies in to save the lives of these American GIs. To bring authenticity to this project, the filmmakers enlisted the aid of 22 year Marine Corp veteran, Capt. Dale Dye, as military adviser. He took all the actors out into the isolated jungle and conducted intensive training, starting out with an early morning jog each day for 5-8 miles. With no showers, not that much sleep, and tactical exercise drills, these men went from merely being actors, to being fully competent to portray the real emotions that these characters felt in the movie. As an added bonus on the DVD, real WWII veterans recount the difficult times they personally experienced in the camp during their prolonged stay. Starring Benjamin Bratt (Law & Order), James Franco (Tristan + Isolde), Connie Nielsen (Gladiator) and Joseph Fiennes (Shakespeare in Love). Benjamin Bratt was quite amazing, his acting skills shine, but as for a couple of the unknowns, they were not as good, so that is the only reason why I made it an 8/10. This movie is rated R.
This film was a joy to watch.
I am not going to comment on its accuracy, others on this board do this better than I could. What struck me about the film was its feel. It was like watching one of those war movies I remember as a kid. Straight after the war, many movies were made while the events portrayed were fresh and painful. Often they cut actual wartime footage and newsreels. These movies were the stuff of Sunday afternoons watching the TV with your family. The director must have had the same experiences, because the qualities were the same. The soundtrack with its minimalist touches of brass and strings was very 50/60s too. I was also struck by the inspired casting. Not too many Hollywood pretty boys here. In the camp there were people who looked like they have been through hell, not just a strenuous make-up session.
Thanks to all the cast and crew, for a stunning movie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
...that sparked my interest in researching a little-known rescue action
that was a small but significant part of the WWII campaign to retake
the Philippine Islands from Imperial Japan. I'll definitely be on the
lookout for the books, "Ghost Soldiers," and "The Great Raid on
Cabanatuan," from which the screenplay has been drawn. As others have
mentioned, "The Great Raid" is no "Saving Private Ryan," but it treads
a lot of the same ground in a different theater of that same terrible
conflict, and does so quite effectively.
To digress just a moment, I'm intrigued by the unusually high ratings given this film by female IMDb voters, particularly those under 18 and over 45. I can only guess that a large number of these ladies are Filipinas supporting a film that does such a nice job of depicting the bravery and dedication of the Filipino underground resistance in their cooperative efforts with their American liberators.
Digressing further, I lived in the P.I. for a number of years as a young teenager. The experience gained me an international outlook that most Americans do not have. I was very pleased to see that "The Great Raid" gave the locals their due, refusing to lower itself to typical overwrought Hollywood "patriotism." In these paranoid and parochial post-9/11 days, that is extremely refreshing.
Director John Dahl is probably best known for the Matt Damon/Ed Norton vehicle, "Rounders," and to a lesser extent for his noir-ish films, "Red Rock West" and "The Last Seduction," but he acquits himself well with this very straightforward historical drama. The cast delivers a fine ensemble effort rather than "star" power, and the movie is all the better for it. Compare to when Ted Danson popped up in "Saving Private Ryan"--I almost expected everyone to start singing, "...everyone knows your name." I haven't found a war movie this unobtrusively engaging since "Stalingrad" (a look at the German perspective that I wholeheartedly recommend, btw). Dahl helms a clean and relatively simple staging of a rather grimy and no doubt more complex tale of individual heroism and coordinated derring-do than this film has room to encompass.
I'm somewhat bemused that the film was not shot on location in the Philippines. Politics, no doubt. Cost, possibly. Still, even this once-upon-a-time resident alien found little to question about the film's verisimilitude. I think all I missed was the throng of Jitneys I remember flooding the streets of Manila and its suburbs, and I realize that the Jitney explosion didn't really happen until after the war.
The combat sequences are handled well, and mercifully lacking the faux-documentary shaky-cam cinematography present in so many recent war films. The action is clean and understandable, thanks to some careful exposition, and the firefights are believably realistic without being overly gory. This isn't, after all, a film about the horrors of war so much as a film about the courage and determination that triumphantly overcome those horrors. Kudos to all involved.
I saw one of the finest war film in quite a long time. The Great RAID. The performances were outstanding especially Benjamin Bratt and Connie Nielsen and the true story of the most successful raid in military history of 120 American and Phillipino Soldiers taking on over 10,000 Japanese Soldiers to save over 500 American POW's during the last year of World War II was engrossing and meticulously produced. Kudos also go to the director, cinematographer, editor, and Trevor Rabin for his fine and exciting music score. At a production cost of some 80 million plus and without major stars I figured the money would have had to be spent on Special Effect or technical stuff or the like. Instead what appeared on the screen was a solid, intelligent war story. A must see. If you don't see it at a theater treat yourself and find it on DVD. Well worth your time and money spent.
The Great Raid ***
Here's a piece of advice when watching The Great Raid. Try and forget the flagrant jingoism and stereotypical characterizations on display and enjoy it for what it is.
And that is a good, old-fashioned war picture that, minus the violence, could easily have been made in the 1950s and would have been hailed as "a crackling, flagwaving war programmer".
Inspired by a true story, The Great Raid recounts what is recognized as the biggest single U.S. military rescue mission in history. A total of 511 American captives were rescued from a brutal Japanese POW camp in the Philippines following a highly coordinated surprise raid by U.S and local rebellion forces.
A narrated opening introduces us to the history of the U.S.-Japanese conflict. We then witness first hand the brutality of the Japanese army as they are instructed to eliminate all U.S prisoners as allied forces gain a foothold on the island.
The movie then spends its time intercutting between the plight of the POWs in the camp (led by Joseph Fiennes) and their abuse at the hands of their captors, and the efforts of a steely sergeant and captain (Benjamin Bratt and James Franco) to conduct a daring, 120-man rescue mission to get them out.
Despite the ultimate predictability of the story, it's definitely never boring. That's because director John Dahl (Rounders) wastes little time with extraneous character scenes and pares the story to its gritty essentials. He knows that most of us will have traveled this road before, and focuses on keeping the pacing tight and the suspense palpable.
There's a surprisingly strong female character played by Connie Nielson, as a foreign nurse helping to smuggle medicine into the camp. This forms the basis of an interesting, tense subplot that fits nicely into the main story and actually could have made a good little movie in itself.
There are a few missteps along the way though. The Japanese soldiers are portrayed as one dimensional, sadistic bullies whose sole purpose is to brutalize prisoners and play catch with American bullets. While I wasn't looking for richly developed characters a la Bridge on the River Kwai, the screenwriters could have at least have had one sympathetic Japanse character to identify with.
And with a movie with so many small roles, apart from the main characters it's hard to identify who's who, often resulting in audience whispers of "pssst...who's he again?".
But when the raid finally happens, it's a supremely well executed, adrenaline pumping sequence that only Hollywood can pull off with such thunderous, technical bravado.
When all is said and done, and the raid is over, the movie concludes with some emotional documentary footage of the real-life soldiers and prisoners who took part in the raid taken in the aftermath. In some ways this was more fascinating to watch than the dramatic re-enactment we've just witnessed. I guess it just reinforces the notion that while the real-life mission and the men who took part truly were great, this movie version is merely good.
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