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Sometimes the truth is better than any made-for-Hollywood script. This
movie is about an untested Ranger Battalion who volunteered to go miles
behind enemy lines on Luzon and rescue the remnants of starved American
It left a small part of the book out - how an advanced scout group was able to sneak in right under the Japanese to give an intel report.
But a few hundred Rangers were able to go 30 miles behind enemy lines - come in under night cover - sneak across 800 yards of cleared area around 10,000 Japanese to rescue these men.
This movie certainly honors those soldiers - about a battle that was hardly known to the country before the book was published.
It also honored an American nurse who stayed in Manila - worked with the Philippine underground and smuggled in medicine saving 100s of lives in the concentration camp.
And it is a all true history - the closing credits show films of the actual characters.
Yes, I agree with your comments. It must have been really special when
all those people showed up in San Francisco. Those soldiers felt as if
they had been forgotten and left for dead.
Well, this is a story that needed to be told. I couldn't remember if it was factual, but the stats at the end confirmed that it was.
There was another raid on a civilian camp in the Phillipines. It was on a lake. It was attacked simultaneously from the air, land , and water. There was a movie or a recreation on The History Channel about that one.
Whenever I get a little tired, hot, cold, hungry, I think about those guys in the jungles of Viet Nam, the freezing cold of Korea, or a multitude of discomforts of WWII and I say I can go on. I can do this. Just think about what those guys went through.
This was one of the better war movies I've seen. The characters were
set up; we learned a little back ground about them. The raid was
explained, so we(the viewer) knew what was going to happen. And once
the action took place, you could tell who was who since we got to know
the soldiers in the beginning. The fighting was violent, but there
wasn't many close ups of the actually killings. Not like the violence
in Saving Private Ryan or We Were Soldiers.
I don't understand why this film didn't do better at the box office. I blame it on the marketing of this film, plus, it was released like a low budget independent film, which it really wasn't. I didn't see it until now, but I wanted to watch it at the theater. I was unable to go the first couple of weeks it was out, and by the time I was ready to see it, I couldn't find it at any local theaters. I guess because it didn't have a big name star attached it got buried in the mass of movies released.
Too bad it wasn't given more credit and advertising because it probably was the best movie released last summer.
FINAL VERDICT: Compelling, entertaining, informative war story. One of the best films based on the military action in the Pacific.
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.
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.
I really enjoyed this movie because I felt that I had a personal
connection with the characters. I am half Filipino and understand
On my dad's side of the family, I have relatives that fought that war in the Philippies. On my mother's side, I have relatives who fought in the underground resistance. Many of them were beheaded for helping the Americans.
In addition, this film shows a very personal side to war. It shows the heart and the real reason for war, not the political or military benefits. This is a war movie, yes, but it is also a very touching story of friendship, love, and sacrifice.
This was a Phenomenal movie! I'm a huge fan of WWII and have read Hampton Sides' book "Ghost Soldiers." The movie remained highly accurate to history (except for love story) while being entertaining and also honoring our country's deserving veterans. Most historical movies fudge the plot line in order to make an entertaining film. This film did a wonderful job of keeping with the integrity of the actual story without losing any part of its entertainment value. Those men who participated in this raid and those being rescued are all heroes to the last man. My hat's off to all World War II veterans and all of our Veterans of the Armed Services.
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
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