In late 2004, many months before this film was released to the public in August 2005, US Ambassador to the Philippines Frank Ricciardone contacted Miramax producers Harvey and Bob Weinstein, with whom he was acquainted, to request a personal favor. Ambassador Ricciardone asked if the Weinsteins would consent to allow the U.S. Embassy in Manila to hold special screenings of this film during the Embassy's celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Cabanatuan raid. Remarkably, the Weinsteins gave their blessing for the U.S. Embassy to make limited use of the film, an act that had no precedent. Thus, during February 2005, seven months before its public release, the film was screened for a limited audience of both American and Filipino employees of the U.S. Embassy, plus some family members, as well as a select group of people involved in the movie's production (Director John Dahl was present), the Hampton Sides novel that provided some of the film's material (Mr. Sides was present), and the 60th anniversary ceremonies at Cabanatuan. The film was screened at a theater in the Greenbelt 3 Mall at Ayala Center in Makati - the main financial and entertainment district of Manila.
Although he was not among the real-life officers portrayed in the movie, Colonel Arthur "Bull" Simons was a young Army Ranger Captain who took part in the raid on Cabanatuan and was awarded the Silver Star for his actions during the raid. During the height of the Vietnam War, Colonel Simons led the famous raid on Son Tay in an attempt to rescue POWs.
Originally set for a US theatrical release in 2003 and then in 2004; the film was then pushed back indefinitely by Miramax. Two massive waves of layoffs were sustained at the studio, and the Disney-Miramax split reached its height. The movie remained in the Miramax vaults unreleased during this time of uncertainty. When the Disney and Miramax divorce was finally completed, numerous films like this one under the Miramax and Dimension label were finally released theatrically.
The movie was shot in 2002 and pulled from the release schedule several times. It was finally released in August, 2005, by Miramax Films, which was cleaning out its closet ahead of the formal departure of co-founders Bob and Harvey Weinstein from the Walt Disney Co.-owned firm.
This film's opening prologue states: "Inspired by true events." This film's closing epilogue states: "On January 30, 1945, after nearly three years in captivity, 511 POWs were rescued from the Cabanatuan Prison Camp. During the raid, two Army rangers were killed. The Filipino Guerillas suffered 21 casualties. One POW died after being liberated from the camp. Lt. Colonel Henry Mucci was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for valor. Captain Robert Prince was awarded the same honor. President Truman [See: Harry S. Truman] awarded Margaret Utinsky the Medal of Freedom for outstanding heroism and fortitude. The raid on Cabanatuan remains the most successful rescue mission in U.S. military history."
The role of Cesar Montano (as Captain Juan Pajota) was originally offered to Zoren Legaspi who passed the first screening. But Legaspi turned down the project due to his commitment to GMA-7 for a TV soap opera, and that he could not leave his family for a month's shoot in Australia.