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Three Came Home (1950)
Well acted and remarkably temperate
Good performances and scripting enhance this tale of hardship and endurance set in a Japanese internment camp in Borneo during World War II. Miss Colbert's performance in particular is always convincing and often riveting. Also noteworthy is Sessue Hayakawa's sensitive portrayal of the outwardly stern but inwardly humane Col. Suga.
Considering that this film was released only five years after the end of World War II, when anti-Japanese feeling was still very much present in the U.S., it's surprising that the horrors of life in Japanese captivity aren't played up more. Several instances of casual and calculated brutality are shown, but there is little here to compare with the shocking (and realistic) scenes in the much more recent film "Paradise Road." And the range of characterizations among the Japanese should be a welcome surprise to those who dismiss wartime and postwar American attitudes as uniformly jingoistic and racist. Yes, some of the Japanese are wantonly cruel, but others are obviously sympathetic to the prisoners, and as noted above, Col. Suga emerges not only as a reasonable commander but also as a noble man who can resist the temptation to take out his own grief and anger on the prisoners. Sadly, there were few men like Col. Suga in the real Borneo camps.
One unfortunate oversight: the action of the film covers almost four years of imprisonment and deprivation, but the prisoners appear just about as well-fed and energetic at the end as when they arrived.