Sydney Schanberg is a New York Times journalist covering the civil war in Cambodia. Together with the local journalist Dith Pran, they cover some of the tragedy and madness of the war. When the American forces leave, Dith Pran sends his family with them, but stays behind himself to help Schanberg cover the event. As an American, Schanberg won't have any trouble leaving the country, but the situation is different for Pran; he's a local, and the Khmer Rouge are moving in.Written by
Murray Chapman <email@example.com>
The real Dith Pran went on to work as a celebrated photographer for the New York Times, often speaking out about the Cambodian genocide. He died of pancreatic cancer in 2008 at the age of 65, nursed in his final days by his ex-wife and his best friend, Sidney Schanberg. See more »
When listening to the news on the radio in the French consulate, a bottle of Champagne and a glass are standing on the piano. In the next cut, the bottle and the glass are gone. Another journalist then brings both items to the piano again. See more »
Cambodia. To many westerners it seemed a paradise. Another world, a secret world. But the war in neighboring Vietnam burst its borders, and the fighting soon spread to neutral Cambodia. In 1973 I went to cover this side-show struggle as a foreign correspondent of the New York Times. It was there, in the war-torn country side amidst the fighting between government troops and the Khmer Rouge guerrillas, that I met my guide and interpreter, Dith Pran, a man who was to change my life ...
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Hard to say, but I believe when it comes to the war genre, The Killing Fields manages to edge out even Saving Private Ryan, and without a doubt, there's no better war film out there that's done a better job of capturing the realistic details and emotional loss of the time period (that being, the 70's in Cambodia/Vietnam).
Thus, I've always considered it a little odd that no one I know has even heard of this film. When lists of the greatest war films are decided, I don't believe I've ever seen this film crack any list. And the reason is simple: The Killing Fields is often ignored because it doesn't come from a soldier's point of view, and neither does it feature any adrenaline-pumping battle sequences. The fact that a strong portion of the film (about 2/5's) comes entirely from a Cambodian man's viewpoint might throw off a few viewers here and there. And yet, the film does just as fine a job as any anti-war film in creating a frightenining, chaotic world.
The performances all around superb without exception. Haing S. Ngor, who was tragically killed a few years ago, delivers a riveting, emotionally wrenching turn as the guide who is trapped in Cambodia and forced to fight for his life. He deservingly won the Oscar, though it's a shame he was snubbed for the best actor award. Inarguably, he's the film's central character and he also has more screen time than top-billed Sam Waterston. Despite my complaint on that matter, Waterston is also excellent as the journalist with a guilty conscience.
The Killing Fields is a suspenseful and exhilarating experience, a journey through an apocalyptic landscape that features one shocking image after another. Watch, and you'll see why the film is so acclaimed.
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