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  • My name is Cecilia and being from Manila this film is very personal to me because my grandfather sacrificed his life during WWII. According to eyewitness accounts, he was tied to a post, doused with kerosene and set on fire. I am watching this film to somehow pay tribute to him and those who selflessly gave up their lives to ensure a free and humane future for all of us. I felt though that the film underestimated what we Filipinos really went through during the war. It would have been just to include the other atrocities perpetuated by the Japanese: babies thrown in the air and caught with bayonets, women brutally raped and breasts carved out, or the massacre of approximately 100,000 unarmed and innocent civilians during the battle for the liberation of Manila on the first days of February 1945. Nevertheless, I am grateful for director John Dahl for shedding light on a chapter in our history that many people hardly know about , specially the present generation, The Bataan Death March.
  • I knew almost nothing of this film before I saw it but based on a couple comments I had heard, I went with my dad to see it tonight.

    Some people commented on how slow the movie is during the beginning, and although that is true, it is there to give you time to develop a story and actual care about the characters. This is definitely not a movie for people with near zero attention spans from the MTV Generation.

    This movie also doesn't rely on gimmicks such as CGI or what I call "shaky camera syndrome" where the filmmakers insist on making the audience nauseous by running around with handy-cams (ala Bourne Supremacy).

    I really enjoyed the story and thought all the roles were well acted. The final raid scene is amazing. They did a really good job of explaining exactly what they wanted to do beforehand and when it actually happened, you understood where everyone was running to and what they were trying to accomplish.

    Excellent movie, and highly recommended. Definitely one of the best movies so far of the year, I'm just sad that almost no one has heard about it and the movie has received so little promotion. I doubt this picture will even make $20 million here.

    And one more thing, I thought it was a very tasteful and respectful thing to do at the end during the credits where they showed archival footage of the real soldiers being rescued.
  • While Hollywood has gone after the Nazis and the European campaign in World War II over and over again, ad nauseam, little has been produced depicting the Pacific Theatre or the thousands of Americans and others who perished there.

    In fact, only a handful of motion pictures have touched on the subject over the last two decades, namely Steven Spielberg's "Empire of the Sun," Terrance Malik's "The Thin Red Line," and the Nicolas Cage bomb, "Windtalkers." The best film in this genre was probably 1957's "Bridge On The River Kwai," which won Oscars for David Lean and Alex Guinness, among others, but that was almost 50 years ago.

    Now John Dahl ("Rounders," "Joyride," the TV series "Tilt") has shed some light on a little-known rescue attempt in the waning days of the conflict in the Philippine Islands. "The Great Raid" is a fine little film, smart, patriotic and fairly historically accurate.

    The film begins with a crisp narration (accompanied by actual film footage) of the quick successes of the Imperial Japanese Army in the days following Pearl Harbor. Gen. Douglas MacArthur - thanks to Roosevelt's decision to devote more to the European effort through the Lend-Lease to Churchill program - is forced to evacuate the Philippines and retreat to Australia.

    Meanwhile, thousands of American troops are trapped by the swift-moving Japanese forces on the islands of Bataan and Corrigidor and are compelled to surrender. While WWII German brutality is everywhere in motion picture, few have addressed the stark horrors of the Bataan Death March. Even this movie skirts the terror with a simple voice-over in filling in the background story of a group of surviving prisoners held for over three years.

    Receiving word of mass killing of American POWs by the Japanese, top brass in the Pacific orders a raid on a camp still behind enemy lines, led by Army Ranger Lt. Col. Mucci (Benjamin Bratt, "Law & Order) and Capt. Prince (James Franco, "Spiderman," "Spiderman 2").

    Military minutia abounds with the planning and execution of the assault, which pits a handful of rangers against over 200 battle-hardened Japanese troops, led by sadistic Maj. Nagai (Motoki Kobiyashi).

    The movie also shows the strong relationship between the Americans and Filipinos which was not the greatest in the years after the Spanish-American War, but was cemented against the common Nipponese enemy. Nice composition between rangers, prison camp and the occupied capital of Manilla, where civilian nurse Margaret Utinsky (Connie Nielson, "Gladiator," "One Hour Photo")is working with the Filipino underground resistance.

    This is no "Saving Private Ryan," and the acting sometimes leaves a bit to be desired, but the strength of the story, the fact it was inspired by true events, and the historical importance of the film, make this one a must-see, even for casual fans of the genre. It will not make much money, but it was very important that it was made.
  • Old fashioned movie with an ensemble cast instead of A list powered star who uses the movie as a vehicle to command top dollar is rare these days in Hollywood. That's why this movie worked. They assembled a great cast of fine, top notched actors together from the USA and the Philippines but no "superstar". They all portrayed their characters and meshed out the story without any modern day politicking and criticism. I don't know about you but that is truly refreshing in this day and age of movies.

    I'd recommend this movie to anyone. Major criticisms seem to be that there's no deep complex characters and no protagonist. I think that is a positive for this movie because the POWs are the main characters themselves. The men and women just did what needed to be done for their countrymen and their country. There was deep motivation because someone had been scarred when they were 15 and thus acts this way. Most of the characters are real life people and you can't focus on one or two characters like in a fictional story that someone wrote.

    It's too bad this movie won't do well at the office because it doesn't cater to the teens and their expendable income. The limited wide release also won't help it but I know for those who watch it they'll be touched. They'll know that there were and are sacrifices being made to ensure that the country they live in are safe and protected.
  • This was a great film, and a nice escape to reality from all the superhero, fantastical, and over-hyped movie star fare we've gotten this summer.

    The biggest accolade I can offer this flick is that it sticks to history in ways rarely seen in Hollywood films, and even then it's not dry or boring, not inaccessible to those not particularly versed in history. It shows beautifully how exciting and thrilling real history can be. The liberties it takes aren't too offensive (I can't say much without spoiling the story, but although the "romance" in this film didn't exist, it's not particularly gratuitous or hard to believe, and there were many wartime romances between people who met in the occupied Philippines), but on a whole they valiantly stuck to the stories. It doesn't revel in clichés or surrender to the cheap thrill of pyrotechnics, which so many war films do. Since it looks to true events for inspiration, there's a happy lack of predictibility and "been there, done that". Not to say that there are any talk-of-the-summer plot twists, but it keeps you on your toes because you're dealing with life, and is often surprising. The film brings you down to the level of its characters, and it doesn't treat you like an outsider.

    As a Filipino American and history buff, I was thrilled and proud to see so many Filipino actors in the film (particularly the wonderful -- and gorgeous -- Cesar Montano) and to finally see this little known but mammoth part of WWII recalled on such a public scale. The film takes place over 5 days in January, as the Rangers prepare to take the camp. Its three interconnected story lines -- the prisoners in Cabanatuan, the Rangers, and the underground movement in Manila (including a nurse played by Nielsen who smuggles in Quinine to prisoners) -- give a fairly accurate and well rounded portrait of the landscape of war in the Philippines, although by the end of the film you do feel as if you've only seen the tip of the iceberg.

    The acting is lovely. There aren't any "Oscar" scenes or the like, just solid ensemble acting, and the leads, Benjamin Bratt, James Franco, Cesar Montano, and Connie Nielsen, are excellent for what they're given. The writing doesn't try to over-dramatise or "soapify" anything, it stays level headed and just plays. It felt a lot like a less ridiculous "Gettysburg" or a much tamer "Black Hawk Down" or a much MUCH shorter "The Longest Day". Surprisingly, for a war film, there are relatively few "what I'm here for" speeches, which is refreshing. The ones it does have aren't particularly irksome or obnoxious. It's not particularly violent (except for the unnerving opening scene -- a recreation of the Palawan massacre -- and one scene in the camp, I'd have given it a PG-13 rating), but it IS disturbing. And although they hardly began to show the full extent of the atrocities committed, the point is made clear, heartrendingly I might add. Two scenes, involving Filipino underground workers and another at the camp, had me in tears.

    Honestly, this is NOT for people looking for a testosterone fueled action flick. The action is strictly historical (except for a hand to hand fight at the end which I doubt happened). At times it feels like a documentary, and other times it's like watching a memoir. Neither is this film the "rah rah" flag waving fest the advertising makes it out to be (thank goodness). In fact it pays great homage to the work of the Philippine people, underground resistance (a portion of the film which seemed a bit out of place in the film but which had me enamored and on edge), and guerilla fighters, all of which touched me deeply. As a Hollywood studio film goes, it's an academic, nearly blow by blow accounting of the events surrounding the raid on the Cabanatuan prison camp, but because of the nature of the story and not because of empty manipulation, it is intense, inspiring, and exciting. Don't expect the next "Paths of Glory" or "Bridge on the River Kwai" or that calibre of film-making, but I hope that this does well because in its own way it's different from so much of the mindnumbing junk that is out there, it attempts to portray a war story smartly, chose to tell a story that doesn't spell out big money, and without being overbearingly in-your-face patriotic, it pays homage to and shares the experiences of the American and Filipino men and women who endured the hell that was World War II in the Philippines.
  • The Great Raid ----- August 12, 2005, a review by Teresita "Terry" Bautista

    Berkeley, CA – In the near-empty Shattuck Cinema, I gave myself the birthday gift of watching The Great Raid on opening night. This film, a chronicle of early 1945 events in The Philippines, has been highly anticipated in the U.S. Filipino Community, mostly by those of us who are fighting to achieve full equity for our Veteranos.

    My mom, aunt and uncle joined me, as the initial documentary footage validated the historical scenes of war and resistance, as if you were there over 60 years ago. As expected, my mom made constant commentary throughout the film, as the scenes brought back, often frightening, memories. Anxiously, she recounted in soft whispers of her bout with malaria, which meant sure death, until her father decided she would not be left behind, as they ran every day to escape the Japanese. Like the film's prisoner of war, quinine was the saving prescription for my mom's malaria-stricken body.

    The Great Raid is an army flick, similar to the scores I've seen in the past 50 years. Less melodramatic, though powerful in its interpretation of the human condition during war, the movie takes you into a POW camp where 500 detainees eke out survival under the Japanese flag. The acting was understated and reflected deep agony and despair without the flair of cinema-edged bravado. No John Waynes or Anthony Quinns in this version. The casting was done with a sense of nuance for each of the heroic personas.

    The subplots were gripping. The valiant efforts of the underground that smuggled medicine to the ill and dying prisoners; the array of authority figures in the military who made heart-rending decisions about strategy and tactics; the rescue mission that galvanized a unit of 120 special rangers who had yet to see the extreme fires of combat; the unlikely relationships that bound survivors in their fate.

    Some high points of the painful, two and a half- hour mendacity tensed you to the edge of your seat ----- the brutality of the Japanese, not withstanding the execution of ten prisoners for one escapee; the burning funeral of a hundred Filipinos, many of them women and children villagers, near the Cabanatuan Prison; the spectacular, surprise invasion of the Japanese camp; the courage of the Filipino Guerrilas and their exemplary warrior spirits led by Captain Pajota, as their steeled defense of a bridge held the Japanese and their tanks captive and effectively severed an avenue of retaliations to the explosions and attack in their war camp.

    The sacrifices of the fighting forces to liberate the Philippines were stark and many. The younger generations, especially those of Filipino descent, are urged to see what their homeland heroes were made of. This long war was waged in face-to-face, hand-to-hand combat with bravery for duty and beyond.

    I went to see this as a way of honoring my dad, a U.S. Army private, who survived WWII, found his war bride, and fathered his first-born. I have deep respect and admiration for those like my Pop, who still live to tell their stories, who today are still struggling for full recognition of shed blood, sweat, and tears, at a time where their homeland joined the world's battlefields.

    WWII Filipino Veterans soldiers deserve Full Equity Now!

  • This film expertly balances the need for authenticity with the need for compelling drama. It starts out great, slows slightly in the middle, and finishes off with the best filmed action sequence I have ever seen. The raid itself is choreographed and paced perfectly, so that the viewer understands exactly what is happening, why it is happening and who is doing it. Many aspects of this film have never been done before in a war movie. The craft is also expertly balanced - the film looks, sounds and feels accurate and not bounded by Hollywood conventions. Simply put, it will go down as one of the very best modern war films, among those who can tell when a film is exceptional.
  • I feel that this is an important film for people to see regarding the little known but most impressive rescue attempt made during WWII. I went with some friends who enjoyed it very much also and considering that we were women going to see a war movie, we did not know what to expect. We were treated to a satisfying and moving entertainment experience and also learned new things about what the previous generation had to go through. We already know about the horrors of war and it was moving to see the heroic exploits undertaken by some very brave men to save their comrades from Japanese annihilation. There were good character developments as well as action sequences. THe newsreel and actual footage that bookends the film add to its impact as one can compare the actual characters with their counterparts in the film. History classes in schools should be taken to see the film.
  • After the American evacuation of the Philippines following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, thousands of American servicemen were abandoned to the Japanese enemy, finding themselves facing brutal conditions in Japanese POW camps, and feeling forgotten by their country. "The Great Raid" is the portrayal of a rescue mission to save five hundred of those POWs at the Cabanatuan camp before they're killed by their captors, as the Americans begin to close in during the closing days of the war.

    As far as I can recall there haven't been very many movies depicting conditions in Japanese POW camps. "Bridge On The River Kwai" springs to mind, but this is the only other one I think I've come across. It's always hard to judge the accuracy of how the enemy is portrayed in a movie like this. In this case, though, we do know that the Japanese were in fact brutal captors. Surrender was the ultimate dishonour, and prisoners, therefore, were seen as deserving of neither honour nor respect. The conditions portrayed in the camp, therefore, were believable and probably historically accurate.

    The portrayal of camp conditions is one of the highlights of the movie. The other is the actual raid carried out. It was portrayed in great detail and, again, in a very believable way. The basic problem with this movie, though, is that it repeatedly seems to get bogged down. Frankly, when the movie strays from those two subjects it just isn't that interesting, and all the various sidebars end up making this longer than it needed to be. The character of Margaret Utinski (played by Connie Nielsen) was especially problematic. Utinski was a real person - and a winner of the Medal of Honour - but there are historical questions about her life, and there was certainly no romance involved in her actions, as is suggested throughout the movie.

    Aside from Nielsen, the cast were fine, but in all honesty no one stood out to me as outstanding. As I've suggested, there are certainly aspects of this movie that make it worthwhile viewing, but it certainly can't be mistaken for a masterpiece. (6/10)
  • THE GREAT RAID does everything right, on all levels, especially by framing itself with real footage from those times which, in some cases, features the actual events and participants. The acting is uniformly excellent, the pacing is flawless, and the historical context does not short-change any aspect of the story, be it cruelty and horror in war or bravery and nobility in suffering or even dignity and honor in combat. This is in many ways a movie made the way they used to make movies, but without the rah-rah patriotism or sneering social commentary. What it brings home simply by presenting the story in a straightforward manner is what we used to be capable of, what we once were and stood for, and what we fought against, and why. To be reminded of this is sobering, if not harrowing. Definitely one of the best movies my family and I have seen in a long time, it's recommended whole- heartedly for everyone. And Benjamin Bratt turns in a mature, restrained performance that marks him for great things on the big screen.
  • In terms of lasting value, I believe The Great Raid is one of the best films to have graced the screen this year. It's a straightforward war movie about unsung heroes. The story involves the basic facts of a Japanese POW camp which was liberated near the end of the Japanese occupation of the Phillipines. American soldiers and Phillipino resistance fighters teamed up to chance a daring raid on the heavily guarded camp. Fictional elements are added to the story, such as a surprisingly compelling love story, and believable explorations of friendships among both prisoners and fighters.

    The script is good, the acting and editing superb, and the photography is very good. The film is violent, but does not wallow in flying guts and body parts as has been the recent fashion. Nothing flashy, nothing overwhelming, just solid craftsmanship. This is a film which is less concerned with making an impression than it is with telling a story, and I found that very refreshing. In my opinion, the film succeeds completely in telling its simple story and will likely be recognized for years to come as one of the better war films of recent times. All of the acting in this film is excellent, but watch for the standout performances from Marton Csokas, Joseph Fiennes, James Franco and Connie Nielsen.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I am Don, a Filipino. It is not every time that you see a movie where we Filipinos fight with Americans and at the same time play an important role. I just hope this film will clear our country of being called "The sick man of Asia". I just hope that after you watch this movie, you will see how we fought the Japanese with just our own ingenuity. Australia and New Zealand has banned Philippines from their tourist spots thereby contributing to the already ailing Filipino economy-which gets most of its dollar income from tourists. I guess this is how their "great" countries repay us for delaying the Japanese invasion-which could have reached them if the Philippines just caved in to the Japanese. Have they forgotten that it was because of our raped Filipino women, impaled children, and beheaded and/or butchered men were the reasons why they are so "great" now? Foreigners ask us why can't we rise from our past like the Japanese. We Filipinos usually just bow down and think solemnly of the past and say to ourselves "How can we?! When all of our gold were taken by Japan?!". How unjust it is that the world just treats our country with such disgust when it is the Philippines who endured the most for them so that they can have the liberty and abundance that they are enjoying now.

    I just want to add a spoiler here. I was so filled with emotion when Capatain Pajota faced the tank with just the submachine gun - knowing the bomb might not work and that he could have been ripped or blown away by the tank rounds. I applaud the people behind this movie for not cutting that part for it is a revelation of the bravery of the Filipino. I could just remember the time when our troops were pulled out of Iraq because two of our fellowmen were hostages. Our president pulled them out. It would create political instability if she did not do so. We are not cowards. We can fight anyone carrying a laser gun with just our fists. We can find Bin Laden and hunt him down with our rangers for days,months even carrying only a tin can for water supply and just using a rusted Enfield or a worn down M1Garand. Our rangers in Mindanao battle the terrorists knowing they will die on that day because of insufficient armor and bullets. The Filipino rangers' only defense is their superb knowledge of the terrain. Our rangers count the trees and even know their location thereby making them immune to traps or landmines. We Filipinos are not cowards. I hope when you watch this film you will have a different view of us. That we deserve the proper respect and acknowledgment. We are the proud Filipino - and we have been fighting foreigners off our land for five hundred years now...and you know what-- we are still fighting foreigners off our land.

    It is not because Philippines was backward that's why it was colonized and invaded... it is because the Philippines was colonized and invaded over and over again that's why the Philippines is backward.
  • rgourdeau13 February 2007
    I was very young when my Uncle Joseph Morin ( U.S.N.) came home from the war and Japanese prison camp. He was in the Bataan march and spent all of the war in a prison camp. Some of the things he told me were seen in this movie . He said that the Japanese soldiers were brutal. He very seldom talked about his years in the camps, but I know he suffered a lot. I enjoyed the movie an I hope that the American people never forget what happened .

    I noticed all of the whip marks on his back and , he also lost his sight. When he was captured he weight over 240 lbs, we he came home he was at 130 lbs.

    Bob Gourdeau, Georgia
  • I saw a preview in Michigan, last Monday. I liked the love story. As mentioned in the former comment, the graphics, scenery, etc. were excellent. I thought the actors were great. I especially liked the music; I thought it matched the movie well. The movie was realistic, profound and inspiring; I was impressed. Additionally, my fiancé (who has a degree in history), his sister, and my brother, also thought the movie was exceptional. The director was there after the showing I went to as well, and one thing that stands out that he said was that war veterans, in general, are reluctant to tell about themselves and their heroics, as they felt that they were simply doing their duty. Especially after seeing the movie, I think it is even more important for war veterans and heroes alike, to come forward with their extraordinary stories, to inspire us all, and to remind us that there are honorable people out there. Thank you to everyone who has served our country!
  • This movie should be required viewing for high school history students. The R rating is for disturbing scenes of violence and torture, but the scenes are necessary to tell the story. Unfortunately, war is brutal and dangerous. It's important to educate young people of the true aspects of combat. This movie shows the realities of life both within a group of elite Army rangers given a daring, overwhelming rescue assignment and life within a Japanese POW camp in the Phillipines, survivors of the atrocities of the Bataan Death March who've felt both abandoned by their country and hopeful of rescue. Also depicted is the courage and faithfulness of the Phillipine underground. This film leaves you with an understanding of the quest for glory that has nothing to do with fame.
  • I am a former US military historian and had the opportunity on Saturday evening to view an advanced screening of The Great Raid. The screenplay was based on two books: William Breuer's "The Great Raid on Cabanatuan" and Hampton Sides' "Ghost Soldiers."

    It is January 1945. The U.S. Sixth Army has landed in Luzon in the Philippines and is advancing upon Manila. The retreating Japanese Army are under orders from Tokyo to kill all the prisoners of war they hold. The Japanese do not respect those who surrender and also do not want the POWs to testify to the many Japanese war crimes committed from the invasion onward. Early on the movie, we are shown the real life war atrocity at an island POW camp where Americans are forced into air raid shelters and then immolated.

    The Sixth Army's commanding officer, General Kreuger (Vietnam veteran Dale Dye, Captain, USMC (Ret), who was the film's military adviser) has intelligence from "stay behinds" (Americans who fled into the hills after the surrender) and Philippine guerrillas that the Cabanatuan POWs are in grave jeopardy as the Sixth Army closes in.

    Kreuger turns to Lieutenant Colonel Henry Mucci (Benjamin Bratt, commander of the 6th Ranger Battalion. Unlike other Ranger battalions, Mucci's Rangers are untested, comprised primarily of soldiers who came to the Pacific Theater of Operations as animal handlers. Mucci has trained his men well though and yearns for a mission where they can prove themselves.

    Mucci selects Captain Bob Prince (James Franco), a young Stanford graduate, to plan and lead the raid on Cabantuan. Though Mucci tells Prince that the Captain will lead the raid, Mucci is to accompany Prince and his 120 volunteers on the mission, causing frictions along the way.

    Meanwhile, at Cabantuan, the remaining 500+ POWs are in the worst state, the healthier ones having been moved to work forced labor elsewhere in Japanese territory. The POWs are led by Major Gibson (Joseph Fiennes) who is racked with malaria. He does his best to keep his men disciplined and away from the wrath of their sadistic Japanese captors. Gibson's best friend is Captain Redding (Marton Csokas), a man who admits to no friends except the Major and who plans of escaping despite the Japanese threat to kill ten POWs for every man who tries to escape.

    In Manila, Margaret Utinsky (Connie Nielsen) is an American nurse with a forged Lithuanian passport working with the Filipino underground. She is part of a smuggling ring that is getting needed medicines into Cabantuan. She was married to a friend of Gibson who later died. Gibson and Utinsky carry the torch for each other and wonder if they will ever be reunited.

    Thus, the movie moves on three fronts: Mucci and Prince and the 120 Rangers who must cross 30 miles of enemy held territory to Cabantuan amidst thousands of Japanese soldiers; Gibson and the POWs at the camp; and Utinsky and the Filipino underground.

    Some critics have complained that the movie is a bit slow and talky. This is true in the early going but it is absolutely necessary to establish the conditions the POWs were living under and the acts of brutality and torture that occurred not only to the POWs but the Filipino resistance. You cannot understand just how important the raid is until you understand what is happening to the POWs and what horror is to come. That said, the unrequited love story between Gibson and Utinsky was unnecessary and tacked on 30 minutes to the movie.

    The Filipino and Filipino-American community should love this movie as it portrays their people in a very positive light. Prince's Rangers are dependent upon Captain Juan Pajota, a skilled guerrilla leader who scouts and leads the Rangers into enemy territory, and then is tasked with holding off several thousand Japanese troops while the Americans raid the camp.

    The desire for historical accuracy is also very impressive in this film. For example, Cabantuan curiously featured a few British POWs, gathered in from British possessions in Southeast Asia. One minor character is shown with an accent. There is the "stay behind" American officer. Most impressive is the inclusion of the Alamo Scouts, a little known Army long-range reconnaissance unit that helped scout the camp in preparation for the raid. Weapons appear to be accurate--the Filipinos with older M1928 Thompsons and water-cooled .30 caliber machine guns and the Japanese even carrying Japanese arms (rare for Hollywood). We are even shown a Japanese Banzai Charge--a suicidal rush of soldiers with bayonets, successful against a poor Chinese Army in the 1930s, but not so successful against the American forces.

    I read Sides' book and the plot hews very closely to the real-life events. In reality, this is a 3 1/2 star movie but the detail to historical accuracy is worth another 1/2 star. It is the best movie I have seen in what is an admittedly poor year for Hollywood. It should do very well in Red State America. Maybe even in Blue States: at the end of the film, newsreel footage of the actual Rangers and POWs is shown as the credits roll. Only one person that I could see got up to leave. Almost the entire audience stayed until this segment was over.

    This movie is patriotic and not politically correct. The Japanese military police are portrayed as they were: sadistic, brutal, and cold.

    If you watch this entirety of this movie, with the Rangers storming the camp and carrying the emaciated POWs on their shoulders and don't feel proud to be an American, then you're just a Communist.

    **** out of ****
  • Problems with this film:

    1) Joseph Fiennes is supposed to be a great leader of men, the last bastion of American authority in a Japanese POW camp. But he's always sick, and the only guy he interacts with is his buddy. He writes his girlfriend that "my love for you is all that makes me strong, and that strength makes the men strong...", but he ignores everyone, and hardly ever gets out of bed!

    2) The journey to the camp by the rescue team is drummed up as a glorious, seat-of-your-pants epic. And then suddenly they're just there, no problem. Actually, they set up a base half a mile from the camp and pore leisurely over maps, discussing their plan of attack.

    3) The Japanese camp commandant becomes the Terminator at the end, darting out from underneath huts, smirking maniacally.

    4) You keep hoping and praying you won't have to hear the letter Joseph Fiennes' girlfriend writes him. Then, at the end, the voice-over of the extraordinarily long, clichéd letter begins---and you realize that God doesn't exist.

    5) Benjaminn Bratt as the hard-as-nails platoon leader. You wouldn't follow this man into a Baskin Robbins, let alone a Japanese POW camp.

    6) Complete, entire lack of suspense.

    Want a good war movie you may not have seen? Try Stanley Kubrick's "Paths of Glory". Leave this mulch-heap alone.
  • It's very rare to make a modern movie about WWII and truly capture the feeling of the time period. Many post-1945 war movies couldn't get away from the "We won!" relief and glossed over the intense fear and uncertainty that everyone around the world felt during the war. When you watch a movie that was made during the war years, you can smell the desperation from the actors and filmmakers. The Great Raid feels like it was made in the early '40s, but that the studio splurged on the budget and filmed it in Technicolor. The actors don't throw in any modern mannerisms, the camera doesn't use fancy tricks that remind the audience they're watching a movie, and the suspense is real. When the dangerous rescue mission is announced to the battalion, you fully expect several of the soldiers, if not everyone, to be killed. This is a war movie that doesn't gloat about the outcome but instead manages to instill the audience-who do know that the Allies eventually triumph-with enough uncertainty that it seems possible the war will not be won. With exception to the spurting blood when bullets were fired, I felt that I was watching a movie from 75 years ago.

    Given the title, and my lengthy introduction, I'm sure you can tell that the main plot of this movie is a rescue mission. In an incredibly moving opening sequence, James Franco narrates a bit of history to immerse the audience in the events leading up to the movie's exact timing, while real black-and-white footage of the war and POW camps is shown. When the modern actors take over, there's a very slow saturation of color into the film, and it perfectly slides the audience into the transition. We're introduced to an American training camp in the Pacific, led by Lt. Col. Benjamin Bratt, as well as some of the sickly prisoners in the camp to be raided, Joseph Fiennes and Martin Csokas. From my perspective, I was far more interested in the logistics of the raid, but I'm sure there are many audience members far more interested in the personal stories of the prisoners; the balance of screen time will please every viewer. As the film progresses, there's also a third subplot introduced and tied in: Connie Nielson is a nurse who risks her life to smuggle medicine into POW camps.

    John Dahl's direction is intense and subtle. He doesn't rely on handheld camera to build up tension, but instead lets the actors show how frightened they are without any added tricks. Rent any war movie from the first half of the 1940s-Gung Ho!, Wake Island, They Were Expendable, Objective, Burma!-and you'll understand that a camera can sit on a tripod and show the audience more tension than any spinning, shaking modern technique ever can. There's a great scene in which the battalion approaches a road through the tall weeds. Japanese tanks make for heavy traffic, and the soldiers are crouching in the weeds hoping they won't be seen. In another straightforward scene, the action speaks for itself: the Americans are advancing and waiting at night by a river at the bottom of a hill. Japanese troops are marching above them, and one soldier trots down the hill to refill his water canteen. Everything is still and quiet, letting the audience feel that they're hiding alongside the actors. I've seen too many modern movies that try to jazz things up for their viewers, but it's unnecessary.

    If you scan the cast list and aren't very impressed, rent this movie and get ready to change your mind. I was enormously impressed with everyone's performance. Joseph Fiennes isn't given much to do besides lay in his bed sick with malaria, but his illness is very convincing. Connie Nielson shows that even the tough risktakers can get terribly frightened. If you think James Franco is just pretty to look at, you'll be very surprised by this different role for him. He's the director of the raid, and in the buildup to his explanation, you can see the wheels turning in his head as he worries about his men and the likelihood that they'll be successful. When he finally does explain the plan and draws a diagram in the dirt, he's extremely clear and thorough. It's a wonderful scene. He outlines timing, platoon advances, backup squads in case of failure, and coordination of the entire battalion working off each other. The way he explains it is so vivid, the audience knows exactly what to expect and can follow along without any confusion when the time comes.

    And finally, there's the most impressive cast member of all, Benjamin Bratt. In silver screen films, many times the leading actors had fought in the war-Robert Montgomery, Clark Gable, Tyrone Power, Henry Fonda, Brian Donlevy, etc. Their experience not only drew audiences to the theaters, but it also showed on their faces that they'd seen the horrors of the battlefield. While there are less actors who are also veterans in modern cinema, many actors in military movies pretend to be tough rather than experienced. Benjamin Bratt was tough and experienced; it seemed like he'd been to war. He was constantly tired but didn't allow his energy to lag for the sake of the mission and his men. He may not have experienced that particular raid, but he'd lived through so many missions he knew he wouldn't run into anything he hadn't seen before. He'd said goodbye to his friends, he'd seen death come slowly and quickly, he'd killed, he'd seen plans go terribly wrong, he'd had to improvise, he'd been successful and regretful-and he was never given a monologue to tell the audience about his background. His eyes said it all.

    It's shameful that this movie was not only a box office bomb but panned by most critics. This is one of the great war movies of the modern era. I've read the criticism, and it was not only ridiculous but heartbreaking. Describing this movie as "boring" and "a noble failure" makes me wonder what movie these critics actually watched. The Great Raid is exciting and incredibly moving. It makes you proud that America fought in World War II.
  • Having read "Ghost Soldiers" I was interested in seeing this movie but on opening day not a single theater in my county was running it. Eventually a Regal theater in the next town had it and I went to a matinée where every other moviegoer (all 15 of them) was over the age of 75. No, this isn't a moneymaker, but it is a salute the greatest generation....

    Of course that's why the professional reviews were so poor. Professional reviewers today are not of the greatest generation, they're of the 60s generation. The 60s generation condemns the film as "propoganda" with "negative Japanese stereotypes", when the reality is Japanese brutality was much more horrific than shown in this film. I'm sure the use of the word "Jap" in the film also made them cringe. (As an aside, it's Japanese-Americans who are on a crusade to rid the world of the term, not Japanese.) In my opinion, this film is better than Saving Private Ryan and Thin Red Line. It's the best American made Pacific War film I have scene since Empire of the Sun. Read one of the books on which the film is based and then go see it. The differences are minimal.

    This movie should be required viewing in all high school classrooms.
  • Just returned from an early screening.

    I read "Ghost Soldiers", and I think that the producers of this movie did a very good job of keeping the film as close to the actual story as is possible under the limitations of cinematic limitations.

    As a New Mexican with family and friends who were at Batann and in the Death March (some survived, some didn't), and a former NM National Guardsman, I have always had a keen interest in this and any WWII Pacific Theater story.

    There were many New Mexicans at Bataan, and they still honor them to this day there. I drove down Bataan Blvd. outside of Santa Fe to drill for years.

    The father of my mother's best childhood friend was a Colonel in the NM National Guard (200th Coastal Artillery) who died in a camp there, and the father of my own best friend, who had never had a cavity in his life, lost all his teeth in a Japanese camp, and my uncle escaped capture and fought with the Filipino guerrillas for years.

    In today's poly-cultural, politically correct world, Hollywood types don't usually like these kinds of stories, because they shine the light on another culture's brutality, so bravo to Ben Bratt. He does an admirable job of portraying Ltc. Mucci. I'm not familiar with the other actors, but they all did a great job. I'm surprised this movie was ever even made, let alone released (even if it was released late).

    All in all, I think it's a great movie. I'm going to buy it as soon as possible and make my 19-year old daughter watch it. If kids her age could fight, she can certainly watch a movie about it.
  • This is a movie which fails on all levels: Directing, Actors, Storyboard, Music, Camera What a waste of money to produce such a movie.

    Directing: this is the worst directing I have seen for years; a good story wasted with bad directing, the people whether in the POW camp or in the camp of the ranger supposedly to free the Prisoners of War (POW) are all depressive; as director you show the clash between the two parties, one who are the heroes rescuing others, full of motivation, vs those in the prison - but no, this main theme is wasted.

    Actors: James Franco from Spiderman 1+2, bad actor, unclear speaking, uninspired, other actors are either 2nd or 3rd class actors, just bad. With a bad director those figures never deliver anything convincing, those who made the movies have no clue of human behavior in such circumstances they tried to portray. Captains or Ltl, all are portrays with hollow personalities. The prisoners look sad, depressed, but it never touches me, why, because I don't believe them - good actors convince me.

    Storyboard: good moments are wasted for nothing, the whole happens at sunset, and then during the dark night - near sunset they rub on the ground toward the POW camp, after the sun has set (not showing the slowness of the actual sunset), all of the sudden it's dark, and people watch of their watches for the start of the raid, the entire suspense of getting closer to the POW camp during sunset is not used to show the challenge in that, neither we are shown really how the troops actually reach the fences, because we just see darkness . . . I rarely have seen such a bad storyboard, where moments to portray depth is wasted, instead banalities are captured on celluloid or digital hard-disk.

    Music: it's nice, but it's way too dramatic for the bad performance of the movie, and the music is completely out of sync of what's happening on the screen; heroic music meanwhile the raid is over, but all the prisoners still have to walk to the next village, instead of a sunrise, it's still dark, and the whole situation anything but clear, we hear fanfare - man, I can't believe how misplaced music can be.

    Camera: this cameraman I would have fired after 10 mins, this is a blunt beginner, there are no closeups, none, people are seen like from distance, no emotion, no intimacy, that's what the entire movie is lacking, it is not convincing. The camera shows and hovers around where nothing is to be shown, great moments (from the storyboard) are not capture, missed, wasted.

    To summarize: this is a bad movie in disguise - and those soldiers whose story should be told are ashamed of such a bad movie supposedly glorify their "raid". This story is worth to be told, but NOT THIS WAY.
  • This word today about the JAPS sounds very cruel and offensive to the Japanese people, but during the War Years during WW II in the Pacific this word was used in most American Newspapers and spoken about during this horrible war with a nation that killed and raped many people in Nanking, China. In this film many of U.S. Service Men are trapped in a Japanese Concentration Camp who inflicted horrible tortures and slaughter hundreds of American Soldiers and women who are treated worse than animals. America makes every effort to find these lost prisoners of war and is horrified how the Japanese soldiers treated our people and make a great effort to free all these prisoners. However, it took many men and women lives in order to accomplish this mission. This is a great picture which still remembers all the men and women who gave their lives to fight back at the mistreatment of American soldiers. GREAT FILM.
  • I went to the LA Premier of this movie last night and I must say it was AWESOME. The movie did great justice to the book, "Ghost Soldiers". Additionally, it was a great "War" movie without going too far over the line with blood and guts.

    Throughout the movie, you feel as if you're actually "in the camp" hoping, waiting, and wishing for relief to arrive. These heroes are portrayed not only in a positive but realistic light of what obstacles needed to be overcome to accomplish the mission.

    This is a great movie for all to see with a great story of how strong the human spirit really is.
  • tango020 September 2005
    This movie is one of the best I've recently seen. When I first sat down and the movie started, I thought "this is no Saving Private Ryan". And it isn't. But, it is not far from it. The action is very good, the acting believable, and the sense of truth is definitely there. Unfortunately (at least here in Boca Raton, Fl), the movie theatres downplayed it, the critics barely reviewed it and gave it not-so-good reviews and it was barely in the theater. If you saw it you were one of the lucky ones. My wife who doesn't really like this kind of film, came out of the theater and stated,"That was a wonderful movie". Boy, was I shocked. To hell with these over-paid "professional" critics and do yourself a favor. Judge a film by your standards. GO see this film. You won't be sorry. I can't wait to see it on DVD.
  • I saw a sneak preview last Saturday night. The first time in years where I have been to a movie which was applauded at the end by the audience. Will be in the running for "Best Picture" and may take home several Oscar's. Minus the gore of "Saving Private Ryan" yet realistic and seemingly factual with an intertwined love story. It is a must see on the big screen. My girlfriend wants us to see it again...! There are a few sequences that even non-military viewers will be scratching their heads from a military tactical and logistics point of view. I don't want to give away any scenes but these are easily spotted, the films major glowing error. This film would not have worked with a cast of Hollywood power actors, yet the performances delivered are equal to the task. Go see it.....!!
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