Monday, June 27, 2005

The Great Raid

Last Friday I had the opportunity to catch a screening of The Great Raid, about the liberation of a Japanese-controlled POW camp in the Philippines during World War II. (I'll have a more extensive review of the film when it comes out August 12.) But in the meantime, let me just say this is a movie you should not miss. Based on the books The Great Raid on Cabanatuan and Ghost Soldiers (the latter of which I reviewed), The Great Raid is one of those powerful reminders of human sacrifice and, in particular, the sacrifices made in the Pacific campaign. Americans and Europeans are very much used to films treating the Holocaust such as Schindler's List and Life is Beautiful, but are seemingly not as well acquainted with similar instances in the Far East. The Japanese still have a difficult time coping with atrocities such as in Nanking and the Bataan Death March in the Philippines.

The Great Raid does not flinch in its portrayal of horrific crimes committed by Japanese soldiers against both the innocent and Allied prisoners. In fact, I contemplated walking out after the first three minutes, which showed actual black and white footage of the death march. (Full disclosure: My father, who was just a boy during the war, was almost executed by the Japanese.) But luckily my emotions settled down and became downright numb after experiencing Connie Nielsen's acting job. There also seems to be a deficiency in character development--most likely because there are too many characters to cover. The music tends toward the overly dramatic and sweeping when silence could've been more effective.

On the plus side, James Franco has finally got himself a solid role and Filipino actors are given their due. Credit should also be given to the Japanese actors who no doubt made a courageous decision in accepting the roles of ruthless killers. And who knows if the film will ever be shown in Japan? (Thanks to its distributor, Miramax, the movie should get some good press stateside.) Unlike The Thin Red Line, there are no moral ambiguities here. It is quite clear the occupying power did some really bad things.

The Great Raid will help spread awareness of the valor of Americans and Filipinos alike and, again, remind us of that terrible price of freedom.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's been several years since I've read it, but, as I recall, Gavin Daws's Prisoners of the Japanese does an excellent job of recapturing the largely ignored history of Japanese war crimes.

Anonymous said...

A terrific movie released 5 years ago about Japanese treatment of POWs is "Paradise Road," directed by the outstanding Australian director Bruce Beresford ("Breaker Morant," "Driving Miss Daisy," "Black Robe" et al). This movie is based on the true story of civilian females held prisoner by the Japanese.
This movie has an exceptionally compelling depiction of a bomber attack on a ship, moving depictions of the relationships among the women during their years in the prison, and a harrowing scene of torture.
An exceptional movie.

Patrick said...

Surely, the treatment of the prisoners in Gitmo is a million times worse than anything done to Allied prisoners. At Powerline, I saw the menu for the prisoners at Gitmo (aka Cafe Hellhole). The vicious Americans are serving Noodles Jefferson for dinner to those poor misunderstood victims!

Sarah said...

Another great movie about that time period is "To End All Wars," about a Scottish regiment in a POW camp in Burma. It was truly amazing -- about forgiveness. I look forward to seeing "The Great Raid" -- thanks for the review!

That Dude said...

Ghost Soldiers is a great book, hopefully this be as good as you say.

Anonymous said...

Awesome. Now I hope that William Schoeder's book, "Cousins Of Color" will be made into a movie, starring the likes of Cuba Gooding Jr. and Lou Diamond Phillips.

Melissa said...

I saw this film last night, it was extremely good. I had no idea about this part of the war and the US should be embarassed.

Paradise Road is terrific as well.

Anonymous said...

Saw the film last night. I thought it was going to be another typical war movie about the south pacific, but as previously stated this movie is more than that. It definitely will open the eyes of many of the sacrifices and humilation american and filipinos went through at the hands of the japanese. There is one scene where you actually could hear audience members gasp at what was done some of the pows. (don't want to give out specifics which will spoil it for the rest).

This movie is a must see and I think it gives credit to filipinos and americans heroism that has been forgotten. This may even solidify our support for our troops in the iraq (not for bush though).