91 of 94 people found the following review helpful
on January 17, 2006
Following in the tradition of such great World War II films as "Saving Private Ryan" and "Patton", "The Great Raid" tells the true story of an American rescue mission that took place over five days in January, 1945. Cabanatuan prison was located some thirty miles behind Japanese lines. Inside its walls were over 500 American prisoners. Many were survivors of the Bataan death march. These men had been improsoned for over three years. Many began to feel that their country had left them behind.
By late 1944, the Americans had returned to the Philippines. After learning about the existance of Cabanatuan, the Americans devised a plan to send an elite group of Army Rangers in to resue the POWs. Lt. Col. Henry Mucci (Benjamin Bratt), commander of the 6th Ranger Batallion, was given the assignment of developing the mission. Captain Robert Prince (James Franco) was placed in charge of planning and actually carrying out the raid. The Rangers would have to travel thirty miles into enemy-held territory, much of the time in broad daylight with very little cover. Fortunately, they received a great deal of help from the Filipino resistance.
Once at the camp, the Rangers burst through the front gate, suppressing the Japanese with heavy rifle fire, knocking out strongpoints and vehicles, and going through each building until every prisoner was accounted for. Many could not walk on their own, so the Rangers carried them to saftey. Once safely outside of the camp, Filipios using carabou carts helped transport the prisoners to American lines and freedom. In the end, 511 prisoners were rescued at the cost of only two Rangers who were killed in action. Major Daniel Gibson (Joseph Fiennes) was the ranking American officer in the camp. It is through his eyes that the viewer experiences the horrors of camp life. Included are the numerous beatings, attempted escapes, and other atrocities which the Japanese placed upon the Americans. Gibson died soon after being liberated.
Mucci and Prince were both awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for valor. Although this mission had very little strategic value to the actual fighting of the war, the rescue of these prisoners remains one of the bright parts of the war. These men felt deserted by their country, but in the end, it was American soldiers, risking their own lives, who saved them.
I've been a fan of true stories for a long time, and this movie ranks as one of the best true stories I've seen. Bratt and Franco give excellent performances as the colorful Mucci and the tough-as-nails Prince. Connie Nielsen is very good as Margaret Utinsky, a nurse who stayed behind in Manila after its fall to the Japanese. She smuggled much-needed medical supplies to the prisoners, risking her own life in the process. The extras included on the DVD are excellent as well. The documentary "The Ghosts of Bataan" gives an up-close look at the death march itself, while author Hampton Sides, who wrote the fine book "Ghost Soldiers", provides a history lesson about the raid.
I give this movie my highest recommendation. This is one of the best war films ever made. It is historically accurate, and the acting is excellent from start to finish. Watch and see how a group of 120 determined American soldiers marched thirty miles behind enemy lines to free a group of POWs who felt abandoned by their country.
104 of 113 people found the following review helpful
The Great Raid is one of the best war movies I've seen in several years, and it makes me downright mad to learn of this film's long-neglected, still overlooked history. It was filmed in 2002, then delayed for three full years thanks to a bunch of bureaucratic jabberwocky. When it finally saw the light of day in 2005, I didn't hear the first thing about it, which says a lot about the marketing behind it. Then, a number of professional critics cast aspersions upon it - all the usual suspects who prefer their own make-believe world where the worst sadists are merely misunderstood victims of a bad childhood and real history is just something to be distorted in pursuit of your own political agenda. The Great Raid is just far too true for these elitists, and - even worse - it shows that war, as horrible as it is, is sometimes a necessity in the face of outright evil. These guys can blanch and puff up all they like, but anyone who knows anything about World War II knows that the Japanese were some of the most merciless, brutal, downright sadistic soldiers the world has ever seen. That very concept is incorporated into this movie because it's true. The Great Raid adds a few unnecessary romantic elements to the story, but that story itself is an honorably realistic presentation of the most audacious, successful rescue mission in American military history. It's a story every American should know - but more than likely doesn't.
There was a good reason why General MacArthur vowed to return after FDR ordered him to withdraw from the Philippines - he was leaving a lot of good men behind, brave soldiers who suffered and died horribly after their Commander in Chief abandoned them. As FDR concentrated on the European theater, thousands of GI's died on the unspeakable Bataan Death March, while those who did survive the 60-mile trek were subjected to brutal, inhumane treatment in Japanese POW camps for three years. In January 1945, the military tide had turned, MacArthur had indeed returned to the Philippines, and the Japanese knew the end was in sight. War criminals to the end, they chose to slaughter all of their prisoners before they could be liberated. That set the stage for The Great Raid. The Allies knew the 500+ prisoners of war at Cabanatuan would be killed as their forces closed in on the camp. The only hope of saving these brave, long-suffering Americans was to execute a surprise rescue mission and take the Japanese completely by surprise.
This movie shows us pretty much what actually happened, and it is that commitment to historical reality that makes it such an important film. We watch Lt. Col. Henry Mucci (Benjamin Bratt) and Capt. Bob Prince (James Franco) draw up the plans, lead their soldiers forward, adapt and react to unexpected Japanese troop movements, and basically refuse to let anything stop them from leaving any American POW behind. These particular troops, from the 6th Army Ranger Battalion, had yet to see any real action for the most part, but they managed to cross 30 miles of enemy territory and sneak up on the camp across open fields in broad daylight without being detected. Meanwhile, brave Filipino soldiers provided invaluable assistance by preventing Japanese reinforcements from reaching the camp in time to disrupt the mission. The big firefight, when it does come, is quite intense and realistic, leading up to an emotionally stirring ending.
Alongside the viewpoint of the Rangers and their Filipino brethren in arms, the film also takes us inside the Japanese POW camp and acquaints us with the Filipino underground sneaking much-needed medicines into the camp. All of these heroes of different stripes aren't enough to satisfy the critics, though. They say the movie drags on too long, yet they complain that the POW camp conditions aren't covered in enough detail. They decry the scenes of Japanese barbarity, preferring their own little world of politically correct grey to the black and white reality of history. Folks, it doesn't get much more black and white than this: risking your life -against great odds - to rescue your brother soldiers is good; burning POWs alive rather than allowing them to be liberated is evil. Some things really are black and white. If you insist on pretending that everyone on earth really just wants to chase butterflies in the sun all day, you may not like this movie. If, on the other hand, you like a good war movie, especially one that is based on fact and presented in a realistic fashion, The Great Raid more than deserves a place in your personal DVD collection.
173 of 203 people found the following review helpful
on August 15, 2005
The Great Raid is a fantastic World War II film. The fast paced action is based on the real life rescue of the American POWs at Capanatuan in the Philippines. Director John Dahl pulls no punches. He correctly depicts the allied forces as the good guys and the Japanese as generally nothing less than war criminals. This is indeed historically accurate and Dahl refuses to shy away from the truth merely to satisfy the politically correct leftist crowd. Lt. Colonel Mucci (Benjamin Bratt) and Captain Prince (James Franco) were ordered to devise a plan that could quickly free as many of the sickly and malnourished prisoners like Major Gibson (Joseph Fiennes) as possible. Time is short. The war is almost over and Emperor Hirohito's followers of Bushido prefer death to surrender. If they are going to die, so too will the POWs. The pitiless Japanese particularly enjoy burning prisoners alive. They were, during that time period, racists to the core and perceived non-Japanese as inferior and unworthy of humane consideration.
Lt. Colonel Mucci partners with the fearless Philippine guerillas. They in turn rely on Margaret Utinsky (Connie Nielsen) and other members of the resistance to supply them with support and intelligence. The violence is brutal and not for the squeamish. There will be moments when you might even be inclined to turn your eyes away from the screen. Are the Japanese today as evil as their predecessors of some sixty years ago? Of course not, and we must not forget that all races, ethnic groups, and nationalities are comprised of moral and immoral individuals. There are few remaining WWII veterans. They fought to save our freedoms and constitutional rights. The least we can do, is to make an effort to more fully understand their struggles and heroism. The Great Raid is one of the best pictures of this year. Anyone who is a teenager or older should see it.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on August 15, 2005
As a history student, Filipina, and someone who has spent a lot of time studying this subject I was very pleased to see a film that took the effort to stay true to a true and little known story. What the Philippines went through during World War II is one of the most tragic and interesting chapters of the history of the war, but has been, even during the recent rising interest in WWII, largely overlooked. This film begins to look at it, and what better way to learn history than through a film?
This film has excellent performances from a diverse (and great looking ;-)) cast including many Filipino actors. As a Pinay myself I found the attention paid to the men and women of the Philippines in this film a fitting and overdue homage to my countrymen -- "kababayan". My favorites in this film would be James Franco, Connie Nielsen, and Cesar Montano. And Benjamin Bratt looks hot in a uniform.
I don't really like war films that much but saw this with my grandmother, and I was never bored during this film, it moved quickly and seamlessly and keeps your attention. My only complaint is that it wasn't graphic enough. There was no mention of the rape, the decapitations, or the full nature of or amount of torture and destruction inflicted on the Filipino people or the POWS.
I saw this film with my grandmother who went through the war and has often told stories of seeing bodies of bayoneted babies, friends who were killed, decapitated bodies, war torn landscapes. Family friends had a brother who died in the death march. After seeing this film she called up many of her friends and told them to see it, and then we got into another discussion, and she very emotionally told a story I had never heard before. I only bring this up to let viewers know that this is a subject that is very real, very painful, and something that we need to talk about and ask about and LEARN about. And for that I am thankful that these filmmakers made this film.
To anyone interested in learning more about this subject I recommend BEGINNING with "We Band of Angels", "Ghost Soldiers", and the gruesome/heartbreaking "Battle for Manila", one of the worst battles of the entire war. The latter is a very graphic book so be forewarned. History isn't pretty.
31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on August 17, 2005
I just went an saw "The Great Raid" this evening, and I enjoyed it. I recommend that others see it to. As a child of two survivors from this war, I would say that it has great athenticity. My father was a civilian who was held prisonner at Cabatanuan, but was unfortunately shipped to Japan in a hell ship prior to the great raid, so therefore he did enjoy freedom yet. He was one of ten men...and a civilian involved in the smuggling of food and money into the camp. My father was an American who had learned the filipino language and was put in charge by the Japanese to lead the water buffalo caravans to transport food to the camp. He was in contact with Margaret Untinsky via the underground fighters. This was a nonfictional story my father participated in and is written about in a book by Margaret Utinsky called "I Miss You". My father like Margaret Utinsky was awarded the "The Medal of Freedom". I enjoyed and respected this movie because of the honest portrait that it attempted to dipict of how war is hell and not some fictional heroics of "Saving Private Ryan". War is very straightforward and people suffer and get killed. People do not stand up and utter lines of grandeur for the purpose of garning an oscar. They do what is necessary to survive and help others survive. I am a half breed of Filipion and American parents, and I have heard my father and mother talk about the suffering from which a lot of good people died. They did what they had to do as is portayed in this movie. If you want to see a straightforward story see this movie. If not then stay home.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on December 17, 2006
I'm a history professor, specializing in American military history, and I used this movie in my US History 2 class when dealing with World War II. I cannot pay the film or the filmakers a higher compliment than that. Having done some research on the topic (I know what parts were fictional and what parts were real) made the experience of watching this film even more incredible. I used it for my class for several reason. 1) The Great Raid, chronicling life in the Phillippines under Japanese occupation, in POW camps and in the final dramatic rescue of surviving POW's by young army Rangers is simply a story that needs to be told. 2) Most good movies about WW2 deal with Europe or the Holocaust, I wanted to show my students that a brutal war was fought in the Pacific and that the war crimes committed by the Japanese were just as horrible as those committed by the NAZI's. 3) the uncomprimising view of war was what the students needed to be riveted in their seats and to make them notice one of the truly heroic stories of WW2. 4)The inclusion of vintage footage actually brought home the point of this movie more strongly that parts of the movie itself. It was excellent and my students greatly enjoyed it. Yes, there are some criticisms to be made. There was no love story between Margaret and Daniel and Margaret is really a composite of 2 women freedom fighters, but overall things movie was true to the source material (I've read both GHOST SOLDIERS & THE GREAT RAID ON CABANATUAN). To other history profs out there, use this film.
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on January 3, 2011
I'll start by saying I LOVE "The Great Raid". The movie itself is tense & exciting and the acting top notch. But I was terribly saddened to see MULTIPLE SCENES MISSING from the "Director's Cut" Blu-ray DVD release, scenes which were included in the standard DVD release of this film.
GONE is the scene where Margaret (Connie Nielsen) and Cora (Eugenia Yuan) are attempting to buy quinine from the Filipino underground, and are forced to flee for their lives when they realize they're being set up for a robbery.
GONE is the scene where Margaret is first accosted by the Kempetai officer at her apartment, and is slapped by the soldiers after trying to push past them to reenter her apartment.
GONE is the scene where the Rangers are under the bridge in the dark of night, and the Japanese truck stops so one of the soldiers can relieve himself.
GONE is the scene where Margaret attempts to buy passage on an evacuation truck in the jungle, and uses her watch to buy additional rides for the poor woman & daughter who didn't have enough money.
Can someone please explain to me why these scenes were cut? Granted, there was additional footage included in the Blu-ray edition that wasn't in the standard DVD release. But they were just extentions of scenes that were unimportant to the film, and certainly not worthy of the scenes that were sacrificed to make room for the extended scenes. But why sacrifice scenes at all? Isn't Blu-ray supposed to hold four times the data of a regular, standard DVD? Would it have killed those money-grubbing thieves in Corporate to have included both the new, extended scenes as well as the old scenes that were removed? Haven't we, the hard-working consumers who keep you guys in business, been cheated, robbed, gouged, and tricked enough into buying far inferior products in the name of Corporate greed?
It's funny..but if I walk out my front door right now and steal 20 bucks out of some poor slob's wallet, I can be arrested and charged with robbery and most likely thrown in jail. But if some rich jerk in a fancy suit with a Corporate logo robs me in the name of business (over & over again lol), he's rewarded with huge bonuses and grows fat off the cheated consumer's carcass.
You gotta love it!
PS. I'd send this crap of a Blu-ray back to Amazon for a refund if I thought I stood a fat chance of getting it. What a bunch of crap!
37 of 44 people found the following review helpful
The first half of this fine film set in the Philippines is rather morose and measured, and punctuated with more than several representations of Japanese brutality against cityfolk in Manila & American POWs in various camps. In an era when Amnesty International characterizes Guantanamo Bay's holding facility as akin to Soviet death camps it is, of course, politically incorrect to show anyone but Americans as brutal. That's why, no doubt, a number of reviewers of this film expressed various reservations about this competently told story of the most successful rescue mission in US military history. The latter half of the film shows how this was accomplished, and thus is replete with a lot more action than the first half; detailing 5 eventful days in January of 1945. The Cabanatuan POW camp is eventually stormed, freeing 611 American POWs with the loss of just 2 US Army Rangers & 21 Filipino guerilla fighters. The film is well shot; looks "right," regarding the era in which it is set, and conveys the gravity of that difficult time as well. It is, in short, a worthy war film, which ought be seen if you are at all interested is trying to visualize what you may perhaps have read concerning the war in the pacific. Unfortunately, most of the better-made films depicting events of World War Two concern European events and/or campaigns, but the Pacific War theatre has gotten a most useful addition in the name of "The Great Raid." Cheers!
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on August 14, 2005
I went to see this movie with trepidation.
I read a great deal about WWII, and the story of the raid on Capanatuan is a remarkable piece of history. I am happy to say "The Great Raid" definitly hits the mark. It is not over-the-top, but is still full of the emotion and horror of the time. This movie isn't just for WWII buffs. It has a bit of romantic sub-story, some very emotional moments and lots of edge-of-your-seat moments (in addition to the battle scenes). There are a few gruesome scenes, but not moreso than the reality of the situation. I loved that the Filipino underground resistance was shown to be such a large part of this story, and what an important role the Filipino guerillas played as well.
Kudos to the phenominal cast and crew for a job well done.
24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on December 6, 2005
This is an excellent movie about the (probably) the greatest rescue mission in World War II. After reading the book, Ghost Soldiers, by Hampton Sides several years ago. It was delightful to see this movie made.