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104 of 113 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best war movies of recent years, May 19, 2006
This review is from: The Great Raid (Full Screen Edition) (DVD)
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.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 29, 2011 5:55:39 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 29, 2011 5:58:40 PM PDT
SIMEON says:
Yes, I was moved by everything in the movie, first seen as a rental, then again on Memorial Day weekend(2011). Seeing this movie again reminded me to get my own copy. I have read many times about the cruelty of the Japanese soldier of that time, including their actions in China and Korea. People in this country were indeed fortunate not to have been over run by this army.

Posted on Nov 9, 2014 9:29:58 PM PST
samspennell says:
I can see why you're in the Hall of Fame. This review was spectacular. Great movie.
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