I don't think I ever fully realized the extent of the horrors perpetrated by Pol Pot on the Cambodian people after the American withdrawal from Phnom Penh. It all happened when I was a teenager and I tried to focus away from anything bad happening in the world at that age. I did not see this movie when it came out either. I finally decided I needed to know a little more about Cambodia and turned to this movie to learn a little more about what happened. Two MILLION people were murdered by the Khmer Rouge -- some quickly, many slowly and horribly -- by starvation, overwork and torture. The worst thing anyone could be in the years following the Khmer Rouge takeover was educated. Educated, smart people were the first to go -- the ones who suffered the most horrible punishments.
The movie realistically depicts the fall of Phnom Penh and the events that directly led to it. The characters played by Sam Waterston, Haing Ngor and John Malkovich were/are real people and the story of their lives following the American evacuation is all real too, AFAIK. The acting is superb, all the way around. Haing Ngor is perhaps the best of the three. He plays it as if he's living it, and maybe he did. This movie is a MUST SEE. Get ready for a lot of painful, frightening action. Send your kids to bed first. Unfortunately, it's all true and anyone who thinks the Holocaust was the last time there was a really big genocide is in for an education. It happened in my lifetime.