In August of 2005 The Great Raid was released in theaters. It is a war film detailing a harrowing rescue mission of over 500 military POWs. If anything can be said about the movie it is its attention to detail. In fact, the conception and planning are the main focus of the film. However it does give a window into the brutality of daily life the POWs experienced in this particular camp. After 3 years of captivity not a lot of hope was left; instead, fear of being forgotten riddled their minds every moment of every day. Escape was unthinkable because of the horrifying consequences they certainly would face should they be discovered. All that was left was death and, for them, it couldn’t come quick enough.
Originally set for release in 2003 and then again in 2004, the film was eventually put on indefinite hold by Miramax. This was due to two massive layoffs that occurred which was caused by the Disney-Miramax split. It wasn’t until the “divorce” was final that any films under the Miramax and Dimension label were finally released, including The Great Raid. As stated before, it wasn’t until the end of 2005 that the film saw its release despite being filmed in 2002.
On January 30, 1945, after almost 3 years of imprisonment, 511 prisoners of war were liberated from the Cabanatuan Prison Camp. During the raid two Army Rangers were killed defending the prisoners’ escape. The Filipino Guerillas who were assisting in the raid suffered 21 casualties. A single POW passed away after being freed from the camp. To this day, the raid on Cabanatuan remains the most successful rescue mission in U.S. military history. Heading the mission was Lt. Colonel Mucci (Benjamin Bratt) and Captain Robert Prince (James Franco), who actually formulated and executed the raid. Despite being seen as a mission non-essential to the war effort, many involved saw it as the most important mission they would ever take part in. In fact many awards were given to those essential in the positive outcome of the mission and circumstances leading up to the raid. This was a true testament to the heroism displayed by every soldier involved and stands as a text book rescue procedure.
This certainly isn’t in the ranks of such war epics like Saving Private Ryan, Platoon, and Apocalypse Now, but it certainly manages the essentials in creating an entertaining war film. It is detailed, specific, and brutal in its realism to the violence endured. It starts off slow but finishes with one hell of a finale that is wonderful to watch. It is intense when it needs to be and unhurried and comprehensive when the story calls for it. Any weaknesses could be attested to a lack of budget but what was actually achieved is impressive enough. I wouldn’t consider it a classic but it’s definitely a good film that should be seen at least once. If for no other reason, it should be seen to learn about what these brave soldiers endured to save their fellow comrades from certain perdition. It is an exciting film and one that I think fell under the radar upon its release.
Rated R For: strong war violence and brief language
Run Time: 132 minutes
After Credits Scene: None
Starring: Benjamin Bratt, James Franco, Max Martini, Sam Worthington, Joseph Fiennes
Directed By: John Dahl
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 5/ Acting: 3.5/ Directing: 4/ Visuals: 4.5
OVERALL: 4 Nerd skulls