Film Reviews

THE GREAT RAID

By • Aug 12th, 2005 •

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Miramax Films A Marty Katz production in association with Lawrence Bender Prods.
MPAA rating R / Running time — 133 minutes

QUOTE: I felt like I was being held prisoner. How could such a daring rescue be so boring?

It was an heroic, and highly successful, rescue. In fact, it was the greatest rescue in military history. Inspired by true events, the screenwriters, Carlo Bernard and Doug Miro, have crafted several adjacent storylines that are not even remotely engaging. British actor Joseph Fiennes plays a character that is seriously ill with malaria. This means he spends the entire movie looking emaciated and lying down. When he does walk outside his prison hut, he must lean on another man for support. Instead of a love story, we have a soldier carrying a torch for a dead friend’s wife.
The 6th Ranger Battalion, stationed in the Philippines in 1945, is under the command of Lt. Col. Henry Mucci (Benjamin Bratt). The inexperienced battalion is tasked to rescue 511 soldiers from the Japanese POW compound near Cabanatuan in the Philippines, where they have been languishing for over three years. Mucci is told that the prisoners, who survived the cruel Death March after the famous battle of Bataan, are to be executed. Mucci gives young Captain Bob Prince (James Franco) the job of planning the raid.

THE GREAT RAID is based on two nonfiction books, The Great Raid on Cabanatuan by William B. Breuer and Ghost Soldiers by Hampton Sides. While the film is faithful to the true story and there are no fabrications or sexy embellishments, the prisoners are a bland bunch. The film centers on pipe-smoking Mucci and stoic Prince. They are portrayed as shallow characters just doing their jobs. And poor Fiennes! Major Gibson (Fiennes), the highest-ranking American officer in the camp, is not only dying but weepy over nurse Margaret Uttinski (Connie Nielsen). She is an active member of an underground resistance movement and, at great risk to her life and the other nurses she works with, has been sneaking quinine into the camp for Gibson. Then she gets caught and cannot provide any more medicine. The best acting Fiennes can conjure up is holding his stomach when he is chaperoned around.

Mucci’s team of 121 elite Rangers and Alamo Scouts enlists the help of a small army of resistance fighters led by Captain Juan Pajota (Cesar Montano). While they now have guides into the foreign terrain, they know the Japanese are well armed and outnumber them. The intent of THE GREAT RAID is to show heroism and the American sense of duty to ‘leave no man behind.’ For military families, this is a must-see movie. For those of us unfamiliar with World War ll, the tedious maneuvers weigh the film down. The most interesting part of THE GREAT RAID is the actual footage of the men and the mission.

Australian director John Dahl may have had good intentions, but sometimes accuracy gets in the way of delivering a good, dramatic story. The opening history lesson that brings us up to speed occupies too much time. The film closes with newsreels of the people involved. The Great Raid would have made a terrific documentary.


Cast:
Col. Henry Mucci: Benjamin Bratt
Capt. Robert Prince: James Franco
Margaret Utinsky: Connie Nielsen
Maj. Redding: Marton Csokas
Maj. Gibson: Joseph Fiennes
Capt. Pajota: Cesar Montano

Credits:
Director: John Dahl
Screenwriters: Carlo Bernard, Doug Miro
Producers: Marty Katz, Lawrence Bender
Executive producers: Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein, Jonathan Gordon, Michelle Raimo
Director of photography: Peter Menzies Jr.
Production designer: Bruno Rubeo
Music: Trevor Rabin
Co-producer: Anthony Winley
Costume designer: Lizzy Gardiner
Editors: Pietro Scalia, Scott Chestnut

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