The Great Raid

Partially recommended. This is the true story of the greatest rescue of American POWs in history. An elite force of newbie Texas Rangers were sent in to rescue about 500 POWs in a Philippine POW camp held by the Japanese. These were men who survived the Bataan death march and were wasting away from starvation and beatings by the Japanese. Colonel Mucci and his men rescued all the POWs, with but one POW death and a couple of fatalities in the squad. A truly miraculous story. For that and for the fact that the story shows SOME of the atrocities committed by the Imperial Japanese soldiers and police against the Americans, this movie should be seen. The problem is that because of the Nuremburg trials and the obsessive focus on Nazi war crimes, the Japanese war crimes were all but overshadowed and ignored by the public and the resultant consciousness of history in this country. So see it. But unfortunately, it is not a very good movie in storytelling and filmmaking terms. It reeks of television writing and the characters are not nearly as engaging as they should be. With terrible choices for leads like Benjamin Bratt and James Franco, it just cries out for good acting. And the Japanese are cardboard villains, and apart from the atrocities, you just don’t feel for these guys. They are flat characters and there are too many of them. The only good story is the doomed love story between a Major in the camp, played by Joseph Fiennes and an American woman in the Filipino underground, played by Connie Neilson. They are the only ones who have an interesting and dramatic past and connection in that she was married to his commanding officer who was killed and now they live to be together with each other. This is also the story that they brilliantly play as the tragic element in the otherwise victorious story. Not everything was happy results in this realistic story of human pathos and the triumph of the spirit. But I must admit, I am a bit biased in my observations for a couple reasons. One, this is the movie that I discovered Miramax was developing when my movie, To End All Wars came out. Turns out they tried to buy the distribution of our movie, and it is clear now, that they wanted to shelf our movie so they would be the first out with their POW movie. Thank God the producers didn’t go with them. The Great Raid lacked the epic transcendence and memorable characters, scenes and lines that a good epic should have. But also, I was rewriting the miniseries for this same exact story for Disney Touchstone when the Weinsteins discovered the production and literally strong-armed our production into the trash can because of their power (We were both under Disney distribution). Ours was based on the Hampton Sides bestselling novel and it was clearly superior. I was hired to bring in a stronger Japanese element like I did in TEAW. I was also rewriting other elements of it. And it was going to include a bit of the Bataan death march, which is a story that needs to be told as well as some amazing other historically true stuff. Oh well, water under the bridge. But all that said, still see the movie because these men died for your freedom. We owe it to them to know their story, regardless of the fact that oafish trolls may have ruined the movie.

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