GREAT RAID, THE (director: John Dahl; screenwriters: Carlo Bernard/Doug Miro/based on the books “The Great Raid on Cabanatuan” by William B. Breuer and “Ghost Soldiers” by Hampton Sides; cinematographer: Peter Menzies; editors: Pietro Scalia and Scott Chestnut; music: Trevor Rabin; cast: Benjamin Bratt (Lieutenant Colonel Mucci), James Franco (Captain Prince), Connie Nielsen (Margaret Utinsky), Marton Csokas (Captain Redding), Joseph Fiennes (Major Gibson), Mark Consuelos (Guttierez), Cesar Montano (Captain Pajota); Runtime: 132; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Marty Katz /Lawrence Bender;; Miramax; 2005)
“It couldn’t hold my attention despite the event being such a celebrated one in American history.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
This WW II epic was shot nearly three years ago and just released this August before the Weinstein brothers exit Miramax to start their new company. The slow moving, earnest but ponderous movie, made for $80 million and with high hopes to be as well-received as the similar themed “The Bridge on the River Kwai,” is unfortunately flatly directed by John Dahl (“Joy Ride”/”Rounders”); the true story is based on the books “The Great Raid on Cabanatuan” by William B. Breuer and “Ghost Soldiers” by Hampton Sides. First-time screenwriters Carlo Bernard and Doug Miro turn in an uninspiring script that failed to catch the human interest angles.
It’s set in the last days of World War II in 1945. There were 500 American soldiers (a contingent who survived the forced Bataan Death March, in which 70,000 Allied troops who had surrendered to the Japanese at Bataan in 1942 marched 63-miles through the jungle to be imprisoned) being held for three years under horrible conditions in the infamously brutal prisoner of war camp in the Philippines called Cabanatuan. General Douglas MacArthur upon his return to the Philippines considered the freeing of these prisoners as one of his top priorities. The General selected hard-as-nails Lt. Col. Henry Mucci (Benjamin Bratt) to lead the liberation mission with his elite Sixth Ranger Battalion. They were to infiltrate 30 miles behind enemy lines. Mucci in turn chooses the unlikely candidate Captain Robert Prince (James Franco) to lead 100 hand-picked men on the raid. Prince also does the narration. The Filipino resistance (of 21 men) also helped; they were led by Captain Juan Pajota (Cesar Montano).
The carefully planned rescue mission was the most successful ever in American military history; it had only a few casualties. The malaria-afflicted Major Gibson (Joseph Fiennes), the highest ranking officer in the camp, is one of the POWs and Lithuanian-born nurse Margaret (Connie Neilson) was his love interest in this tepid love story. War widow Neilson portrayed real-life leader of the resistance movement in Manila. She heroically smuggled medicine into the camp.
The film never overcomes its dullness, its clichés and its failure to make the characters interesting or more developed. It couldn’t hold my attention despite the event being such a celebrated one in American history.
REVIEWED ON 12/2/2005 GRADE: C
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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