Thursday, August 11, 2005

The Great Raid

Posted on Thu, Aug 11, 2005 at 4:00 AM

The Great Raid
Studio: Miramax
Rated: R
Release Date: 2005-08-12
Cast: Benjamin Bratt, James Franco, Connie Nielsen, Joseph Fiennes, Mark Consuelos
Director: John Dahl
Screenwriter: Douglas Miro, Carlo Bernard
WorkNameSort: Great Raid, The
Our Rating: 3.00

It's a little-discussed element of World War II lore that the Japanese maintained POW camps in the Philippines as late as 1945. Director John Dahl (Rounders, Joy Ride) tells the true story of a Ranger battalion that was dispatched to rescue 511 men from one such detention facility before their Japanese captors could put them to death. Dahl makes something wonderfully curious of this historical material: an old-fashioned war picture, with no sadder-but-wiser deconstruction, no "updated" salty language and no strained metaphors for later, more controversial conflicts. That stab at classic status is both to the film's advantage and its detriment: Bereft of po-mo sermonizing, the story retains a suspensefulness you don't have to be a fan of the genre to appreciate. But the movie's adherence to form occasionally overwhelms its content. Consider a scene in which the captain (a fine James Franco) who plotted the raid explains its ins and outs to the men who will be joining him on the mission: I was so taken with Dahl's balls in attempting such an old-school sequence that I realized I had missed every actual detail of the impending operation. Talk about things not going according to plan.


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