Review: The Great Raid

Posted by: Dean Kish  //  August 12, 2005 @ 11:59am

Filed under: Reviews

Please let me go! I need to leave! I just can't take it anymore.

These are probably some of the things that prisoners of war said to themselves while they endured captivity during wartime. For me, these were the things I was muttering to myself as I endured the 133-minute war melodrama The Great Raid.

The Great Raid tells the story of America's most successful military rescue mission of all time. For the history books, this is a great story, but not always do great stories make great movies.

The film stars Benjamin Bratt as Lt. Colonel Mucci, the leader of a crack group of Rangers who must infiltrate a Japanese prisoner of war camp and liberate over 200 America POWs. Bratt's Mucci is flanked by Captain Prince (James Franco) and 1st Sgt. Sid "Top" Wojo (Max Martini). Inside the camp, Major Gibson (Joseph Fiennes) struggles to survive as he yearns to be with his lady love someday. His beloved is Margaret Utinsky (Connie Nielsen) who runs the Filipino underground in Manilla.

There are a lot of things about The Great Raid that really bugged me, but I will get into those later. The minor successes that I liked about the film were the way the film was able to incorporate archive footage into the film and that we finally got to see what the real people who went on the mission looked like, including Nurse Utinsky. I also liked from a historical aspect that the film included how a Filipino unit aided in this mission.

But as for the acting, direction, and cinematography, I was just so bored. It was like watching one of those horrid made-for-History Channel movies that they show at like 1am. Then there was the romantic subplot that felt like I was forced to flip to Lifetime or the Women's Network when a commercial came on.

This film feels and looks like a bad TV movie and has no real merits to rise above that stigmatism except at its core, which is the film's true story. But maybe because the mission was such a success, the film suffered from a lack of emotion and gripping suspense.

Not for one moment did I feel that anyone was in danger or that the mission was going to fail. Well, this was especially evident when Bratt and Franco basically sleepwalk through this film. There is emotion in the performances from Fiennes and Nielsen, but they seem very forced and almost the kind of emotion you feel on a soap opera.

As an historical story, The Great Raid may have been great, but as a movie the only greatness I felt was the end credits. (1.5 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.

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