THE GREAT RAID (8/12/2005)
Director: John Dahl
Cast: Benjamin Bratt, James Franco, Joseph Fiennes
My Rating: 8/10
Rotten Tomatometer: 37%
PLOT: Near the end of World War II, Army Rangers undertake a daring operation to rescue over 500 American POWs being held captive in the Phillipines.
“The Great Raid” is a solid little World War II flick that continues to be underappreciated and seldom seen since its release. Critics called it too long, indulging in too many plotlines and details unnecessary to the story. To that I can only say, phooey. Like countless other war films before it, “The Great Raid” gives us exactly what we need to fully understand the stakes, the strategies, and the tactics involved in the climactic operation. Personally, I think what turns some people off, though they may not realize it, is that it’s actually about a SUCCESSFUL operation.
Think of the great war “thrillers” out there. If they’re not about military failure or de-personalization (“A Bridge Too Far”, “Apocalypse Now”, “Full Metal Jacket”), they’re about achieving something, but with bittersweet results (“Black Hawk Down”, “The Great Escape”, “Saving Private Ryan”, “The Bridge on the River Kwai”). “The Great Raid” sidesteps all of that and gives us, as much as can be possible, a “feel-good” combat film. I’m not saying it has an overtly Hollywood ending, where the good guy gets the girl, the corporal gets promoted, and the sun sets as Johnny comes marching home. I’m saying the film is a testament to what can happen when talented military strategists are able to formulate a plan and execute it with the finest soldiers available. (The facts of the real raid are easily searchable online, but I would recommend seeing the movie first.)
A point is made during the film that there was no strategic benefit to the war effort of rescuing those 500 men. The Rangers just knew they weren’t going to leave their comrades behind, and that was that. I would like to think that sort of applies to this movie. “The Great Raid” isn’t out to make a grand statement on the nature of warfare. It just wants to show us what can happen when everything goes RIGHT for a change. That kind of thing may not bring in the box office bucks, but honestly, it does make for a nice change of pace once in a while.