Movie Review: The Great Raid
Jen & I went on a date on Friday and saw The Great Raid. My review of this excellent movie follows. Spoilers mostly avoided.
The first thing that struck me about the movie was that aside from Jen & I, there was only one other couple in the theater even remotely close to us in age. Most of the audience appeared to be old enough to fight in WW2 or the Korean War. This was a little disappointing, as I expected a little bit better from my generation in terms of historical curiousity, but then again, it was the last weekend before the U of A started. Perhaps they were busy getting ready for school.
Oh, who am I kidding? They were partying.
Anyway, to the movie: its violent, its realistic, and its remarkable. There are clear villians and clear heroes. It plays the heartstrings like a maestro, and displays the desperation people resort to in war perfectly. There is realism in the periodic weaponry (a sticking point with me). In short, it is historically accurate, mentally stimulating, and emotionally engaging.
The violence is similar in style to Saving Private Ryan, though not in duration – its just as bloody, but not as long. The Japanese are portrayed as knuckle dragging neanderthals – which, truthfully, is how they collectively behaved during the war. From the very beginning you feel deep animosity towards the Japanese. They burn POWs alive, shoot nurses, and murder in cold blood when it suits their purposes and manipulate their victims whenever the violence won’t work. It matches the historical record, which is a fine compliment for any movie.
Yet at the same time the typical traps of historical movies are avoided – you feel emotionally engaged by the characters. The nurse who smuggles drugs for the POWs has a love interest inside the wire, yet there is a hesitancy to the relationship that bears the imprint of reality. The young captain who leads the final assault has to struggle with maturity both in himself and in his relation with his superior. The men inside have their own list of emotions with which to deal – impetuousness, selfishness, friendship, and anticlimactic relief. Their relation to one another is masterfully conveyed.
The plot is simple: send a Ranger batallion to rescue 500 POWs before they’re murdered by the Japanese. Given that its based on an historical event, it can’t stray too far from that. It doesn’t, though, and it is remarkable that a historical story can successfully convey so much emotion.
I highly recommend this movie. It is excellent in its cinematography, superb in its accuracy, and superior in its emotional engagement. Worth it, for both men and women, but the ladies might cringe at about 5 scenes or so. Wait until your sons are about 15 or so before you let them see this. But let them see it. Heroism is rightfully rewarded, and that’s an excellent value to instill in children.