Movie Review
The Great Raid
The Great Raid poster
By Lee Tistaert     Published May 9, 2005
US Release: August 12, 2005

Directed by: John Dahl
Starring: Benjamin Bratt , James Franco , Robert Mammone , Max Martini

Running Time: 132 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $10,166,502
The whole film felt like a by-the-book action flick, but war films aren?t supposed to be just action flicks.
The Great Raid is opening in a month that is generally referred to as a dumping ground for studios who don't have any confidence in their product. This World War II film is a classic example of an August movie; it's forgettable and reeks of something that has been delayed (as it has been). I had been hopeful because the director is John Dahl, who was behind Joy Ride (B) and Rounders (B-) ? two films I thought were enjoyable, and I liked his tone. My hope was that Dahl?s vision would be solid but I feared that the story would be lackluster, and I hoped his style would compensate in such a case. My fear turned out accurate, except the reality was a bit harsher: The picture runs by a very straightforward framework, and the material is so boring that Dahl?s tone can?t rescue it.

The story, which is based on actual events, revolves around 500 POW?s who have been trapped for three years by the Japanese in a concentration camp in the Philippines. The prisoners are weak and are beginning to lose hope regarding their survival, when the 6th Range Battalion, lead by Lt. Colonel Henry Mucci (Benjamin Bratt), makes a daring attempt to rescue them.

The Great Raid is predictable and offers very few trademarks of a war film. There aren?t any dissections of themes on the battlefield; there is a mentioning of faith, but that topic disappears immediately. We?re supposed to assume the story is about being a hero to those in need of help, but there isn?t anything analyzed in that regard. Perhaps we can apply what we already know from previous war films, but the movie doesn?t even let us do that.

Benjamin Bratt is pretty good as a commanding presence, and James Franco (who plays a soldier on the 6th Range Battalion) also gives a very natural performance, but they are subjected to minor parts ? the film mostly focuses on a few people stuck in the camp. The story cheats by merely playing off the fact that the prisoners are trapped (without making us feel trapped with them), and there is barely any depth to the individuals we follow. The Japanese are also given very little back-story and are simply antagonistic stereotypes.

The whole film felt like a by-the-book action flick, but war films aren?t supposed to be just action flicks ? their intent is to enlighten us on an event we may or may not be fully knowledgeable of. The film opens up with a captivating montage of history, but from there on the structure is very simple.

Saving Private Ryan (B+) offered an unforgettable first act and dove intimately into the idea of saving a man no one knew. The soldiers talked about courage and heroism and we saw great examples of them taking on those characteristics. The Thin Red Line (B+) delved into the emotional side of its war, and what war even means to begin with. The film expressed what it was like to be within the enemy lines, and to be so far away from loved ones.

The Great Raid is empty in comparison to those films, and is more in the league of Windtalkers (C+). It could?ve been an inspiring true story of heroism, but the film forgot to take the audience along for the mission.
Lee's Grade: C+
Lee's Overall Grading: 3025 graded movies
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'The Great Raid' Articles
  • Scott's review C-
    May 9, 2005    Most heinous in a war film, the action is poorly executed; there is no suspense, and most of the time we don't even know what's going on. -- Scott Sycamore