The Great Raid (2005)

The Pacific Theater of WW2 is usually an afterthought. Even though the reason that the US got into the war as a result of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, more movies document the fight against Hitler and the Nazis than against the Japanese. I'm not sure if it's fair, and I'm not sure if we are being shortchanged by not being told stories of heroism and bravery. The men who gave their lives there are certainly not getting their due, but that can be said for a lot of brave young men in wars. At least these guys were not fighting to save a statue.

James Franco plays the up-and-coming ROTC graduate Captain who wants to lead an assault with his troops. It may just be me, but I was not impressed with his portrayal. I think I had more confidence in his ability going in than I had with Marky Mark's ability to portray Marcus Luttrell in Lone Survivor, but Mark did a good job, and James doesn't quite do the job in this movie.

Benjamin Bratt is the ranking officer on the raid, but he lets James make most of the tactical decisions. He does a good enough job playing the religious and not particularly approachable Lt. Colonel, and we understand that he is a good strategist because he keeps saying the word "flank" like he came up with the idea of flanking. Honestly, I don't know why I found his character annoying, but I really did.

I think the problem with this movie is Christian Bale. Now, sharp-eyed viewers may point out that Christian Bale isn't in this movie, but that's not the point. If you've seen The Machinist, you have seen what Christian Bale has set as the amazingly high bar for physical alteration for a movie. Christian became the emaciated creature that you see in that movie because his character was supposed to be thin. In this movie, we have a few guys headed by Joseph Fiennes who were supposed to play prisoners of war who have been starved for three years. They picked thin guys for the parts, but these guys are clearly not actually starving. Each one of them has to be thinking quietly to themselves, "Christian f*cking Bale."

The battle scene is probably the most important part of the movie. We have lots of build-up with the prisoners being abused and mistreated while the raiding party gets into position. The battle eventually commences, and it is very one-sided. As this is a battle that history records as a very one-sided victory, I won't question the scene in that respect, but an entrenched force with weapons emplacements and tanks should not be overrun quite so easily. The fact that they were is a testament to a good plan.

The filming of the battle was a little worse than the battle. It's very confused, and it's not easy to figure out exactly where one part of the force is with respect to the other parts. We get a lot of shots of people looking through binoculars and looking confused, a few shots of people seemingly randomly firing inside the base, and the occasional regroup and ultimately doomed charge of the Japanese guards.

Cinematography needed help
Story was very good
Acting was not spectacular
Dialogue was mixed
Direction wasn't great

1.5/5

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