The Great Raid

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The Great Raid
Review (7/10)
(By Brendan Cullin)

The Great Raid is a movie based on the true story of one of the greatest rescue missions in the history of American warfare. Directed by John Dahl, The Great Raid tells us the story of a group of U.S. Army Rangers who, with the help of a band of Philippine guerillas, stormed the deadly Cabanatuan prisoner camp and proceeded to rescue 500 American POWs.

The movie focuses primarily on three main stories. First, the planning and execution of the raid which was commandeered by Lt. Col. Henry Mucci (Benjamin Bratt) and Captain Bob Prince (James Franco). Second, the life inside the camp and what the soldiers had to endure despite the heroics of their sick but fearless leader, Major Gibson (Joseph Feinnes). And finally, the bravery of an American nurse named Margaret Utinsky (Connie Nielsen), who risked her life to smuggle medication to the prisoners, many whom were dying from malaria and malnutrition.

Although The Great Raid does not feature the dramatic battle scenes of, let's say, a Saving Private Ryan, or the outstanding characters and performances of a Platoon, it still does a very good job of telling us a remarkable story that, to be honest, if it weren't for the movie, I would have never know. I am sure I am not alone on this boat.

Yes, there are times when the movie feels like it is dragging a bit. And perhaps the movie doesn't make the characters out to be as intriguing and interesting as it could have. But is that always necessary? Does war always have to be glitzy and dramatic as seen through the eyes of Hollywood?

What The Great Raid does well is tell us a real-life story about real-life heroes and shows us that going to war and fighting for your country is pure hell. Lives are at risk and people die. We see this with the excellent job the movie does in showing us the execution of the courageous rescue mission. We see this with the narration and historical footage that opens and closes the movie. We see this with the torture and abuse that American POWs had to endure at the hands of the ruthless Japanese soldiers. And we see this through the heroics of Margaret Utinsky who repeatedly put her life on the line to help her fallen comrades.

The Great Raid may not be a great war movie. It is not loud and dramatic and it does not feature Oscar-worthy performances or elaborate battle scenes. But what it does is tell us a great story involving some great men and women who carried out what is clearly the greatest raid of all-time.

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