I was in the mood for a movie that would not offend my sensibilities. Something that would uplift me and that I could recommend to my children (at least my older ones). I found that movie in The Great Raid.
The movie is based on true events that occurred towards the end of WWII. If you are a history buff, of course you know all this stuff, but to my shame I must admit I did not know this. Of course I knew of the Bataan Death March, but I did not know what happened to these men. Now I have a better idea.
In case you do not know, here is a quick sketch. As the Allies were moving forward with more and more successes against the Japanese, The Japanese needed to move their prisoners of war to a move secure place, hence the sixty five mile death march. The prison that they marched to had many similarities to a Nazi death camp. The conditions were brutal and many died.
The Japanese concluded that as the Americans progressed with more and more success, they would eventually be able to free the prisoners. The Japanese were determined that this would not happen. They had decided to liquidate all prisoners before they could be freed. Of course, this is where the great raid comes in.
The main characters in the movie are very compelling. First you have the prisoners lead by Maj. Gibson (Joseph Fiennes) the senior ranking officer in camp. He is portrayed to be a man of great character and conviction. He provides for his men before himself giving them both food and medicine before he gets it. This causes him to suffer greatly with the effects of malaria. He has a romantic interest in the movie with an American nurse Margaret Utinsky (Connie Nielsen, "Gladiator"), that stayed in the Phillapeans to lead the underground resistance and because she loved him. But he knew that she was a married woman so he did not act on his love. This is just another great example of his strong character.
Then of course there were the leaders of the raid. Lt. Colonel Mucci (Benjamin Bratt) is portrayed as the strong leader type that lives hard but is also living for the glory that is eternal. He knows this raid is against all odds, but saving those brave prisoners is worth it, and it is a mission far bigger than ones self. He is able to lead his men into this mission even though the expectation is that they would be greatly outnumbered. In this difficult situation you need a leader with character and strength and a man that can make quick decisions that will mean the difference of life and death. But you also need a man that is willing to take wisdom from his subordinates, even if it means “eating a little humble pie.”
Mucci’s right hand man is Capt. Robert Prince (James Franco, "Spider-Man"). He is a sharp young officer from Princeton or Yale (or something like that…), whose task it is to plan the mission with a chance to save the Americans.
The action is intense, the combat severe and rattling, and the film follows the historical record more closely than most Hollywood films. Not everyone makes it. As the saying goes, and this provides a bit of a twist.
One item that I especially appreciate in this movie is that it treats people of faith with a level of respect that is very uncommon in most of Hollywood’s productions.
In my opinion, this is a must see movie for anyone who likes historic action movies. It even ranks up there with Braveheart.