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The Great Raid - DVD Review

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It would be hard to make a movie that will do justice to the biggest rescue mission from enemy captivity in military history. This rescue consisted of American soldiers from a World War II Japanese concentration camp after the Bataan Death March and before liberation. Yet director John Dahl pulls it off with a running time of two hours that seems like only minutes.

In 1945, hundreds of U.S. prisoners of war are under the constant threat of death by a Japanese army that has demonstrated animal treatment of its captives and operate under Tokyo's "Kill All" policy, violently executing any G.I. when their liberation is threatened. In the Cabanatuan camp in the Philippines, Japanese commanders await the arrival of allied forces and orders from their high command. In the meantime, 511 American soldiers bide their time.

Major Gibson (Joseph Fiennes), the highest-ranking American officer, is suffering greatly from the effects of malaria and from his separation from the love of his life Margaret Uttinski (Connie Nielsen). As a Catholic-aid nurse in Manila, she's been active in the underground resistance and has managed to sneak Quinine to Gibson to keep him alive.

The assassination policy of the Japanese army is not unknown at 6th army headquarters stationed in Luzon, and Lieutenant Colonel Henry A. Mucci (Benjamin Bratt) has been assigned to penetrate enemy lines for a rescue attempt at Cabanatuan, a task that seems strategically impossible due to rugged terrain and the enemy's vast numbers.

Mucci assigns Captain Robert Prince (James Franco) to plan and execute the mission. It's one that calls for a strategist with the gift of intellect and uncompromising leadership that Prince has demonstrated. He refuses to start the operation until everything is thought through.

Starting with a hand-picked team of 121 elite Rangers and Alamo Scouts, they attach with the small army of resistance fighters led by Captain Juan Pajota (Cesar Montano) whose knowledge of the terrain and the fighting styles of the Japanese, proves a decisive factor 30 miles into enemy territory.

Gibson's condition deteriorates when Margaret is part of a Japanese round up and is thrown in prison. Meanwhile Captain Prince finally outlines his precision plan of attack to his officers and the assault on the camp begins. He assigns the first shot to one of his Lieutenants on a strategic flank who will take out a sentry on a tower, and plans to be the last one to leave when he's satisfied that all 511 captives have been rescued and safely on their way to freedom.

Director John Dahl recreates a cinematic beauty with natural drama and a vivid screenplay by Carlo Bernard and Doug Miro, combining material in William B. Breuer's book, The Great Raid on Cabanatuan: Rescuing the Doomed Ghosts of Bataan and Corregidor and Hampton Sides' Ghost Soldiers.

Casting was magnificent. Connie Nielsen, one of the most underappreciated actresses around (Gladiator) played her part with precision and beauty. Also Joseph Fiennes portrayed his character with raw emotions that made the audience feel they were standing right next to him the whole time.

In the end, the film is a great historic piece that will unfortunately be overlooked by the audience and probably the critics. For people who appreciate military history, this is the perfect film. Although hope is there that this rough but heartfelt film about loyalty and trust will find its audience!


DVD Details:

Screen formats: Widescreen Anamorphic 1.33:1

Subtitles: English, Spanish; Closed Captioned

Language and Sound: English: Dolby Digital 5.1

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; deleted scenes; director's commentary; cast and crew interview.

* Audio Commentary
o with director John Dahl, producer Marty Katz, military advisor/actor Captain Dale Dye, editor Scott Chestnut, and "Ghost Soldiers" author Hampton Sides
* Deleted Scenes
o 16 deleted scenes with optional commentary by John Dahl,
* Featurrette
o The Price of Freedom: The Making of The Great Raid.
o The Ghosts of Bataan
o The Veterans Remember
o History Lesson with Autho Hampton Sides
o Captain Dale Dye's Boot Camp
o Mixing the Great Raid
o The Mix Board
o War in the Pacific Interactive Timeline
o Dedication to the Soldiers of Bataan

Number of discs: - 2 - Keepcase Packaging


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