A generic yet surprisingly decent war movie, "The Great Raid" flopped in theaters after years of sitting on the dusty shelves at Miramax. Starring Benjamin Bratt and James Franco, "The Great Raid" offers nothing new, but still shows that true-life war stories are worth watching.
"The Great Raid" is set three years after the retreat of General MacArthur from the Phillippines and looks at the lives of several prisoners-of-war in a Japanese camp and the heroic preparation and execution of their release by Army Ranger Lt. Colonel Henry Mucci. The movie has a two-pronged approach - as the war is nearing its end, one prisoner (Joseph Fiennes) has to decide whether he should lead his men to escape or bide his team and hope for the best, and the extensive training performed by two soldiers (Bratt and Franco) to prepare for their sneak attack.
Directed by John Dahl, whose biggest movie is "Rounders" - not exactly a war movie - "The Great Raid" lacks the visual power of such films as "Saving Private Ryan" and "The Thin Red Line," but as a by-the-numbers war movie he pulls it off quite well. The acting, while not especially memorable, is adequate, and the story progresses with proper pacing. The final act is where things really get good, as the big battle scene is long, intense and well-done.
"The Great Raid" unfortunately will wind up in the bargain bin before too long and be forgotten shortly afterwards, but it deserves better treatment than that. It's no Oscar-winner, but it is a good war movie that respects its subject matter and offers up some great excitement.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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