Making the Grades
There are few benefits to war, but one exception may be the incredible accounts of heroism, determination, and cooperation that seem so sadly lacking in our society today. Even more amazing is this movie shows all the "good" war stories still haven't been put to film.
It's World War II, and after bombing Pearl Harbor, the Japanese move on to the Philippines, capturing many Filipino and American soldiers. They force the thousands of men into a horrendous POW camp, where they will literally be worked to death. Hoping to exterminate all of the opposing military elements in the country, thousands more American and Filipino citizens are selected and killed through violent methods, including live incineration.
Over the period of three years, the number of soldiers left in the camp has dwindled to a scant 500. In response, an American battalion, with the help of Filipino guerrillas, put together a rescue plan that nearly every military strategist considers a suicide mission.
Under the command of Lt. Colonel Mucci (Benjamin Bratt), young Captain Prince (James Franco) is asked to lead the dangerous maneuver. Much more of an academic than a fighter, Prince uses his university education to assess the odds and create a minute-by-minute script of the daring liberation. Adding to the stress is the knowledge they have just a couple of days to put the raid together, and there won't be any second chances.
Unaware of the efforts to free them, the few remaining prisoners are losing hope. Most look like walking skeletons, and many are ill. One of the men, Major Gibson (Joseph Fiennes), is a victim of malaria and only stays alive by thinking of a nurse named Margaret (Connie Nielsen) that he met in Manila. Aside from providing him with something beautiful to dwell upon, she also leads an underground campaign to smuggle medicine to the ailing soldiers.
With tension mounting on both sides of the barbed wire fence, The Great Raid provides ample reason to keep your eyes focused on the screen. Timing is everything in the military--and in a movie. Fortunately, this one gets it right on both counts. Like those great war movies from decades past, this production provides opportunities for human interaction between captor and captive, and uses both dialogue and bullets to build the non-stop suspense.
The result is a rare R-rated film you might consider taking your oldest teens to see. With only a handful of moderate profanities and a line of sexual innuendo, violence is the sole reason for the restricted rating. This content consists of depictions of men being executed at gunpoint and piles of dead bodies (some in actual historical footage). While the images are certainly gruesome and unsettling, the carnage is never gratuitous or explicit and serves as a vivid reminder of the horrors of war.
Based on two books and consulting with actual participants, the creative minds behind the script have reportedly been credited with getting most of the facts right--proving again that truth is one of the most powerful weapons in a filmmaker's arsenal.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Great Raid.
Why was it important for captors of POWs to keep any news of the progress of the war away from their prisoners? How can hope and attitude affect the strength of a people?
Do you think it’s important for upcoming generations to see and hear these stories? How might factual depictions of the atrocities of war help our society?