The Great Raid parents guide

The Great Raid Parent Guide

Overall B+

In January 1945, American soldiers and Filipino guerillas embarked on a mission to rescue 500 U.S. soldiers from a horrendous Japanese POW camp. Largely based on historical accounts, the film stars Benjamin Bratt, James Franco, and Joseph Finnes.

Release date August 11, 2005

Violence D+
Sexual Content B
Profanity C+
Substance Use C+

Why is The Great Raid rated R? The MPAA rated The Great Raid R for strong war violence and brief language.

Run Time: 132 minutes

Parent Movie Review

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.

Starring Benjamin Bratt, James Franso. Running time: 132 minutes. Theatrical release August 11, 2005. Updated

The Great Raid Parents' Guide

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?

Home Video

The most recent home video release of The Great Raid movie is December 20, 2005. Here are some details…

DVD Release Date: 20 December 2005
The Great Raid invades the home market in two versions: The Wide Screen Director’s Cut or Full Screen Edition. Both provide the following DVD featurettes: The Price of Freedom (the making of the film), Dale Dye’s Boot Camp, War In The Pacific (an interactive timeline), Sound Mixing The Great Raid, The Mix Board, and The Veterans Remember. Also offered are deleted scenes (with optional director commentary) and a commentary with the director, producer, and technical advisor, editor and book author. The 2-disc Director’s Cut includes more deleted scenes, boot camp outtakes, a history lesson with author Hampton Sides, The Ghosts of Bataan (a 60-minute documentary) and a Dedication to the Soldiers of Bataan. Audio tracks are available in English DD5.1 Surround sound, with subtitles in English and Spanish.

Related home video titles:

If this film still sounds too violent for your family, consider some older war movies that are less intense, yet still excellently made. Two examples are The Bridge on the River Kwai (also set in the Pacific conflict) and The Great Escape (about a group of POWs who take measures to free themselves). The movie Tora! Tora! Tora! is a carefully researched dramatization of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.