Professor Froward's Slough of Despond

Proud purveyor of flawed generalizations and vacuous tautologies.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

The Great Raid

Just got back from The Great Raid. Not a bad flick. A real war movie, with plausible characters instead of cartoonishly distinctive "personalities". You know the drill: There's always one guy who rips the sleeves off his uniform, and the one who has Issues with Authority, and so on. Reviewers have therefore been complaining that the characters in this one are interchangeable, but those clowns watch too many movies. Have you learned to tell your friends apart? You'll do fine.

You'll know who's who on the screen, but you'll never know which actors played them. They all call each other "Major" or "Colonel" or whatever: "Major, tell the Captain to send the Lieutenant over". "Yes, sir". In the cast list at IMDB there's no way to tell one Lt. from the next. The sole exceptions are 1st Sgt. Sid "Top" Wojo, who everybody calls "Top", and the General, because there's only one of each of those ranks in the movie. There's some guy they call "Red" who might be a Captain Redding, but then again he might just have had red hair; hard to tell. The color was a bit washed out, deliberately so. I can state with confidence that the blonde knockout is Connie Nielsen, who looks a bit like Nicole Kidman might have looked before she went on the Bataan Death March Diet.

What I thought was odd about the movie was that American soldiers were portrayed as... soldiers. Not war criminals, nor stupid, terrified, trigger-happy teenagers, nor helpless victims of society. Neither victims nor monsters, but normal people doing a dangerous and difficult job that they trained for. They're not necessarily fearless, but they cope with it like serious adults. I don't have a TV, but I gather this is not a common view of the US military in the media these days. Given the hurricane of militaristic propaganda to which some people think we're being subjected by the Bushitlerianneoconiburton War Machine, you'd think there'd be more than one war movie in the theaters this season portraying our boys in uniform in a positive light.

You'd also think there'd be more movies about atrocities committed by real pros, to put our loud Britney Spears records and halal menus in perspective. There are Japanese atrocities in this movie. They're historical, and they're gruesome. Japan's such a nice place to visit, it's odd to think that these nice folks' grandparents burned prisoners alive. Heck, Germany's a nice place to visit, too. Such civilized, cultured nations. So well organized. Good thing the lefties have figured out that fascism only happens when you let the rubes watch NASCAR and otherwise do as they damn well please.

Another issue comes to mind: The Rangers lost two men in the raid. There was also a group of Filipino guerillas who kept a vastly superior Japanese force off the Rangers' backs, and lost twenty-one men doing it. It looks to me as if those guys had the tougher part of the job: They were veterans, fighting on their own turf, and had greater losses than the Rangers, who were mostly new to combat as well as the Philipines. The film gives them credit, and commenters in this discussion say some real Filipino actors got roles, which is cool (not enough screen time, though). I would've liked to see more about them, simply because I've read quite a lot about Americans in the Pacific war, and very little about Filipinos.

But never mind politics and history. It's a movie, not a seminar. And it's a believable movie, not badly marred by wooden acting or dumb dialog, and blessedly free of Big Stars. It held my interest throughout. It had me on the edge of my seat a few times, and I sniffled when Nurse Hottie was reunited with... er... Major. Yes, that was his name. Major.

Worth seeing.

UPDATE 8/16/2005: Here's a much more thorough review, by somebody who knows the history. Makes my effort look pretty weak.