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(Review originally written at 1 February 2009)

Ever since "Saving Private Ryan", war flicks and WW II movies in particular have become really popular again. This has had some good results but also lots of failed attempts. "The Great Raid" is really one of those failures. It's an overlong, overblown and just plain boring war movie, that even becomes annoying to watch in parts due to its moralistic undertone. This movie really deserved to flop.

The entire movie is just basically one big build up to it's 'great raid'. And well, no offense, but is that even a battle at the end? It's more a massacre in which the Japanese are completely surrounded and are being totally surprised and overwhelmed by the American forces, who are being helped by Filipino guerrillas. 523 Japanese got killed, while only 2 Rangers, 1 POW and some guerrillas died. Yet the allied loses in this movie are being portrayed as some big tragedy and all died as heroes. Yeah well, it's of course not like I was sympathizing for the Japanse but it shows how incredibly overblown and overly moralistic this movie is.

It's moral themes are totally wrong and misplaced. Japanese are noble and proud people but in this movie they are being portrayed as animals, while all Americans are extremely honorable, helpful and heroic persons. At least as gets portrayed in this movie. The movie is so incredibly simple and black & white with these themes. Also quite amusing how the camp commander is being portrayed as a James Bond type of villain, who in the end is personally battling the Americans, as the last man standing basically. It truly becomes annoying in parts and because of this approach this movie also can be seen as propaganda, while the movie tries to let you believe that this is a very accurate and honest portrayal of the true events, that occurred in late January 1945, near Cabanatuan. It's an important and great story but in this movie it's just being portrayed completely wrong, even though the intentions were all, no doubt, good.

It's approach is what makes this movie so bad to watch. It is not just its extremely black & white handling of its moralistic themes but also its main approach. The movie is like a mix of a realistic made war movie, that never feels realistic or authentic, and a spectacular made big blockbuster. Because of this very mixed approach, neither of those two really work out really. Because of this the movie also really never feels like one. On the one hand you have a story following a bunch of character being held captive by the Japanese and on the other hand you have a bunch of Allied soldiers, planning the attack and rescue. Oh and then you also have Connie Nielsen walking around in this all somewhere. Amazing that they even managed to throw in a love-story in this movie. The movie tries to be epic but just never becomes so. Instead the movie is overlong and above all things quite boring to watch, also since you just never really care enough for any of the characters. Not really the actor's fault, I mean the movie has some great actors involved but I more blame the simplistic script and approach of the movie for this.

It's also quite clichéd all. I wished the movie had some more good ideas of its own, that way this movie might had been able to still distinct itself from other modern war movies.

Too slow, too dull, too moralistic, too overblown, too clichéd. In other words a real failed genre attempt.

4/10

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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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