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The Great Raid
2005 - R - 132 Mins.
Director: John Dahl
Producer: Lawrence Bender
Written By: Carlo Bernard, Doug Miro
Starring: Benjamin Bratt, James Franco, Joseph Fiennes, Connie Nielsen
Review by: Joe Rickey
Official Site:

Business as usual.
Soldiers put their lives on the line day in and day out as they battle the enemy. 'The Great Raid' attempts to tell a story of heroism on the part of soldiers during World War II that has never been depicted in a film before now. It is very unfortunate that the resulting film is a sluggish affair that never really gets off the ground.

Inspired by true events, the film tells of a mission on the part of the U.S. Army to rescue over 300 POWs held captive for more than three years. Benjamin Bratt and James Franco (the 'Spider-Man' franchise) star with the likes of Joseph Fiennes ('Shakespeare in Love') and Connie Nielsen ('One Hour Photo,' 'Gladiator') rounding out the cast.

The set-up certainly has potential. A rousing bit of inspiring cinema could easily be made from the material had a different approach been taken. What approach was taken by director John Dahl, he of 'Rounders' and 'Joy Ride' ('Road Kill' in the UK)? A "just the facts" approach, that's what. While this may seem like just the right approach for a fact-based project like 'The Great Raid,' it ends up being detrimental to the production of a film that should be not only true to life, but god forbid, entertaining as well.

By sticking so close to the facts of the event, director Dahl and debut screenwriters Carlo Bernard and Doug Miro effectively drown the film in pretense. Far too much time is spent going over the various plans regarding the raid without ever establishing a full-blooded persona the audience can care one bit about so that once we actually get to the raid (well-staged by Dahl, showing the skill he's acquired over the years) of the title, it ends up as nothing more than an explosion-filled battle of cardboard characters whose fates may hang in the balance but we likely won't care one way or the other.

Given all this, the actors are thrust into a no win situation but they give it their best anyway. Both Bratt and Franco, as the officers leading the planning and execution of the raid, lend more screen presence than one might expect given their past performances. As an ill prisoner in the camp, Fiennes isn't given much to do other than mumble a few lines about hope and later, losing hope. Nielsen, as his one-time lover turned nurse, is the center of a subplot that goes nowhere.

The potential was most certainly present for 'The Great Raid' to become another thrilling tale of wartime heroism. It was not to be though as the final product is a relentlessly dull excursion that is destined to be ignored upon its arrival into cinemas.
Movie Guru Rating
Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better. Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better.
  2 out of 5 stars

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