Prayer Focus
Movie Review

The Great Raid

a.k.a. Ghost Soldiers
MPAA Rating: R for strong war violence and brief language

Reviewed by: Willie R. Mangum, Jr.
CONTRIBUTOR

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Action/Adventure, Thriller, Drama, Historical
Length:
2 hr. 12 min.
Year of Release:
2005
Featuring: Benjamin Bratt, Connie Nielsen, James Franco, Joseph Fiennes, Mark Consuelos
Director: John Dahl
Producer: Lawrence Bender, Marty Katz
Distributor: Miramax
Copyright, Miramax
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Relevant Issues
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The most daring rescue mission of our time is a story that has never been told.

Here’s what the distributor says about their film: “Set in the Philippines in 1945, “The Great Raid” tells the true story of the 6th Ranger Battalion, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Henry Mucci (Benjamin Bratt) who undertake a daring rescue mission against all odds. Traveling thirty miles behind enemy lines, the 6th Ranger Battalion aims to liberate over 500 American prisoners-of-war from the notorious Cabanatuan Japanese POW camp in the most audacious rescue ever.”

“The Great Raid” is another in an ever lengthening and steady line of WWII films based on true-life events. The film opens with voice over from one of the main characters, Captain Prince, as he sets the context for the story. John Dahl (“Joy Ride”, “Rounders”) is a competent director and very effectively uses black and white stock footage and photography combined with contemporary location shoot footage to put us in the thick of the fight in the Pacific Theater, particularly in the Philippines.

The first act of the film is spent in typical introductory fashion, building character and story to bolster the blood-and-guts-war-is-hell aspect of the film and draw in the chicks. An unrequited love once illicit for the sake of honor is now freed by death to blossom in purity and nobility, should providence allow.

A raid on a POW camp in Cabanatuan will challenge the hand of providence and test the courage and mettle of this newly formed and thoroughly trained battalion under the able leadership of Lieutenant Colonel Henry Mucci. The Great Raid to save 513 American POW’s is formulated and will be attempted by this untried battalion of brave men.

Overall, this is a very well made film from a technical perspective. Each of the actors is capable and, as a result, believable characters emerge. Major Gibson, played by Joseph Fiennes (“Luther”, “Enemy at the Gates”), is the rather melancholy and foreboding commander of the prisoners in the POW camp in Cabanatuan, and for the most part he is believable, but sometimes somewhat melodramatic.

The action sequences are tight, putting us in the midst of the fight and raising the stakes with pure adrenaline. What the story lacks in depth and opportunity for the audience to identify, it makes up for in historical military detail and accuracy of the mission preparation and implementation.

The irony of this film is the inability of the filmmakers to understand or embrace a biblical anthropology that is essential to honor, courage, fidelity and the inherent worth of human life that are fundamental to true heroism. The ease with which they betray the third commandment belies this understanding of all that is heroism.

“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain” Exodus 20:7 NASB. (These words were spoken directly to Moses and are the third of Ten Commandments laying the foundation for godly morality in this world. These are binding words and disobedience carries severe consequences. Let me make it very clear that the profane use of God’s name in the form of common slang is a very small part of the meaning of the third commandment. I believe that this commandment includes every aspect of how we live our lives in the name of Christ. Every thought, word and deed falls under the scope of this commandment. But it certainly includes profane and careless words.)

With that in view I will point out that there are 3 instances of the vulgar, profane use of God’s name. And yet there are beautiful allusions to faith in God that appear throughout the actions and dialogue; allusions that, in the end, come up empty, “holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power” (2 Tim. 3:5).

In the end, as well made as this film is, I cannot recommend it. I may be accused of being Puritanical and naive, but I cannot tread lightly where Scripture commands me not to go. The uses of our God’s name in vain ought not to be tolerated. Just as David was not willing to allow the God of Israel to be mocked, so we too should take a stand and load our sling. Mel Gibson has proven that excellent filmmaking can and should embrace all that is good, beautiful and true according to a biblical world view. We must demand (with our pocket books) that Hollywood do better.

Mel Gibson has set the bar high; let’s hold Hollywood filmmakers to the standard that he has set. Had the producers and director of “The Great Raid” not allowed those three usages of our Lord’s name in vain, none of us would have felt cheated out of a good film. As it stands, we cannot cheat God out of his good name.

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/nudity: None

Year of Release—2005 / USA release: August 12, 2005 (wide).

Viewer Comments
Positive—The Bible says that there is no greater love than for a man to lay down his life for another. This movie is about that kind of love.

What made the deepest impression on me was the fact that the elite Ranger battalion was ordered on this mission, not because it in any way benefited the Allies in a militarily strategic way. It was simply a mission of mercy—a seemingly impossible, suicidal assignment: to traverse thirty miles, by foot, outnumbered by enemy troops in the area by a ratio of 100:1, and rescue and transport home the last of those who, three years earlier, had been abandoned when MacArthur was ordered to leave the Philippines. The mission was simply to bring home those last remaining 511 men who had endured a hell on Earth the likes of which none of us can even imagine, and who had come to believe that their country had abandoned them.

There were 3 curse words used during the entire movie, and at no time were they used just to shock the audience. The references about God were biblical, for instance at one point a prisoner telling the Japanese commander that it was not he that held the prisoner’s life in his hands. The priests were portrayed as brave and honorable men of God, sacrificing their selves for their friends.

The grace and generous blessings of God gave birth to our indispensable national belief that human life is precious, and must be treasured and preserved at all costs. This movie portrays a deep belief that the lives of forgotten men are treasured.

Do not take your preteen children to this as the images are very intense, but take plenty of kleenex because the tears will flow.

See this movie. It is worth the cost of admission.
My Ratings: Better than Average/5
—Gary Buie, age 53
Positive—Not since Back to Bataan and Sergeant York have we seen a movie with such a heart, feeling and charisma. Contrary to popular belief and knowing that I am going to get many people upset by the following comment, however I am going to have to say that YES The Great Raid is even better than Shindlers List and Saving Private Ryan. Shindler’s List contrary to the public’s perception is a movie that shows the tragedy of the Holocaust entrenched in Sex, Language and Grotesque Violence. And Saving Private Ryan is a fable clothed in the likeness of history while showing the incredible victory yet more tragedy of D-Day. The Great Raid shows the power of God, Human Spirit and Power of our blessed Country.

The Great Raid is the actual TRUE story of the greatest pow rescue in the history of the United States. Focusing on the Japanese occupation of the Philippians and centering around one concentration camp where the Japanese have been given orders to murder all Prisoners of War because of a new edict sent down from Japan. With a very limited time and knowing that the men are about to be murdered, Mac Carther sends in the troops to rescue the 511 POWs from being killed. They must fight against time and odds in order to do so and they must also rely on the help of the persecuted Philippine resistance.

The Great Raid is the story of one woman’s desire to help both the women she loves and the men who have been giving up their lives for the sake of her country. The movie is about a captain and sergeant who believe so much in their country that they are willing to lay down their lives for their men and anyone else who has the same conviction. The Great Raid is about the belief that with “faith” we can defy odds and win because of God being on our side. “The Great Raid” is about one man’s desire to live and inspire others to believe in Victory even through horrific circumstances…

What makes the Great Raid work is not only the fact that they make a movie that is without all of the sex, language and perverse violence, but a movie that resembles a classic film showing a movie with courage, valor and faith. Most modern day war movies almost enjoy making war look terrible and lose track of the heart of the soldiers. Movies like The Thin Red Line make the Japanese soldiers look like the greatest and nicest people in the world, while the United States Military are the brutal and disgusting torturers and murders.

“The Great Raid” has been bashed by the liberal media as being a “movie tailor made for George W Bush,” which they mean as a put down, however if that is what you compare Bush to, then I have no problem with that comment what so ever. I don’t think Bush would has well. This movie rejects the ideology that we need to make a movie showing how bad and how great both sides are. This movie skips the BS and goes right for TRUTH. What also makes this movie great is that it backs up EVERYTHING with raw footage of the brutality of the Japanese occupation and edicts that were sent down from the Japanese government. I look at what the Great Raid did and cannot help but think that if the Body of Christ did what the director of this movie did, how much better the Church would be like. Stop compromising to sell tickets, stop showing how great the other side or the enemy is, and stop trying to soften the truth for the sake of feelings. What do you have left with you leave out all the guff. The Truth and that my friend is why, “The Truth Shall Set You Free.”

The acting is nothing less than suprub by Joseph Fiennes (Martin Luther, Shakespeare in Love and Enemy at the Gate), Jame Franco (Spiderman 1 and 2) and Benjamin Bratt. Connie Neilson who played in Gladiator delivers an incredible performance playing the true life war hero Margaret, who risks her life to save the United States POWs. The story is not a revision of history, therefore the storyline is perfect, the cinamatogrpahy is visually stunning and resembles a classic fim and the editing is incredible. The directing of The Great Raid is fantastic given that he actually accomplished making a movie with a great message and delivering a stallar reporduction of a true American account.

WARNINGS: NONE—Why is the Movie R: For toned down war violence. Compared to most R Rated movies, this movie is very mild but does still have blood, yet not shown in horrific ways that many movies today show. There are VERY FEW bad words thrown around, unless the liberal media believes that using the name of God is a bad word. There are 2 off color references but not too offensive.

I would have to say that with the exception of the 2 off colored reference, this movie is a VERY important history movie for kids and parents alike. A perfect opportunity to sit down and watch a movie with them that shows so many incredible principles. Unlike Shindler’s List, you will not have to edit the movie for sex and filthy language. This movie literally resembles a great John Wayne WWII film. I give this movie 4 of 4 Stars and is going to have to be on my top 5 best movies of the year.
My Ratings: Excellent!/5
—John Kehrli—Christian Hot Spot, age 31
Positive—I’d recommend this film for any American over 16. Japan is (I hope) a totally different nation today, but the way these AMERICAN men were treated… I didn’t think Hollyweird was capable anymore of producing a war movie, based in history, that actually was positive toward Americans and not Soviet snipers or some other enemy of freedom.
My Ratings: Average/4
—Bob C, age 41
Positive—I took my teenage sons to see this movie with me and what a great time we had. The honor, courage and skill portrayed in this film is something that we will remember for a long time. It shows WW2 soldiers as they ought to be shown, as they, I believe, would want to be shown: as ordinary men who cared about their comrades.

The raid itself was among the best staged and executed plans I’ve ever seen in a war movie. Go see this movie before it leaves the theaters, you will not be disappointed.
My Ratings: Better than Average/5
—Michael, age 47
Positive—I was concerned going in to see this movie because usually I avoid “R” rated movies for the obvious reasons. I found this movie not to be offensive (I have seen movies rated PG or PG-13 that in my opinion should have deserved an “R” rating that were far worse than this movie. There were some disturbing scenes in the movie but none were gory, etc., but very realistic of war.

The movie really shows the dedication of soldiers to help their comrades in arms and even risk or lay down their life for another. I have seen Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan; I rank this movie better than these 2 movies because this movie had no sex or nudity, profane language was sparse and the graphic violent scenes compared to other type of movies in this genre were minimal, etc. I highly recommend this movie, but be careful of taking pre-teens or younger.
My Ratings: Average/4
—Mike B, age 41
Positive—…well done. War is horrible. You can read about them in the Word. So I would say see the film if one wants to get a realistic picture of war. If you want to be entertained—see another film. If hearing a few cuss words upsets you—stay home.
My Ratings: Average/4
—mr snacks, age 54
Positive—I thought this was an excellent moving film. There wasn’t a dull moment in it. I did not even notice any taking the Lord’s name in vain. I did see several positive references to God. This is an excellent portrayal of a POW rescue for which I and many of my generation are likely unaware. For older teens and adults. There are some brief but very gruesome scenes. This movie made me appreciate the atrocities of war more than any I have seen.
My Ratings: Good / 5
—CC, age 42

Comments from young people
Positive—I saw this movie with high expectations, and it certainly met them. Although a little slow at the beginning, this movie was definitely quite a sucess with the big action scene at the end. I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of Christian references. Although there was some language, it is a war movie. The acting was Oscar worthy. It’s just too bad Miramax didn’t give it more publicity. Definitely put on your must-watch list!
My Ratings: Good/5
—Becky, age 15
Positive—When I went to go see “The Greatest Raid,” I expected a LOT of violence and language. I was surprised to see that there wasn’t nearly the amount of violence or gore that most modern war movies have (“Saving Private Ryan,” “Black Hawk Down,” ect). This movie was very good, and I think that it could’ve been PG-13, but there were still some gruesome scences such as a close-up of burning corpes that obviously weren’t PG-13 material. If you like good historical war movies, then this movie is a good choice.
My Ratings: Offensive/4½
—Bryan, age 15
Positive—Wow… this is one of the best movies I’ve seen this year. While there’s violence and some rather intense scenes, it is a war movie, appropriately rated R, and if that bothers you, I wouldn’t recommend it. But for those who can stomach the gore of war… there’s no sex, no needless, shock-the-audience violence, wonderful acting, high moral standards among the main characters, and overall just really well done. Do yourself a favor and watch it.
My Ratings: Good/5
—Michaela, age 16
Positive—This is a great movie depicting the violence of World War II and the honor found in the American soldiers. No wonder the liberals disliked it. IT is very unlike “Letters from Iwo Jima” which puts the Japanese in a favorable light. The Great Raid shows the harsh truth. The general plot is MacArthur was forced to leave the Philippines for his safety. His retreat left thousands of American soldiers in the hands of the cruel Japanese. They rounded all the men up and separated them, putting them in POW camps. Among these is Major Gibson (Joseph Fiennes), a man who survived the famous Death March and then put into the Cabanatuan POW camp. Then, American troops land again in the Philippines. Everyone (including the Japanese) know that MacArthur is going to recapture the islands in a few weeks. Captain Prince (Franco) develops a plan with Colonel Mucci (Bratt) to rescue the POWs. They know that if the military keeps advancing, the Japanese will probably kill the POWs.

Violence/ Heavy—The violence is quite strong and, at times, almost graphic as it accurately depicts the brutality that the Japanese showed to the Americans in the POW camps. There is live footage that is pretty violent. At the beginning, some American POWs are grouped into a bomb shelter and burned alive by the Japanese. This isn’t terribly violent but some will still find it quite disturbing. Later on in the movie, ten POWs are executed in a moving, tragic scene. The men are lined up and a Japanese soldier walks from man to man, shooting them through their neck. This is shown from a distance and is not really graphic. It is quite disturbing, however. Many people get shot throughout and there is a scene where a man gets beaten. There is no shortage of blood throughout the film.

Language/ Moderate—There was quite a bit of language in the film, but, considering that the movie was about the military, the profanity wasn’t that bad.

Sex/ None—There is no nudity or sex whatsoever in this film. There isn’t even any kissing.

Positives—There is one mention to Christianity in this film. A one point, Fiennes’ character is called to the office of Nagai, the leader of the Cabanatuan POW camp, where Nagai asks him to persuade his love interest, Margret (Nielsen) character to betray her partners in the Resistance. Nagai states “I am giving you your future.” Fiennes looks slowly and says quietly, “My future’s not in your hands.”

I would caution parents from letting their children watch this movie due to the heavy violence and the language. However, teens and up should be able to see this movie with no problems. It shows us the brutality of World War II and the valiant, honorable American soldiers who fought in it. This is a beautiful, but harsh film.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Joseph Hughey, age 14
Movie Critics
…the power of sacrifice… best film I’ve seen so far this year…
—Phil Boatwright, Baptist Press
…meticulous attention to period detail …Reaching for epic breadth, this based-on-fact WW II drama forgoes storytelling depth…
—Sheri Linden, The Hollywood Reporter
…Here is a war movie that understands how wars are actually fought…
—Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert
…The action is brilliant, the combat sharp and rattling, and the film follows the historical record more closely than most Hollywood films…
—Chicago Tribune, Michael Esposito