Reviewed by: Willie R. Mangum, Jr.
|Action Adventure, Thriller, Drama, Historical
|2 hr. 12 min.
|Year of Release:
August 12, 2005 (wide)
|Benjamin Bratt, Connie Nielsen, James Franco, Joseph Fiennes, Mark Consuelos
|Lawrence Bender, Marty Katz
|Miramax, a division of beIN Media Group
“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