The Great Raid is the single best movie of 2005. It was also the single most patriotic movie from that year. This is significant since 2005 was a year of unpatriotic flicks ranging from Munich to Syriana that sought to critique U.S. policy in the War on Terror, but which only served to provide aid and comfort for the enemy.
The Great Raid is also an accurate depiction of one of the more important events of World War II. This was the liberation of U.S. prisoners of war who were being held at a Japanese Prisoner Of War (P.O.W.) camp at Cabanatuan in the Philippines. This is a story that up until now had never been told on the silver screen.
One of the most noteworthy aspects of The Great Raid is that it is one of the few movies made about World War II that gives Filipinos their just due for their role in the war. Most Americans are not aware of the fact that many Filipinos risked their lives in helping American P.O.W.’s. Likewise, many Filipinos participated in guerilla warfare against the Japanese occupiers during 1941-1945.
Another noteworthy aspect of The Great Raid is that it showcases the kind of operation that is also used to fight terrorism whether it be in Afghanistan, Iraq or elsewhere. The U.S. Army Rangers 6th Battalion, forerunners of todays U.S. Army Special Forces were the primary unit involved in the raid depicted in the movie as was a detachment from the 11th Airborne Division.
An unusual aspect of The Great Raid was its casting. Instead of casting big name actors, director John Dahl chose to cast mostly unknown actors. Even the lead actors Benjamin Bratt & Joseph Fiennes were not very well known actors. The purpose of this was to focus the audience’s attention on the storyline without the actor’s prior reputation and roles getting in the way of the film’s appreciation.
The movie begins with the Japanese invasion and take over of the Philippines in 1941. The narration reminds us that the Philippines were doomed to fall to the Japanese assault when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt decided to focus on defeating Hitler despite making promises to the American people that he would do all that he could to defend the Philippines.
The Japanese are shown as behaving in a cruel and sadistic manner. Amnerican and Filipino P.O.W.’s are shown being subjected to torture, starvation and witholding of medical treatment. They are also shown being subjected to frequent beatings by Japanese soldiers who clearly enjoyed inflicting pain and suffering. This is not propaganda by the filmmakers. Instead, it is a realistic depiction of the kind of war crimes that were actually committed by Japanese soldiers both in the Philippines and elsewhere during World War II.
The Great Raid shows the planning and intelligence gathering that lead to the raid on the P.O.W. camp at Cabanatuan. Aerial reconnaissance and photography played a key role here. Most importantly, its depiction of the actual raid and freeing of the prisoners was both historically accurate and also well executed on film.
One aspect of The Great Raid that deserves mention is that, unlike the great majority of Hollywood productions, it shows genuine respect for religion. Religion is treated in a positive manner. The adherents and priests of Catholicism are presented in a positive light. There are even a few scenes in which a card that has an illustration of the Virgin Mary on it plays a key role in giving a pair of American soldiers both the bravery and the confidence to fully engage themselves in the performance of their heroic mission.
The best thing about The Great Raid is the fact that it is a patriotic pro-America movie. It is a movie that makes American soldiers look every bit as brave and good on celluloid as they are in reality. This is in direct contrast to the great majority of military related movies of the post 9/11 era that are made to provide aid and comfort to the terroristic enemy and trash America at every turn.
All in all, The Great Raid is a great movie about a great nation. It is stirringly patriotic and is very well made. It is a movie that every good American should see.