A review of “The Great Raid” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: **

Rating: R for war violence and language

Run Time: 2 hours, 12 minutes

 

 

John Dahl manages to craft a sturdy yet stagnant depiction of courage under fire in this lengthy re-telling of the infamous WWII raid on Cabanatuan.

The time is right for a flag-waving propaganda piece and in this regard “Raid” positively heaves patriotism. A testosterone-heavy cast including Benjamin Bratt, James Franco, Marton Csokas and Joseph Fiennes headline the noble efforts of an army battalion attempting to rescue 500-plus American POWs from a squalid Japanese prison camp in the Philippines.

The battle rages from both sides of the barbed wire. For Lt. Colonel Mucci (Bratt) and Captain Robert Prince (Franco) the urgency to move behind enemy lines is paramount and the mission crystal clear; liberate the military brethren who have been captured by the Japanese army.

Those poor souls have been under lock and key for three years, half-mad with desperation and disease. The Japanese are narrowly portrayed as callous and cruel thugs who merely wish to maim and humiliate their American hostages without losing an ounce of face.

It’s the good old US of A duking it out with Japs. Classic warfare of the old school; black vs. white and good vs. evil. Dahl, typically a vibrant storyteller (“The Last Seduction”), struggles under the weight of this unwieldy drama that lacks a vibrant edge undoubtedly the backbone of the 1944 rescue operation.

Franco is incapable of a bad performance and his charismatic Prince is no exception. Assertive prisoner Csokas steals the show from key player Fiennes and his unrequited love affair with Connie Nielsen (as underground heroine Margaret Utinsky). 

Backstory isn’t heartening; “Raid” has languished on the shelf for nearly three years and is being rushed into production before the official exit of Bob and Harvey Weinstein from Miramax. Or timed to coincide with a certain nationalistic lethargy on the part of the American public? Either way it’s not much to write home about.