Cast: Benjamin Bratt, James Franco, Connie
Nielsen, Marton Csokas, Joseph Fiennes
Saving Private Everyone would work better. The whole movie
is about the POW camp at Cabanatuan. About 500 of our boys are in
pure hell. Undernourished, overpunished, and generally up shit creek,
these boys don’t have a bright future ahead of them. The prisoners,
“led” by Major Gibson (Fiennes), have
been receiving smuggled medicine to keep death at bay. The resistance
that supplies them, headed by the lovely Margaret (Nielsen),
is in grave danger. The Japs have been executing prisoners rather
than letting Uncle Sam retrieve them, and the Army has landed and
plans to own the Philippines within two weeks. The standard garrison
at the Cabanatuan camp leave, and get replaced by the SS of the
Japanese army. Preparations for extermination commence. On the American
side, Lt. Colonel Mucci (Bratt) commands the unproven
unit. He’s been training them hard since he got his boys,
but never had the opportunity to prove their worth in battle. When
he hears of the opportunity to rescue 500 POWs, he orders Capt.
Prince (Franco) to plan a raid.
I have too many grievances with this movie to spell out in detail.
To be sure, the Japanese Imperial Army had an earned reputation
for callous brutality. They weren’t lying when they show the
Japanese Imperial Army executing prisoners, civilians, and subversives.
We could cite the Rape of Nanking if we ever want powerful evidence
of their horrors. But this movie concentrated very carefully on
it. I wonder why they just didn’t give everyone playing a
Jap a set of horns with the uniform. There were absolutely no attempts
to redeem humanity among anyone Japanese. Seeing as this movie was
about the glory of our country and the evils of theirs, it’s
no surprise that our own faults from that era (internment camps,
anyone?) have been conveniently ignored. But I have no need for
any sort of propaganda, privately produced or otherwise. It’s
basically racist to portray every single person of a certain ethnicity
as a bad guy. I shouldn’t have to be given a very skewed view
of the glory days of America to have pride in my country, and I’m
just insulted when someone tries to. So, this movie insulted me.
It insults my personal mechanisms of moral judgment. Based on a
true story, but seen through tunnel-vision.
To make things worse, I saw the cookie-cutter edges on this war
movie. We learn the valuable lesson of trusting in your commander.
He learns the valuable lesson of humility. We get our prep speeches.
We see the fraternity between soldiers. It’s just like any
other war movie, and if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen
them all. That’s not to say that every war movie is the same,
but all the similar ones are. I expect more of my war movies than
glory. Those days are over; war has been exposed for the exercise
in insanity that it is. It’s a moral disaster, not so much
a testing ground of a man’s character but instead a no-man’s
land for nobility. This isn’t a war movie for my generation.
Being stuck in the sequel to Vietnam, I want my war movies to be
educational to reality rather than inspirational to fantasy. If
you must see a war movie, don’t make it this one. If you like
a sensible dose of patriotism, make it Saving Private Ryan,
and if you like a healthy dose of thought, make it The Thin
Red Line. Just avoid this one if you can.
Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.
Itís worth a full-price ticket.
Itís worth a matinee ticket.
Wait for video rental.
Check out the video from the library, if you must.
While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...