Filipino actor, Cesar Montano, rubs shoulders with hollywood actors in “The Great Raid”
It’s not often the “Philippines” get a spot in a hollywood movie. More often than not, the country is mentioned only on the sidelines of major motion pictures and TV series. This time around, the country is on the spotlight for this latest WW-II based movie “The Great Raid”. Directed by John Dahl, is based on historical events documented from books by Hampton Side’s “Ghost Soldiers”, Forrest Bryant Johnson’s “Hour of Redemption” and William Breur’s “The Great Raid”.
The story is set in 1945 here in the Philippines. It’s about a rescue of more than 500 American soldiers in a POW camp in Cabanatuan City. Local actor Cesar Montano, as Capt. Pajota, finally gets to rub shoulders with hollywood actors Benjamin Bratt as Lt Col. Henry Mucci the leader of the Raid, James Franco as Captain Prince, Joseph Feines as the ailing officer in the POW camp and Connie Nielson as Margaret, the nurse who’s working with the Filipino Underground resistance.
The movie starts of with a 10 minute documentary of relevant events in World War II. Then we are whisked of to the 3 point view of the movie unfolding to the said “Most daring rescue mission of all”. I said 3 point view as we would see three views of the story intertwined; One is Henry Mucci’s group of soldiers who are the ones responsible for the rescue. We see their tactics, on how they infiltrate the POW camp and work with the Filipino rebel forces; Second is the POW camp. Here we see the life of the American soldiers, on how they suffer and how they are tortured whenever they attempt to escape the camp; Lastly is from the point of view of the underground Filipino resistance where Margaret, is helping the POW soldiers by smuggling medecines to send to the POW camps in Cabanatuan. Together, they are the pillars of the story, in some ways can be engaging but somehow doesn’t really able to deliver that truly entertaining punch.
The mood of the story seems too monotone for me as the characters are rather flat and I wouldn’t care much about them or their not that convincing. It felt like this was the drama part of the mini docmentary from the start of the movie, and still retains that mood. The view from the Filipino underground resistance with Margaret has more interesting events. Until the last part of the movie where the combined forces of the Americans and the Filipinos steals the limelight with the execution of their complex strategy in infiltrating the POW camp. Although that part was good, still it doesn’t really offer anything new or exciting to make it memorable or “Daring”.
The movie wasn’t shot on location, probably for security reasons and was shot in Australia instead. But I thought it would have been a better production if they took advantage of the backdrop here especially in the scenes in Palawan and Cabanatuan. Still it was interesting how they were able to somehow bring that old Manila feel in this movie.
The music though was OK, but excessive use of it is rather annoying when we already get the point. Especially on those delicate scenes where the Japanese were shooting the prisoners at the POW camp one by one and the music just loudens up to add to the mood, forcing you to be emotional over the scene.
What sets great war movies like “Saving Private Ryan”, “Black Hawk Down” or the TV limited Series “Band of Brothers” from the “Great Raid” is the elaborate production, the interesting set of characters and interaction. They do not try hard to convince you to feel something and just show you what is there. The “Great Raid” felt more like I’m watching a documentary movie on a Cable channel trying to be cinematic. I had more interest in the video footage at the end of the movie where we see the real persons behind the actors.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.