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The Great Raid

Mission Impossible…

In 1945, the tides of war were rapidly shifting in favor of the U.S. A group of several hundred US soldiers were being held in a Japanese POW camp in the Philippines. Seemingly forgotten, these POWs would find themselves in a particularly dire situation as the Japanese War Ministry decreed a "Kill All Policy" for their war camps.

A small band of unseasoned US army rangers is called into action to liberate the POWs before they are executed. Thus, begins the remarkable true story of The Great Raid. While we know the inevitable outcome, director John Dahl does a good job of keeping the audience engaged wondering how this great raid will come to fruition and what the fate of the primary characters will be.

The primary narrative thread of The Great Raid involves the assembly and deployment of the well trained, but unseasoned army rangers selected for this challenging mission. Interwoven is the story of Major Gibson (well played by Joseph Fiennes) and his fellow POWs as they cling desperately to life and the feeble hope they still might be liberated. Rounding things out is the ardent effort of Major Gibson's love interest, Margaret Utinsky (Connie Nielsen) to smuggle medication to Gibson and his POWs.

John Dahl immediately seizes your attention with an opening scene of American POWs being burned alive at a small war camp in the Philippines as the Japanese military follows the Japanese War Ministry's decree. The tension never lets up in The Great Raid as Margaret Utinsky, Major Gibson, and Captain Prince's (James Franco) platoon of army rangers find themselves in increasingly hot water as time runs out on all of them.

The performances of the primary cast are solid and appropriately grim given the dire circumstances. James Franco brings a pronounced level of solemnity to the role of Captain Prince, the icy leader of the raid. Joseph Fiennes provides a weary, but resolute hopefulness in his role as Major Gibson, giving flickering hope to his exhausted men in the POW camp. Connie Nielsen also provides a tense performance as Gibson's love interest.

The Great Raid is a straightforward, but solid action film that does a consistent job in all categories. John Dahl expertly handles this material providing a compelling and remarkable story of one of World War II's most inspiring acts of heroism.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars