A very well done film that seemed to get lost when it came to award consideration time.
The “Extra Features,” while all well done, began to cover the same ground after awhile.
Something tells me that Disney’s divorce with Miramax had a big effect on the films that “Miramax” was releasing in the marketplace during that time. A good example would be The Great Raid. With advertising costs factored in, this movie cost about $80 million dollars. From what I have gathered the movie only grossed $10 million dollars. While that isn’t a pittance it certainly doesn’t make up for the $70 million that somebody is going to have to eat. However, as bad as that it is, I can’t believe how overlooked this movie was. Director John Dahl has created a very layered film about one of the most amazing events of World War II. Yet, without a great deal of star power behind the film, or even hype surround to it (it’s amazing how far $20 million dollars in prints and ads doesn’t go nowadays) this movie couldn’t help but falter. I am hoping it gets a much better reception on DVD.
Lead by a cast that features Benjamin Bratt and James Franco, this movie tells of the highly heroic tale between of the elite 6th Ranger Battalion and the POWs they helped liberate in the Philippines. Mixed in with this is a love story between Joseph Fiennes and Connie Nielsen, which also looks at the “underground” rebellion against the Japanese in that territory. While I think some people might want more action in their War movie diet, this film really looks hard at military logistics as well as what it takes to feed the War machine.
This is a feature commentary with Director John Dahl, Producer Marty Katz, Technical Advisor Captain Dale Dye, Editor Scott Chestnut and Author Hampton Sides. While one might think that it would be hard to record, decipher or even listen to a commentary track featuring all these people, I have to say this was done right. Everyone seems to have their own space and as a result nobody is talking over anybody. The story of the Rangers, the POWs and the Underground is broken down very well here. We find out the movie was shot in Australia, what life was like inside the POW camps and generally we get a different technical aspect on the movie depending on who’s talking.
The Price of Freedom
The Price of Freedom: Making The Great Raid was put together by Miramax and is the kind of thing I could have seen playing on HBO to promote this film. It is a mix of footage both shot on the set and off. It features interviews where the story is explained by the actors, the creative team behind the movie and veterans of the actual events being depicted.
Extended Deleted Scenes
They have really gone all out with the 16 deleted scenes presented here. With titles like “Ambush,” “Shoot Out in Manila” and “Weapons” these scenes could have certainly elongated this 131 minute film. One also has the option of hearing John Dahl comment on these scenes. For my tastes, he tells us a little bit too much about what we can already see happening on the screen, but I like how he explained the way this movie was edited.
The Ghosts of Bataan
The Ghosts of Bataan: A 60-Minute Documentary is a very well made, very well put together examination of the survivors of this particular conflict. Most importantly, hearing from both the Death March Survivors and the Japanese soldiers made for a very interesting segment. I really like that Japanese, Filipino and American voices are heard because I think that gives this piece an overall depth that it wouldn’t have had if we were just hearing from one side. Also, it’s nice to see that the wounds from something like a War can and do eventually heal.
The Veterans Remember
This is a recounting of America’s involvement in World War II. Again we get to hear from Japanese, Filipino and American voices, and while I liked this piece, I think that it could have been better integrated amongst The Ghosts of Bataan segment. Overall, it seems to cover similar ground while also looking at the effects that war ultimately has on all the people involved.
Given to us by “Ghost Soldiers” author Hampton Sides this segment contains even more information about The Great Raid. Sides talks to us about the Philippines, the story of the war, trench warfare and generally examines the military war strategies that were employed by both sides of this conflict. This covers a lot of the ground that we already know, but it’s still interesting to see the war mindset at work.
Captain Dale Dye’s Boot Camp and Boot Camp Outtakes
Captain Dale Dye has done over 40 movies and the list of them reads like a veritable “Who’s Who?” of Hollywood megabudget moneymakers. His company is called Warriors Inc. and he is often charged with the task of whipping actor’s butts into shape so they can look like real soldiers on the big screen. This segment of the DVD shows that process. The Boot Camp Outtakes is a funny, behind the scenes examination of what the actor’s were going through while Captain Dale Dye was getting them prepared for their moviemaking mission. This whole presentation is very tongue in cheek.
Mixing The Great Raid
This segment of the DVD looks at how the sound is built up to create what we hear when we watch the final movie. We hear from the man in charge of this, Jon Johnson, as he explains how his job is to “service the chaos.” Other little gems we find out about are how the sound is mixed in a setting that emulates a movie theater. This way, the people putting the audio together can hear it how theatergoers will.
The Mixing Board
This is a really cool (although somewhat unnecessary) “Bonus Feature.” It allows the viewer to chose a sound element like “dialogue” or “foley” and just hear that within the scene. All of the options show the viewer the same 3 minute segment, but only the chosen element is highlighted.
Playing like a virtual textbook, the Interactive Timeline requires the “reader” to navigate around with their DVD’s remote. They can read the information, get an audio presentation and basically reaffirm all the previous information that they are given on this disc. Somewhat redundant, this really does a good job of summarizing (and expanding on) the story being told in the film.
Dedication to the Soldiers of Bataan
This is a list of white on black credits that memorializes the soldiers who were involved in this part of World War II. There is nothing too flashy about it and I think that suits the mood of this piece really well.
Widescreen 2.40:1 - Enhanced for 16x9 Televisions. I love the way this movie was shot. While not as grand looking as something like The Bridge on the River Kwai, this movie certainly doesn’t seem out of place in it’s company. There are no camera tricks or visual annoyances that make this movie hard to focus on. The story and the characters are just presented to us in as straight forward a manner as possible. They really don’t make movies like this very often so when they do, I think that makes a film like The Great Raid extra special.
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound - Spanish subtitles. As some of the supplemental features touch on, the sound FX on a movie like this is a very elaborate process. While I wouldn’t call the audio on this film groundbreaking, they are making a war movie and as such this film has got to sound a certain way. Also, at $80 million a pop, they can’t afford to try and reinvent the wheel even though using the standard one didn’t help matters either. Overall, I think the sound in The Great Raid serves to underscore this movie and make certain points.
The front cover has an assortment of soldiers that seems to recall the famous picture taken at Iwo Jima. Something tells me I should be familiar with this placement of the soldiers, but sadly I am not. Behind them is a nicely laid out portion of the American Flag. The back features some shots from the film which really make it look like the well made war movie that
The Great Raid is. There is a description of this movie, some critics quotes, a “Bonus Features/Technical Specs” listing and a cast list. Inside the case, both discs are housed in two separate trays. Very economical packaging makes The Great Raid a set for any collection.
The Great Raid does a very good job of explaining the origin of the conflict. Filled with a host of interesting “Bonus Features,” this two disk “Collector’s Edition” should find a home on many a World War II buff’s shelf. While at times the material presented began to overlap itself a bit, for the most part this was a very well compiled and thoughtfully put together set. What I really liked about this film is the length that it went to make the situation in the movie clear to viewers. I also appreciated how the “Bonus Features” showed us both sides of the equation. To be able to hear from Japanese soldiers is very interesting, simply because we find out they were told the same things about us as we were about them.
The Great Raid is a must see film that sadly wasn’t.
The Great Raid was released August 12, 2005.