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The Great Raid (Director's Cut)
DVD disk
Jan 17, 2006 By: Quigles
The Great Raid (Director's Cut) order
Director:
John Dahl

Actors:
Benjamin Bratt
James Franco
Joseph Fiennes

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
After 3 years of imprisonment during World War II, 500 POW's try their hardest to stay alive. Their one hope of being rescued soon comes into fruition, as a group of rangers go on a dangerous mission to try and save them.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Not so much a bad movie, THE GREAT RAID is a very sincere and well-made piece that's just not a whole lot of fun to watch. Then again, I'm assuming no war movie is supposed to actually be "fun", but still, they better at least be captivating, heart-felt, and/or intense as all hell. THE GREAT RAID only succeeds in one of these categories - the "heart-felt" one. Fortunately, that was enough to keep me watching.

I can see a lot of people wanting to throw popcorn while watching this movie. It's much different than the traditional "bang-bang/boom-boom" war movie we've grown so accustomed to. No, this film is old school. It has an old-fashioned, straightforward story with only one real fight scene (that, of course, being the "great raid"). It's also very accurate. One thing's for sure, true history and war buffs will certainly dig what this film has to offer. Others though... I'm not so sure. Me being one of those "other people", I can honestly say I found this movie to be lacking a lot. It has very little suspense, the story feels quite long, and truth be told, I found myself nearly dozing off several times. So while, say, a die-hard Discovery Channel lover may fully appreciate this movie's honest approach, I sincerely doubt many of today's moviegoers will feel the same way.
THE EXTRAS
A warning to those that have no patience: the Director's Cut of the DVD is different in that some of the more action-oriented scenes have been removed. This may sound bad at first, but the scenes were never supposed to be in the film anyway. The studios wanted to add some fictionalized "suspense" and such, so the filmmakers complied. This cut of the film shows a much more realistic and believable retelling of the story. To those not interested in that, I don't suggest renting either versions of the film.

As for the DVD itself, there are some great history-oriented extras to check out. War buffs are guaranteed to appreciate this 2-disc set.

Disc 1

Feature Commentary (with director John Dahl, author Hampton Sides, and other filmmaking crew): Since I'm not a fan of history, I was assuming this commentary would leave me cold - I was wrong. This track is so in-depth and informative that it actually made me care just a little bit more about historic events like "the great raid".

The Price of Freedom: The Making of The Great Raid (19:56): A not-so-informative featurette that doesn't deliver the goods nearly as much the commentary. Still, I liked the interview footage with actual veterans from the event, and also found a few other bits interesting as well.

Deleted Scenes (22:54 - with optional commentary from director John Dahl): There are 16 of them. These are mainly worth watching since a few of them were the ones cut from the theatrical version of the film. The optional commentary is also worth checking out, as it explains in detail why the director omitted the scenes.

Disc 2

The Ghosts of Bataan (56:12): If I haven't said it enough, I'm not a "history" guy. Regardless, even I can admit that this companion piece is a terrific documentary of the event that this film depicts. This is a must watch for all history buffs.

The Veterans Remember (7:44): More interesting interview footage with the surviving veterans. If you liked the previous featurettes, you'll appreciate this.

History Lesson with Author Hampton Sides (14:27): Heck, skip the featurette on disc 1 and just check this out. The same things are said, except that it's told in the form of a lecture (a good one, though). This way, you can avoid all the needless jibber-jabber and get straight to the juicy information about what happened.

Captain Dale Dye's Boot Camp (8:17): Before filming, many of the actors had to train and get in shape for their roles. This featurette gives a small glimpse into this, and does in a way that's entertaining and interesting.

Boot Camp Outtakes (3:50): Just some good ol' goofing around and mess-ups. In war movies, you always see characters perform their duties perfectly, and with style. In reality though, it takes more than a few tries to do so. Watch this to see what I mean.

Mixing The Great Raid (9:58): This is a great featurette for aspiring filmmakers, as it gives a nice look at how the sound design for the movie was put together.

The Mix Board: This interactive extra is also pretty neat. It allows you to watch the big battle sequence with 6 separate sound elements (like the dialogue, sound effects, music, etc.), or with the final mix.

War in the Pacific - Interactive Timeline: Another great extra for history buffs. This timelines lets you browse through plenty of World War II information, complete with audio commentary by author Hampton Sides.

Dedication to the Soldiers of Bataan (4:04): An homage to all the war veterans of "the great raid", presented similar to that of a list of credits.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
While this film may not be an amazing war epic, it certainly didn't deserve to be sitting on a shelf for three years (a poor decision on Miramax's part - the film was completed in 2002). Maybe they felt the general audience wouldn't appreciate it. I guess they were right; the film only made $11 million worldwide (with a budget of $80 million). Thanks to DVD though, this film's general demographic (not me, by the way) can finally appreciate this movie for what is - a simple and accurate retelling of a successful rescue mission. I may not have loved it, but I can certainly recommend history buffs to check it out.
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