Published Aug 01, 2005Pulled punches. Forced exchanges. Shameless manipulation. Must be a World War II movie! This time, the subject is the daring mission to rescue the survivors of the Bataan Death March, who suffered for three years in a Japanese POW camp while enduring the most barbaric of conditions.
At least, that's what happened to the real prisoners - the movie ones just stagger around with bad hangovers, feigning just enough suffering to keep them looking romantically valorous. Nevertheless, they prompt Lt. Col. Mucci (Benjamin Bratt) to launch a raid in their defence, with much messing about on both sides of the wire with the Filipino resistance, black marketers, and a selfless nurse played by Connie Nielsen. But it's all for naught, because the film plays into all cinematic reflex actions about the Good War, with their scrubbed-clean soldiers and downplayed trauma ensuring you notice the pieties and not the miseries.
Everybody makes such a big to-do about the miserable conditions that you can't help but notice how un-miserable things are, to the point that you resent the movie for its unwillingness to engage with the realities of combat and its use of the action for one more inspirational jamboree. Aside from a few minor atrocities and the mention of Rita Hayworth's tits, this is indistinguishable from every other WWII movie ever made from the 1940s right up to the present: there is the cuddly local resistance (and oversimplification of American-Filipino relations), the broadly-drawn Japanese villains, and a mountain of maudlin sentiment that would make you want to be just as heroic if your gorge weren't presently buoyant.
Considered on its terms, the film is merely swill; considered at this point in history, it's a potentially dangerous recruitment poster. Run, don't walk. (Alliance Atlantis)