Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The Great Raid and War Movies in general

It was meant to be an old style war movie in which the Nips all die and the Yanks all live (with two exceptions). Too bad we no longer have John Wayne or ol' blue eyes on the screen. Nonetheless, it is a refreshing change from what Hollywood has dished out in the last 12 years or so. The 1990s slop of war pics focused on the futility of war and this started with Schindler's List and peaked with that Saving Private Ryan. By the time that Pearl Harbor movie came along, people were fed up. BTW, Pearl Harbor is the only movie in history to have offended all sorts of war vets. The Army nurses protested their being depicted as "sluts", the Pearl Harbor vets complained of the inaccuracies, the Japanese hated the idea that they were stereotyped once more and most especially the Japanese-Americans, whose painful experiences in America's concentration camps were once again put to light.

After watching the movie, I immediately grabbed hold of 5 books on the Cabanatuan Raid from my Dad's war library (these books were written in the 1950s when memories of the raid were still fresh in the minds of those who participated). It seems that the movie was indeed largely accurate. I didn't know that the movie was shot a few kilometres from my town in Queensland until I recognised some features of the landscape. The paperbark trees were a sure giveaway.
The recreation of Manila before its destruction was good. The Muelle de Industria (Binondo) waterfront was excellently done as if this was viewed from Fort Santiago. Today the scene would be different as the tallest structures are skyscrapers and no longer the Binondo Church. According to the us.imdb.com, they used Shanghai's cityscape as proxy for ante bellum Manila. That Manila is almost gone. So the producers of the movie had to make do with a Chinese cityscape and a lot of Chinese speaking extras. While Manila had a large Chinese community then, they spoke in Spanish.

The movie told the truth that Philippine guerilla units were relegated to the sidelines. At least the producers tacitly recognised the contribution of the Filipinos in liberating their homeland. Cesar Montano delivered his acting bit extremely well, infinitely much better than the wooden acting of Benjamin Bratt.

The depictions of massacres on the civilian populace was a postmodern touch to the "futility of war" theme. But they should have done more. No mention of Manila's 1945 destruction was made. Connie Nielsen's character Margaret Utinsky, who worked in San Juan De Dios Hospital (where doctors and nursed were executed for aiding guerrillas) (totally destroyed in Intramuros) escaped from a blockaded Manila just in time. Her connections to the doomed city should have been mentioned as a postscript.

The downer was this. There was no mention of what happened to the Cesar Montano character after the war. Also you only see the Stars and Stripes fluttering all over the territory of the Philippine Commonwealth. No sight of the Sun and Stars waving with the breeze. We have to recall that the Philippines was an American Commonwealth then and both US and Philippine flags were flown side by side (something still done by Puerto Ricans with their national flag). We have pictures that show when areas were liberated, both US and Philippine flags were raised.

The timing of the movie's release is most appropriate. The movie was shown during the week of commemorations over Japan's surrender in WWII. So we have to think about the necessity of nuking Japan (I think it was necessary. Hiroshima and Nagasaki as perfect military targets). What the idiotic liberals in the US say is the movie has subtle support of Bush's Iraq anti-terror war. That is a really stupid thing to say for the main purpose of a war movie is to shore up the resolve of the home front. Regardless of what side you are on, they had war pics in the US, Nazi Germany, Japan and Laurel's Second Philippine Republic.

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