The Great Raid – Blu-ray Review

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ARCHIVE: Original Post Date – October 13th, 2006

The Film

The Great Raid” tells the story of one of the most triumphant rescue missions in U.S. military history. The mission at hand involves the necessary rescue of about 500 P.O.W.’s held at Canatuan. The U.S. is obviously worried about this P.O.W.’s as, previously, 150 P.O.W.’s had been burned alive. Enter the talented, highly untrained and untested 6th Ranger Battalion, chosen to lead this mission. As they travel 30 miles behind enemy lines in hopes of saving these soldiers, the story of these men, and the other connected stories, really become quite interesting.

The book ‘The Great Raid on Canatuan’ by William J. Breuer serves as the novel the film was based upon. A man named Lt. Col. Mucci (portrayed here by Benjamin Bratt) had the huge task of not only getting these men ready to go, but also of preparing these men in a mere five days. We learn that the Japanese forces plan to kill these 500 P.O.W.’s in five days. Sounds like a lot of fun no? Well, the fun doesn’t stop for Lt. Col. Mucci, as he also has to train Captain Prince (portrayed by James Franco) to assist him in leading these men into battle.

With the above story, the film also has a few others stories that are all play off each. The second story follows the P.O.W.’s at Canatuan focusing on a man named Major Gibson (portrayed amazingly by Joseph Fiennes) and his partner Captain Redding. This sequence, out of all the three sequences, is the most important as it shows the true, gruesome horrors of what the prisoners endured at this camp. The third story involves a woman named Margaret Utinsky whose husband died. Since then she has been working in a Manila hospital. While this doesn’t sound that amazing, Margaret has also been secretly smuggling in medicines to the P.O.W.’s. This story shows how some will go to incredible lengths to do what they believe in.

What makes The Great Raid better than the typical war film is not only the acting (surprise here, Joseph Fiennes delivers another great performance), but also some of the war sequences, which were shocking, horrific, terrifying and astounding. The sequences are so graphic that we can’t help but be moved but what is transpiring on the screen in front of us.

I suppose the only real negative to The Great Raid (and not a gigantic one), is that the film does feel a bit flat (mostly due to some characters not being fully developed) in some areas making the film too long. Still, when The Great Raid succeeds, it succeeds on a high level making the film worth a watch for history or drama fans looking for a solid film.

Video Quality

The Great Raid is presented in a 1080p High Definition 2:40:1 Widescreen Aspect Ratio. The absolute best item about this transfer, and this is probably due to the nature of the film at hand, is immaculate and intense detail that Miramax has put into this picture.

Colors range from excellent especially in the forest scenery to kind of unimpressive in the brighter sequences (particularly some of the sky sequences). Luckily for us, whenever we get these types of lackluster images, we are then treated to such an amazing picture that is so rich in detail (I’m talking about extremely rich in detail.) Parts of the forest, like the leaves and sticks, are almost brought alive. Also containing a pretty good amount of detail would be the facial features as the mud, dirt and debris show the horror of war and the pain the fighting men, women (and most importantly), the civilians go through. I must comment that I don’t think I’ve seen such rich detail in the facial department, since I saw the film Ray on the competing HD-DVD.

The recent wave of Blu-Ray titles have really shown what the format is capable of with solid video. The Great Raid continues this tradition as the level of detail, as mentioned above, is excellent. With this being Miramax’s first offering on Blu-ray, I’m eager to see what else they have to offer.

Audio Quality

Presented in an English 5.1 Uncompressed (48 kHz/16-bit) Audio Track, The Great Raid, as most war-type films, sounds really great when the correct moments arrive.

The obvious scenes where this track truly shines are the battle sequences. Here the bass is the most powerful and responsive creating that ‘I’m there’ type feeling. During these sequences, unfortunately, the surrounds don’t get much of an overall response, which was a disappointment. Even though the bass was strong and responsive, the feeling of zooming and zipping bullets ringing throughout the room and your ears would have been nice.

Comparing the two provided audio tracks in the Uncompressed and the English 5.1 Dolby Digital, was quite the experience. The English Dolby Digital 5.1 was very impressive with a solid overall sound definition. However, the extra one channel provided with the English 5.1 Uncompressed with just that much better. This resulted in more of an overall definition and quality particularly in the battle sequences.

Whichever audio you decide to use (the choice is really obvious if you have the set up), the experience is still the same. And that is simple a great, overall experience.

Bonus Materials

  • Audio Commentary with Director John Dahl, Producer Mary Katz, Technical Advisor Captain Dale Dye, Editor Scott Chestnut, and Author Hampton Sides: WOW. I was completely blown away by this commentary track as I figured with five different participants, that each of there comments would become uneven and out of place. What I got instead was a solid, informative and fun listen. It’s extremely obvious that each of these participants spent quite a lot of their time involved in this film giving it all they had. For those of you who like your commentaries to be informative, this is your commentary.

Closing Thoughts

When The Great Raid succeeds, which is does more often than not, it succeeds on a high level. With great video and audio, but unfortunately few features, the relatively high price tag [at time of writing] makes this one hard to recommend. If only there had been a few more features, this one would have made an easy recommendation. Instead, I recommend it as a very strong rental.


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