Brave Filipino’s in action! Read MANAA’s review of a production draft of “The Great Raid,” a not yet released feature film about a US Army mission to raid a Japanese POW camp in the Philippines during World War II. It was the most successful U.S. military raid of its kind and relied on the help and ingenuity of the Filipino Resistance and its leader Captain Juan Pajota (played by Cesar Motano).
MANAA has gotten a hold of a production draft of “The Great Raid” starring Benjamin Bratt. The movie is about an American Army mission to raid a Japanese POW camp in the Philippines during the end of World War II. It was the most successful U.S. military raid of its kind – 511 prisoners of war were rescued due to this mission. Also the success of this mission relied on the help and ingenuity of the Filipino Resistance and its leader Captain Juan Pajota. If you think we are exaggerating feel free to see what PBS had to say about him.
MANAA applauds Miramax for developing this project. We also applaud the fact that this movie features nineteen Filipino actors (according to Manila Times). NINETEEN!!! MANAA has always noted that most Filipino American actors will go through most of their careers never playing a character of their own nationality. Filipinos make a living in American Cinema playing Japanese, Chinese, Latino, Pacific Islanders but rarely Filipinos. The juiciest role by far, Captain Pajota will be played by award wining Filipino actor Cesar Motano.
Unfortunately most of the roles for Filipinos are filled with Filipinos and not Filipino Americans and we regret we were not more stringent on MIRIMAX to hire more Filipino American actors. We offer our sincerest apologies to our Pinoy brothers who are actors.
As far as the script goes, we are lukewarm with what the writers have done. First, the roles Filipinos played in this raid were relegated to a minimum. The script is told through the eyes of an American LT Colonel Henry Mucci (Benjamin Bratt), a Caucasian American prisoner Major Daniel Gibson, and a European nurse Margaret Jenson. Sure there were Filipino nurses, priests, and citizens all part of the resistance but every crucial word and scene centered on the three.
Additionally, Captain Pajota and his army do not come into this story until halfway into the script. Once he appears, he does have a couple of juicy lines (teaching the Americans strategy and educating them about the Philippines and the Filipino movement) but you leave the story definitely thirsting for more. Ideally we would have wanted his role to be of same weight as Ken Watanbe’s in “The Last Samurai” but unlike “Samurai” Cesar never have enough screen time to develop the type of rapport with his co-stars and the audience. Cesar is not even listed as part of the main cast. The movie could have shown more of Pajota’s point-of-view and rightly so. He was the most interesting character in this script, he had the most invested in this mission (he waited 3 years – this was personal for him), and the most dynamic.
As for the portrayal of Japanese, bad news turns to worse news. First, this script abounds with the word “Jap”. “Jap” is a volatile and derogatory word to refer to Japanese. Although the word is used in a very “clinical” non-offense sense (i.e. “the Japs are retreating”), people normally use this word to offend, demoralize and, dehumanize not only Japanese but Asians and Asian Americans. I’m sure MIRAMAX can fault the era, the situation, and merely adding an air of authenticity. But these are Majors and Colonels talking tactics and strategy in a very professional setting. All of the dialogue would have not lost any credibility if they used Japanese instead of Japs.
Also, the Japanese characters are not portrayed in a very positive light. One character is described as “blood thirsty” another is described handsome although he turns out to be the most sadistic of the bunch. That character is YAMADA whose job is to identify, brutally torture, and kill the traitors. There are also countless other Japanese men slapping priests, slapping women, and killing a lot of Filipinos and Americans.
But before we get our picket signs ready, let us remind ourselves that the Japanese cruelty to the Filipinos as well as the Chinese and Koreans during WWII are legendary. There are several websites and publications detailing the war crimes the Japanese committed to the men AND women of Korea, China and the Philippines and they still have yet to make restitutions on some of them. Although it’s not a perfect balance, most of the cruelty shown by the Japanese is off-set by the courage and compassion of the Filipinos and overall MANAA feels that we must support the film based on the opportunity it gave to Filipinos.
There is no set release date. For more information you can go to
MANAA will write a letter detailing this review. We would also challenge the studio to make sure the movie poster features Cesar as well as have him listed as the main cast and part of every trailer and promo.