Friday, October 5, 2012

719. The Killing Fields (1984)

Running Time: 142 minutes
Directed By: Roland Joffe
Written By: Bruce Robinson
Main Cast: Sam Waterston, Haing S. Ngor, Julian Sands, John Malkovich, Craig T. Nelson
Click here to view the trailer


Moving right along and nearing closer toward the halfway mark of the season, I received and watched "The Killing Fields" from Netflix, the third time I'd seen it and the third time I've been disappointed with it.

The Vietnam War is raging on and the year is 1973. We zoom in on neighboring Cambodia, at the time a neutral country in the conflict. With tensions mounting, the war spills past the Cambodian borders, as American bombers attack a populated Cambodian city. Sydney Schanberg (Waterston), a reporter for the New York Times finds himself in the thick of things, on assignment. Along with his guide Dith Pran (Ngor), Sydney questions the U.S. military and U.S. embassy about the bombing and doesn't get many answers. Two years later, the war rages on and the U.S. embassy is set to evacuate the country. Sydney, having formed a bond with Pran, secures transport for him and his family out of the country. Sydney plans to stay behind and cover the story, which is also what Pran intends to do. Pran sees his family out of the country and stays behind with Sydney, finding refuge in the French embassy. When the Khmer Rouge, a nationalist, communist organization arrive in town, they demand the evacuation of all Cambodian citizens out of the embassy. Though Sydney and fellow photographers Al Rockoff (Malkovich) and Jon Swain (Sands) try to forge a British passport for Pran, they fail and Pran is handed over the Khmer Rouge. Sydney heads back to New York, while Pran is put into a labor camp and forced to adapt to the Khmer Rouge policy.

Before I get into my opinion, allow me to relay a quick story. Back in 2005, about two or three years after I really started to take an interest in films, I decided that it was time to familiarize myself with some of the more classic and popular pieces of cinema. I decided to start with the IMDB Top 250 list and watch it backwards, starting with #250. I didn't last long, however, only making it to film #240, if that.  Within those first few films though, I did come to "The Killing Fields", which at the time was on the list. I'd never seen it, nor had I even heard of it, but looked forward to taking in a new film, as I always do. I watched it and didn't like it, not really being able to appreciate the historical value or understand what was really going on. The day after I watched, I decided that I needed to watch it again, thinking that maybe if I paid closer attention and really tried, I'd like it. See, this was at a time when I felt that I HAD to like everything that everyone else liked and I couldn't stand it when I thought I just wasn't GETTING it. So I watched it again and again I hated it, deciding to quit and just return the movie to the video store. I hadn't seen it since and last night, as I sat down to watch it a third time, I wondered if my tastes had changed enough for me to appreciate this one. The answer was "no".

"The Killing Fields" is basically a war film, told from the point of view of a reporter. As we all know, I'm not a war movie guy, unless said war movie really goes above and beyond and really wows me. This one didn't. I found myself bored with the tale and found my mind wandering often as I watched the story of Syd Schanberg and Dith Pran unfold. Sure, there were a few touching moments, a few moments of human emotion that forced me to take closer notice, but all in all "The Killing Fields" just wasn't and probably never will be my cup of tea. I also tend to wonder how a non-actor (Haing S. Ngor) took the Supporting Actor Academy Award at the 1985 ceremony. It's not that he was particularly bad, nor was he up against any really stiff competition, but I smell a pity vote, an award handed to him because of his hardships in Cambodia and not because he was really the best supporting actor. I'm not trying to downplay the guy's tragedy and sure, he deserves praise for surviving through such terrible hardships, but did that praise need to be in the form of Oscar?

RATING: 4/10  I kind of like these short style reviews, which I tend to tinker with here and there. I like just spitting out a few words about the film and calling it a done deal.


October 5, 2012  5:30pm

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