EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|KILLING FIELDS, THE (director: Roland Joffe; screenwriter: Bruce Robinson/based on the magazine story by New York Times correspondent Sidney... Schanberg; cinematographer: Chris Menges; editor: Jim Clark; music: Mike Oldfield; cast: Sam Waterston (Sydney Schanberg), Dr. Haing S. Ngor (Dith Pran), John Malkovich (Alan 'Al' Rockoff), Julian Sands (Jon Swain), Craig T. Nelson (Major Reeves), Spalding Gray (United States consul), Bill Paterson (Dr. MacEntire), Athol Fugard (Dr. Sundesval); Runtime: 141; MPAA Rating: R; producer: David Puttnam; Warner Bros.; 1984-UK)|
|"A gripping romanticized and somewhat
fictionalized adaptation of an eyewitness magazine piece by New York
Times journalist Sidney
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
romanticized and somewhat fictionalized adaptation of an eyewitness
magazine piece by New York Times journalist Sidney...
Schanberg. It's written by actor-turned-screenwriter Bruce Robinson. Documentary
director Roland Joffe ("Vatel"/"The Mission"/"There
Dragons"), formerly of Britain's National Theater, in his directorial debut,
keeps it chillingly realistic as an historical document about 'the
killing fields' of Cambodia and as a buddy movie. It's a superior film,
but not without flaws (there's little emotional intensity from the NY Times
reporter, as the friendship between the reporter and the translator
never comes across as that warm in the film as it does in Schanberg's
book). Nevertheless it
vibrantly brings alive the horrors of recent Cambodian history.
The action starts in 1973. NY
Times reporter Sydney
Schanberg (Sam Waterston) arrives in Cambodia and is assisted in
covering the increasingly dangerous situation in Cambodia by his local
translator Dith Pran (Dr. Haing S. Ngor, a Cambodian
non-professional actor who experienced the tragedies of that time's
re-education program by Pol Pot).
US pullout from Vietnam in 1975,
Schanberg (Sam Waterston) relies on
Dith Pran for inside information. The aggressive Schanberg has an
opportunity to rescue Dith Pran when the U.S. Army evacuates all
Cambodian citizens; instead, the reporter coerces his friend to remain
behind to continue sending him stories. Pran's family
is helicoptered out of
Saigon, while Pran stays with
Schanberg on the ground. But Schanberg takes sanctuary at the French Embassy with other
reporters, but sends Pran out to the field to get the war stories. After the fall of
Pnomh Penh in 1975 to the Khmer Rouge, they take Pran
prisoner and torture him in Pol Pot's oppressive prison camps. The last part
of the film shows the horrors Pran goes through to escape and how
guilt-ridden is his buddy Schanberg, who accepts his
1976 Pulitzer Prize on behalf of Dith
Pran and tries to use
his influence to get him free.
Dith Pran worked as a celebrated photographer for the New
beginning in 1980. After the film came out, he was joined by Dr. Haing
S. Ngor in his efforts
to bring attention to the Cambodian genocide. Pran died of
pancreatic cancer in 2008 at the age of 65, while Ngor was killed in LA by a street gang.
REVIEWED ON 6/7/2011 GRADE: A-
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ