Not so great
Never for the life of me would I have thought that I would end up saying that anyone would be a poor substitute for John Wayne. However, in this last minute thank-you note to the declining numbers of the Greatest Generation’s veterans of the Great War (dying at a rate of 1,000 a day, the window of opportunity for tribute is closing fast), GQ manquà Benjamin Bratt can’t even make for a decent John Agar (the Mr. Shirley Temple who would have been forced to fill the combat-begrimed boots of the sniper-felled Duke at the conclusion of Sands of Iwo Jima). Lurching about the retro set like he has a stick up his ass and elbows jutting out like he’d just doused his cleanly shaven armpits with rubbing alcohol, Bratt can’t even adequately convey being an actor, let alone a battle-hardened commander having the charisma to whip his men up into the mindset to embark on a seeming suicide mission to liberate 500 Allied POWs from a treacherous Japanese death camp.
Likewise, it is the casting that diminishes The Great Raid (that, and the title—it’s hard to work up any suspense about the end result of this adventure). Cut-jawed models vogue about in era uniforms, mouthing well-seasoned aphorisms that serve no real purpose other than filling the screen time until the climactic shoot-’em-up.
Visually, director John Dahl (of the neo-noir outings The Last Temptation and Red Rock West) and his DP deliver a nostalgia-tinged homage to the war flicks of the era, although while the proceedings ooze respect for the efforts of the men involved in this historically accurate account of the real-life assault, they curiously lack any true passion. Ultimately, the film unreels like watching someone else play a first-person shooter video game along the lines of Battlefield 1942.