1980s The Killing Fields (1984)

Published on March 31st, 2011 | by Chris

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The Killing Fields (1984)


Reviewed by:
Rating:
4
On March 31, 2011
Last modified:October 3, 2012

Summary:

There are some movies which are just plain difficult to watch, but you really need to watch them anyway. 1984's The Killing Fields is one of those pictures.

The Killing Fields (1984)There are some movies which are just plain difficult to watch, but you really need to watch them anyway.  1984's The Killing Fields is one of those pictures.

Towards the end of the Vietnam war, the US briefly attempted to expand the war into Cambodia, with disastrous results.  The existing government was overthrown and the Khmer Rouge regime took over, brutally eliminating any enemies to their cause.

Caught up in this series of events were American journalist Sydney Schanberg (Sam Waterston), local journalist Dith Pran (Haing Ngor) and Alan Rockoff (John Malkovich).  This movie really isn't so much about the war, as it is about these people, in particular Sydney and Pran, and their friendship.

They go into Cambodia to try and cover the recent US bombing raids, but when the regime changes, they find themselves locked up in the French embassy with several other journalists.  Luckily, Sydney was able to get Pran's family evacuated just in time.

Through an unfortunate series of events,  Pran is unable to follow Sydney and Alan as they are evacuated, despite their best efforts.  He spends the next four years as a prisoner of the KR.  Eventually making his way to the Thai border, where word of his escape finally reaches Schanberg, and their reunion is where the film ends.

Of course the backdrop to their story *is* the massacre of the Cambodian people at the hands of the Khmer Rouge.  Just one more aspect of the Vietnam war that gets glossed over and shoved under the rug.

At times its a bit difficult to follow exactly what is happening.  I think this actually helps the picture rather than hurts it.  Since the characters probably are in the same situation.  There really isn't much in the way of action here, either.  This is solely a character drama.  But its such a well-played, written, shot, and directed one that it can't be missed.

Take heed, this picture is as serious as serious gets.  There are a few brief moments of levity here and there, but by and large it will leave you sad and depressed.  Unfortunately, part of the mechanism is the obligatory and almost cliched heartstring-tugging images of crying babies and the like.  Somewhat necessary given the backdrop, but you know when you're being played.

The Killing Fields The Killing Fields
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Description

Waterston stars as New York Times reporter Schanberg, a journalist who covered the war in Cambodia. Ngor stars as Dith, the translator and aide, who is exiled to Cambodian labor camps where millions of others have died...

DVD Information

Binding: DVD
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audience Rating: R (Restricted)
Brand: WATERSTON,SAM
Manufacturer: Warner Home Video
Original Release Date:
Actors:
  • Sam Waterston
  • Haing S. Ngor
  • John Malkovich
  • Julian Sands
  • Craig T. Nelson

Reviews

Customer Reviews
Average Customer Review

148 of 153 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, but don't expect a good night's sleep afterwards, December 25, 2000
By 
Linda Linguvic (New York City) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
I saw this 1984 film when it first came out, but after reading
"River of Time" by the British journalist, Jon Swain, I knew
I had to see it again. This time, it had an even stronger impact on
me. The screenplay is based on the true story written by Sydney
Schanberg, a New York Times reporter in Cambodia who had to leave his
Cambodian friend and colleague Dith Pran behind when the Khmur Rogue
took over the country in 1975. Dith Pran is forced into a worker's
camp, where he endures unspeakable agonies until he finally
escapes.
The movie won three well-deserved academy awards. One was
best for cinematography. I can understand why. Even though the movie
was shot in Thailand, the feeling of Indo-China and the area along the
Mekong display its great beauty as well as the countryside. Jon Swain
describes this in his book, but there is nothing like seeing it on the
screen. And then there are the killing... Read more
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50 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling look at a modern-day holocaust, September 30, 2000
By 
Mike Powers "mkp51" (Woolwich, ME USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Hands down, "The Killing Fields" is one of the most harrowing films I've ever seen...and also one of the most inspiring. It depicts the relationship between New York Times reporter Sydney Schanberg (played by Sam Waterston) and his Cambodian interpreter Dith Pran (Portrayed by the late Dr. Haing S. Ngor, who won a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for his performance). The story is set in Cambodia during the mid 1970s, when the Khmer Rouge, under Pol Pot, overran the country and began one of the worst programs of systematic genocide in history. (It is estimated that over 3 million of Cambodia's 7 million people were executed by the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979.) Pran saves Schanberg and several other Western reporters from execution by the Communists, but is forced to stay behind in Cambodia when his journalistic colleagues are evacuated. How Pran survives his ordeal in the Cambodian "Killing Fields," and makes his escape, is an inspiring testament to the strength... Read more
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64 of 72 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Always get on the chopper!, August 18, 2004
By 
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Killing Fields (DVD)
This movie could be considered an "Epic". It is very good, especially the last couple minutes when Pran finally reaches safety & then is visited by his old journalist friend.

I took one star off because apparently the DVD version is not as long as the original. The original version showed a scene where the Vietnamese Army liberated the Khmer Rouge village right before Dith Pran makes his escape. This scene was missing & also some of the other scenes seemed shorter than they originally were. I would estimate that about 15 to 20 min. of film was chopped out of this version. I hate it when film studios do this. It's sacrilege!!!

Hopefully a Directors Cut is released so I can again see the film in it's full form.
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The Killing Fields (1984) Chris

Summary: There are some movies which are just plain difficult to watch, but you really need to watch them anyway. 1984's The Killing Fields is one of those pictures.

4.0


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About the Author

I've been watching war movies for probably 25 years now. Since December 2006 I've been sharing my habit and passion for these movies here on this site.



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