Published on March 31st, 2011 | by Chris0
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.
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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.