The Killing Fields (1984)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 9 out of 10

4-Word Review: Journalists trapped in Cambodia.

This is an excellent fact based drama of Cambodian photo-journalist and English interpreter Dith Pran (Haing S. Ngor) who gets swept up in the Khmer Rouge revolution of the 1970’s and forced to survive for four years in their harsh work camps of ‘year zero’.

This film is intense, compelling, and uncompromising. The story stays very close to the true account and it is recreated with a believable atmosphere. Mike Oldfield’s unique music score is fabulous. The music that is played during the evacuation of the U.S. Embassy is one of the creepiest sounding scores that I have ever heard and it is quite effective. Oscar winner Ngor is good in the lead role and creates a tremendous amount of sympathy from the viewer and the ending still has a major emotional impact. Yet the most lasting images of the film are from the children. During one of the battle scenes a close-up of a child is shown holding his ears and crying while another scene has a screaming child in a hospital who is having shrapnel taken out of her spine. This is then correlated with the work camp scenes where the children are protrayed to be the most brainwashed by the party line and become the biggest instigators and purveyors to the torture and mayhem making it even more disturbing. In the end this film makes you ponder and feel the ugly depths of this very bleak and historical event.

On the negative side I felt it could have used some voice-over narration to help connect the scenes especially at the beginning. Some subtitles would have also been helpful during the scenes where none of the characters speak any English. The Sydney Schanberg character, played by Sam Waterston, seems at times to be quite obnoxious. He acts like being a journalist should somehow entitle him to everything and make him above everyone else. Also during scenes when he is photographing and covering the war ravaged victims he is more concerned with getting a nice graphic picture so it will sell more copy then he does with the actual suffering of the victim.

Overall this an extremely powerful and well-staged account of a horrific event that should not be forgotten, but unfortunately probably has for a lot of people.

My Rating: 9 out of 10

Released: November 2, 1984

Runtime: 2Hours 21Minutes

Rated R

Director: Roland Joffe

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: VHS, DVD (Region 1 and 2), Amazon Instant Video

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