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. — ... more »Genre: Feature Film-Drama
Wonderful, but don't expect a good night's sleep afterwards
Linda Linguvic | New York City | 12/25/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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 fields themselves, with bones
and rotting corpses that Dith Pran discovers. Anyone who has ever
seen this film will never forget this scene.The second award was
for film editing. That was a job of real artistry. It is always a
choice of what tiny segments of a scene to emphasize and the editors
got it exactly right. There was the terrified child holding her hands
over her ears to shut out the bombing sounds. There was the tiny
vegetable that Dith Pran plucks off a plant with relish when he is in
the prison camp. There is the wash of blood on the floor in the
hospital where people were dying.Dr. Hang S. Ngor won an Oscar for
his role of Dith Pran, one of the few non-professional actors to ever
win an Oscar. He was especially suited to the part because he,
himself, had endured 4 years of torture and imprisonment in a
Cambodian work camp. He had to hide his identity of physician and
watch his young wife die in childbirth while there. No wonder he was
able to play the part so well. I understand he was murdered in his
garage in his home in Los Angeles in 1996 during a robbery in which he
tried to protect a memento from his wife. The entire cast was
wonderful, each acting performance outstanding. Sam Waterson played
Sydney Schanberg with passion and realism. John Malkovich played his
photographer sidekick. And Julian Sands had a small role as
journalist Jon Swain who was one of the three westerners saved from
execution by the intervention of Dith Pran and whose tried
unsuccessfully to forge a passport to help Dith Pran escape.Even
though the movie was 141 minutes long, I was totally absorbed with the
same kind of horrific fascination I felt while reading Jon Swain's
book. It's hard to believe that such horrors go on in the world while
we sit here in our comfortable lives. This movie shocks us into
reality. And makes us appreciate our blessings. It also reminded me
of the role of the journalist to go out on the front lines and risk
their lives for their stories. They are to be applauded as being the
witnesses to their times.Highly recommended. But don't expect a
good night's sleep afterwards. "
Always get on the chopper!
J. Cournoyer | The Queen City, USA | 08/19/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"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."
A compelling look at a modern-day holocaust
Mike Powers | Woolwich, ME USA | 09/30/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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 of the human will and the bonds of friendship.The movie is beautifully acted and filmed. Sam Waterston is appropriately caustic as the hard-boiled "New York Times" reporter, Sydney Schanberg. Haing S. Ngor brings a touching sensitivity and wonderful inscrutability to his role as Dith Pran. Director Roland Joffe masterfully captured the chaos of the last days in Cambodia before the Communist takeover, and the horror and oppression of the Khmer Rouge forced education camps."The Killing Fields" is not a movie for the faint-hearted. It has many bloody scenes of violence none of which are gratuitous, and the scenes depicting the killing fields are terrible in their realism and power.Still, "The Killing Fields" is a powerful and thought-provoking film, and should not be missed."
Superb Retelling Of True Story of Cambodian Genocide!
Barron Laycock | Temple, New Hampshire United States | 11/24/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There appears to be is a growing audience that appreciates the artful integration of entertainment with education, and few recent movies have accomplished this goal so well as did the classic Academy Award winning movie, "The Killing Fields". Set in Cambodia during the closing days of the American involvement there in the early 1970s, it powerfully relates the true story of an edgy, ambitious, and dangerously inquisitive American correspondent for the New York Times, played superbly by Sam Waterston (of TV's "Law And Order"), and his Cambodian photographer/assistant, played magnificently by the late Haing S. Ngor, who ironically was murdered by street thugs in Los Angeles a few years ago. This movie managed to be both a critical and a box office success, and its depiction of the events leading to the mass murder of millions of ordinary Cambodians by the indigenous communist Khmer Rouge created a kind of worldwide awareness of just how extensive the bloodbath in Cambodia was. This movie is largely based on the actual experiences of New York Times journalist Sidney Schanberg and his Cambodian assistant Dith Pran during the merciless onslaught by both sides during the extension of the Vietnam War to Cambodia and involving both American forces and the indigenous Khmer Rouge. The movie offers a quite graphic portrayal of the conduct of that war, and the horrible aftermath as the Americans withdraw and the Khmer Rouge come home to angrily roost over the remaining civilians left in the urban centers of Cambodia after the army leaves. The movie takes great care to detail the ways in which the communists attempt to "re-educate" the populace by routing out the educated, the intellectuals, and those with sympathies for the former French colonial government. The bloodbath that ensues is told through the personal experiences of Dith Pran before his eventual escape to Thailand and the west. This is a quite entertaining, sophisticated, and historically accurate effort to show the consequences of the American capitulation in southeast Asia, and the all too human consequences for the individual people left in the vortex of this horrible set of historical circumstances. The exploration of the ways in which the Cambodian holocaust is executed make this movie a terrific teaching tool by showing how critically we can look at the lessons of history. Enjoy!"
An almost forgotten masterpiece.
Eric | 09/03/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After nearly twenty years, The Killing Fields still remains one of the most powerful films ever made, a brilliant piece of moviemaking that leaves a searing imprint in the mind long after the first viewing. This isn't a film to be taken lightly, but rather a serious examination of the horrors of war and individual conflicts and struggles, and for that is on par with Steven Spielberg's work on Saving Private Ryan and Schindler's List, certainly a noteworthy comparison.The film opens in 1973, as the Vietnam War comes to an end, but the conflict still continues to spread. The Khmer Rouge, a radical political group, is slowly taking over war-torn Cambodia. The film's first 2/3's chronicles the journeys and friendship of two hournalists, Sydney Schanberg (Sam Waterston) and Dith Pran (Haing S. Ngor), as well as photographers Al Rockoff (John Malkovich) and Jon Swain (Julian Sands).The American Embassy makes the crucial decision to evacuate but Schanberg refuses to leave, and his partner Pran, out of loyalty, also willingly stays behind while his family is evacuated. But further political trouble ensues, and Pran is eventually forced to remain in Cambodia, pushing him into a struggle to survive the re-education camps and the Killing Fields.Perfectly directed, this easily remains director Roland Joffe's best work to date. Like Michael Cimino, it's something of a tragedy to see him take a step backward with every film he's gone on to make. But none of his later works do anything to belittle what he's accomplished here. He captures the insanity of the time period, the political confusion, the chaos, and the downright terrors of war, doing all this not from a soldier's point of view, but from civilians.Joffe's depiction creates so much tension from so many situations. Suspenseful and heart-pounding segments include an evacuation of American personnel and a desperate attempt to fake a passport to keep Pran in the embassy. The last hour, which focuses almost entirely on Pran, is absolutely seat-gripping and terrifying, a descent into the depravities of war and to an extent, even the human condition. It's at this point the film takes on an almost apocalyptic atmposphere, a mood so strong it feels inescapable. The film is so riveting not only because of Joffe's direction, but also because of enagaging and sympathetic characters. Haing Ngor carries most of the emotional load as Dith Pran, and comes through magnificently in a role that's touching and brave. Having faced the actual terrors of war in Cambodia, Ngor is brilliant, delivering one of the best performances I've ever seen. Sam Waterston, who's never been better, is superb as the journalist and friend who's overcome with guilt. Solid suport from John Malkovich and Julian Sands rounds out this terrific cast. I find it very difficult to believe that The Killing Fields has become something of a forgotten relic over the years. It remains an outstanding piece and perhaps the best war film of its era. The film is even more harrowing than Oliver Stone's Platoon, more realistic than Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket, and more intensely personal than The Deer Hunter. Despite its stance as something of a forgotten relic, The Killing Field's importance and impact remain, and by today's standards, has an even more terrifying imprint. The Killing Fields, while certainly a graphically violent and downbeat film, is ultimately just as inpiring as it is depressing. This may be a flinching, no-holds barred experience, but it is one that must be seen. Truly unforgettable, and one of my personal favorites."