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The Great Raid and The Agenda Journalism of Movie Critics

Sunday, August 21, 2005  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

My wife and I took in The Great Raid this afternoon. It is a very, very good movie, and though about an episode of heroism from World War 2, it ought to increase every civilian’s appreciation for the courage, honor and sacrifice of everty member of the military and their families.

Powerline’s Scott Johnson commented days ago on the negative reaction to the movie among film critics. I don’t read movie reviews of films until after I have seen them for the very reason that agenda journalism all too often distorts a critic’s assessment of a movie’s merits.

The New York Times’ reviewer sniffed that “[i]t is not the actors’ fault that their characters fail to establish any emotional connection; they aren’t given the words for the task.” Actually, the inability of the reviewer to emotionally connect with a movie about heroism in time of war tells us much more about the author of the review than it does the quality of the film.

I don’t know the reviewer’s —Stephen Holden— politics, though TimesWatch’s summary reviews of Mr. Holden’s work suggests an anti-war mindset nested within a generalized distaste for the idea of just war, which would hardly surprise.

I do note, though, that in a review of the documentary “Fog of War” about Robert McNamara and Vietnam, Mr. Holden veered from the subject at hand to tutor his reader in the history of American brutality during WW2:

“The Fog of War” goes far beyond Vietnam. During World War II Mr. McNamara served as a commander under the arch-hawk Gen. Curtis Le May, who appears in old photos and film clips as a caricature of a pragmatic, cigar-chomping warmonger. Under Le May, Mr. McNamara was part of the team that made the decision to firebomb 67 Japanese cities, killing large numbers of civilians. In Tokyo alone, more than 100,000 civilians died one night in March 1945.

Perhaps Mr. Holden’s dismissive review of The Great Raid is anchored in part in the lesson this movie teaches about why the American actions at the end of World War 2 were so intentionally devastating. First hand knowledge of the brutality and fanaticism of Imperial Japan persuades most observors that the capitulation that followed the two atomic bomb attacks could never have been achieved through other means except for the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans. From a distance of 60 years it is easy to denounce American tactics. The Great Raid makes it much harder to do that. Maybe that’s why Mr. Holden would prefer you skip the movie.

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