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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Killing Fields
The Killing Fields
Warner Bros.
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Earl Cressey | posted March 19, 2001 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
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A U D I O
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Highly Recommended
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Review:
Killing Fields, The

Movie:
The Killing Fields is based on a true story and was originally released theatrically in 1984. Directed by Roland Joffé, the film stars Sam Waterston (Sydney Schanberg), John Malkovich (Al Rockoff), Julian Sands (Jon Swain) and, in his first role, Haing S. Ngor (Dith Pran). Joffé also directed such films as The Mission, City of Joy, and the Scarlet Letter, and the film won three Oscars.

In 1973, the war in Vietnam spread to neutral Cambodia, and fighting broke out between the government troops and the Khmer Rouge guerrillas. Sydney Schanberg, the foreign correspondent of the New York Times, was sent to cover the story and he meets up with Dith Pran there, who serves as his guide and interpreter. Throughout the next two years, the two work together to give America a better sense of what's really going on in Cambodia. In 1975, however, things get drastically worse when the American Embassy leaves and the Khmer Rouge capture Phnom Penh. Sydney, along with the other journalists and Americans, leave to avoid the escalating horrors of war, but Pran is forced to stay and work in the fields. Throughout the next four years, Pran fights a constant battle to survive in the killing fields to one day be reunited with his family and Sydney.

Having been born in 1979, my knowledge of the brutality in Cambodia that was depicted in the film prior to watching this movie was quite small. To say this was an eye opening experience would be putting it lightly. The image of Pran as he walks through the field littered with bones of human corpses is one I'm not likely to forget in the near future. It's a disturbing film in many aspects, but one needed to be made, if only to give people like me a sense of what happened in Cambodia. The acting in the film was quite good, especially on the part of Ngor, who won an Oscar for his performance and also suffered through similar experiences as Pran in Cambodia.

Picture:
The Killing Fields is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and it is anamorphically enhanced. The transfer is very good overall with vibrant colors, accurate flesh tones, and decent blacks. Some small marks, specks, and lines do appear occasionally, though they don't really distract. However, the biggest distraction in the film is the heavy grain that appears in a few of the darker scenes, as evident in chapters 11, 27, and 37. Some light film grain is present in other scenes as well.

Sound:
The Killing Fields is presented in Dolby Surround 2.0. The film is mainly dialogue and for the most part, it's clean and easy to understand. Surrounds are put to good use throughout the film, and are mainly used for guns, helicopters, and weather. Optional subtitles in English and French are also included.

Extras:
The main extra included is a screen-specific audio commentary with Joffé; he talks for almost the entire length of the track with only a few pauses and really provides a lot of interesting facts about the events depicted in the film. His commentary is excellent and a highly recommended listen for fans of the film. Also on the disc are bios for David Puttnam, the producer, and Joffé, a text list of the awards the film won, notes on Dr. Haing S. Ngor, and the film's trailer in anamorphic widescreen.

Summary:
The Killing Fields is a very powerful depiction of the horrors that went on in Cambodia, and a film that people interested in history shouldn't overlook. Highly Recommended.

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