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4.6 out of 5 stars
The Killing Fields [DVD]
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on 8 May 2008
David Puttnam, Roland Joffé, Chris Menges..... what a wonderful team whose individual creativity and collective synergy brought us two out-of-the-world pictures: "The Mission" & "The Killing Fields". Nothing to say about the former. Regarding the latter, the rich combination of such themes as ravages of war, power of friendship and unrequited loyalty makes it one of the powerful films in its genre and greatest films ever to have come out of the British cinema.

"The Killing Fields" takes us back to 1975s Phnom Penh, Cambodian capital, during which the communist guerrilla group Khmer Rouge led by Pol Pot seized the city, formed a new government and forced the dwellers to move to the countryside to work in collective farms and labor camps with the goal of restarting of civilization in "Year Zero". During the next 4 years of their rule, these "policies" caused the death of ~ 3 million people (one third of the population) either from execution, torture, starvation, overwork, and disease. Under this apocalyptic environment, "The Killing Fields" tells the true ordeal and survival story of Cambodian photojournalist, Dith Pran, who endured the atrocities of Khmer Rouge regime: captured, tortured, punished for befriending American journalists and forced to work in labor camps in barbaric conditions.

To me, the most impressive thing about "The Killing Fields" is the ravishing cinematography by Academy Award winner Chris Menges. From start to end, The photography is nothing but gorgeous. All shots are meticulously planned, properly balanced and perfectly contrasted, harmonizing the beauty of countryside with ravages of war. The colors are well saturated and look wonderful. Subtle details are well presented, sharp and clearly visible with an emphasis on naturalism.

The outstanding cinematography and the gritty realism of the story was further enhanced by the taut direction of Roland Joffé, whose documentary-like precision contributes to the film's overall power. His battle footage and portrayal of atrocities are mostly documentary nature, but not presented with "cheap" bloodfest where unnecessary amount of blood and gore paint the screen. Let's not forget to mention the outstandingly realistic performance of first-time actor Haing S. Ngor, who deserves to win Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Watching John Malkovich, playing the hot-tempered American war photographer Al Rockoff, is particularly enjoyable.

To sum up, "The Killing Fields" is not just an essential film from historical standpoint of Cambodian Holocaust of 1975-1979, but it is also powerful in its visual and emotional moments in an otherwise hopeless and ruthless situation. (4.4/5.0)
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on 5 June 2007
This film tells the true story of two journalists in Cambodia during the turmoil of 1970s Cambodia. One is the American Sydney Schanberg (played by Sam Waterston) and the other is the Cambodian Dith Pran (Haing S. Ngor). As the Khmer Rouge approach the fall of capital Phnom Penh becomes imminent, the foreign embassies pack up and move out and the journalists are forced to take refuge in the French embassy. The Khmer Rouge have however demanded that all Cambodians in the embassy be turned over, and fearing attack, the occupants agree. Dith Pran is therefore in trouble. The foreign journalists come up with a plan...

The film is very well cast, with excellent acting and character depth as shown by Haing Ngor winning a well deserved oscar for best supporting actor. It is at times brutal, at others touching.

Highly Recommended
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 2 December 2013
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This well researched and historically correct film is a sad tribute to all those who died in the horrific camps of the khmer rouge . Sam Waterston leading a great cast combined with good production values make this a must see. Highly recommended.
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on 30 April 2012
The Killing Fields is a powerful, fact based account of the conquest of Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s and the nature of their rule in the years the followed. The movie focuses on two men: Sydney Schanberg (Sam Waterston), a New York Times correspondent in Cambodia, and Dith Pran (Haing S Ngor) his translator and assistant.

Its a movie in two halves. The first is an account of war correspondents at work as the Khmer Rouge increasingly encroach upon the capital. This section climaxes with the nightmarish seizure of the capital by the rebels when the correspondents discover that their journalistic credentials and western privilges are no protection from an army made up, in significant part, of murderous children. The second part focuses on Pran and is the story of how he struggles for survival in a country which the revolutionary government seeks through violent collectivisation to make pre-industrial.

As a war-based thriller The Killing Fields is in an elite class. But it is also much more than that. It is also about the consequences of war on human beings and how thoughtless decisions made thousands of miles away bring devastation that no cover-up can change.

A tragic footnote on this sad film: Haing Ngor, who plays Pran, was himself a survivor of theKhmer Rouge. He won an Oscar for the role but was subsequently murdered on the streets of Los Angeles, purportedly by muggers when he refused to give up a locket containing a photo of his wife who had died in the killing fields.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 26 February 2015
Brilliant film. I travelled around Cambodia in 2014; its incredible to think that something like this could have happened so recently. The film itself follows two journalists; an american and a cambodian. They did not evacuate with the american embassy so are holed up at the French embassy until any Cambodians are ordered to leave. A very powerful story following their lives after they parted company.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
'Now is the year 0 and everything must start anew... I am full of fear Sydney, I must have no past, this is the year 0 and nothing has gone before'
These are the words spoken by Dith Pran as images of the unspeakable horrors of the Cambodian revolution fill the screen. The Killing Fields is a film that leaves a lasting emotional impression.
It portrays the real life friendship between NY Times correspondent Sydney Schomberg (Sam Waterson) and his Cambodian interpreter Dith Pran (Haing Ngor). The film depicts events stretching over a seven-year period, from the 1973 American bombing of Neak Luang village, to the Khmer Rouge takeover in 1975, and their eventual fall following the 1978 Vietnamese invasion. With such a difficult and disturbing subject matter and a complex timeframe the film could easily have floundered. Instead it succeeds because it filters these events through the eyes of two men, which bestows it with a real interpretive power.
It is superficially similar to Salvador directed by Oliver Stone. Both films critique the negative consequences of American military involvement in poor war-torn countries by depicting the work of journalists. However, inspite of the fact that the guilt of Schomberg at leaving his friend to suffer in Cambodia is intended to mirror the wider American involvement and subsequent neglect of that country (portrayed in one powerful scene), the content is never as bluntly political. It is very much more a personal account, and whilst the images shock, they are naturalistic in style and never as over-blown as in Salvador. The performances are very strong and full of integrity. Particularly moving is Ngor, whose Oscar winning portrayal of Dith Pran struggling to survive the brutality of the Khmer Rouge regime is drawn from his own personal experience as a survivor of the atrocities. This film draws attention to one of the most regrettable chapters in recent history, and that in itself is valuable. However, perhaps its most remarkable achievement is to demonstrate in an extremely moving account the resilience of the human spirit in the face of despair.
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on 26 December 2014
"The Killing Fields" tells the story of an American journalist (Sam Waterson) who is caught up in the war in Cambodia as the Khymer Rouge try to take over the country. The mayhem of war is brilliantly realized by director Roland Joffe, director of photography Chris Menges and editor Jim Clark, both Menges and Clark winning well-deserved Oscars for their work. The central theme of the film, however, is the relationship between Waterson's character and his Cambodian interpreter, played by Hyang S Nor. At first their relationship is strictly professional, but gradually Waterson begins to respect his guide and grows to love him in a purely platonic sense. When the US Embassy is evacuated, Nor is faced with the dilemma of leaving his country with his family or staying in the battle-zone with Waterson. He chooses the latter, which will eventually bring him to the Khymer Rouge's killing fields. Nor too won an Oscar for his performance. This is film-making of the highest quality - thoroughly recommended.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 2 December 2007
A very touching film that recounts the excesses of the Khmer Rouge during the 1970's regime of Pol Pot. This is the most important film that recounts the instability of South Eastern Asia and is on a par with other classics such as Deer Hunter and Apocalpyse Now.
The scene where Dith Pran's photo disappears as he is about to leave Cambodia, leaves an indelible indication of his ensuing fate.
The performances all around superb without exception. Haing S. Ngor, who was tragically killed a few years ago, delivers a riveting, emotionally wrenching turn as the guide who is trapped in Cambodia and forced to fight for his life. He deservingly won the Oscar, though it's a shame he was snubbed for the best actor award. Inarguably, he's the film's central character and he also has more screen time than top-billed Sam Waterston. Despite my complaint on that matter, Waterston is also excellent as the journalist with a guilty conscience.

The Killing Fields is a suspenseful and exhilarating experience, a journey through an apocalyptic landscape that features one shocking image after another. Watch, and you'll see why the film is so acclaimed.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 8 December 2002
I was 22 when I first saw this film & I was glad that I saw it alone. I was living with my parents in a loving family in Renfrewshire, Scotland & although reasonably educated, was rather oblivious to the horrors that really went on in our worlds past. By the end of the film I was in tears as the story unfolded, but not in misery, just in the joy that after the failures of the military & politicians in america & cambodia, Sidney Schanberg kept on looking for his dear friend Dith Pran not knowing what might become of him. A film of endurance & of what might be, when the heart has the will to endure the fight ahead, even though the consequences may be great. I didn't realise until the end that this was a true story & it makes all the difference when you realise the struggle Dith Pran, a New York Times Photogropher & Cambodia itself went thru at the hands of the Khmer Rouge were to take, would have such a dramatic outcome. When the Red Cross are all that can save them, we are treated to a truly delightfull outcome to what was a terrible area of the worlds forgotten past. A past that the west has forgotten although the wake of it is still in our midst.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 5 March 2007
This is a beautifully made, moving film depicting the harsh regime of the Khmer Rouge communist revolutionaries in 1970's Cambodia. The film focuses on the real-life relationship between Cambodian Dith Pran and American journalist Sidney Schanberg. The acting is superb, particularly from Dr. Haing S Ngor who played the part of Dith Pran and who did himself survive the Killing Fields.

In my opinion, it is necessary to have a background knowledge of the political events during this time (eg. the Cambodian government being overthrown by the Khmer Rouge and the subsequent evacuation of the cities) as without this, the film may be confusing in parts. However, this DVD does helpfully give the viewer the option to choose a brief historical recounting of the events of this time, and I would definitely recommend selecting this before watching the movie.
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