Set in the Philippines in 1945, THE GREAT RAID tells the true story of the 6th Ranger Battalion, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Henry Mucci (Benjamin Bratt) who undertake a daring rescue mission against all odds. Traveling thirty miles behind enemy lines, the 6th Ranger Battalion aims to liberate over 500 American prisoners-of-war from the notorious Cabanatuan Japanese POW camp in the most audacious rescue ever.
In training for and filming The Great Raid, we encountered the best of several worlds. We had a Director (John Dahl) who wanted us to adhere as closely as possible to the real characters and events. And we had a story adapted from two excellent books (The Great Raid by William Brueher and Ghost Soldiers by Hampton Sides) that was so dramatic that it defied application of any Hollywood treatment.
That’s how we approached both training and filming. Just keep it real and stick to the basic story. What those Rangers did was incredible enough for all of us and we worked hard to keep from going over the top, even on the most intense action sequences. We were particularly taken with how well the troops in training got in tune with the mission. They wanted to get it right as a tribute to the real men they were portraying.
We learned how to expand our training regimen and include multiple units undergoing instruction simultaneously. The fact that we were able to bring these units together and watch them work with and/or against each other was rewarding and an affirmation of our methods. I was very glad that Director John Dahl saw the wisdom in casting two of my Platoon Leaders as characters in the film. Farnsworth and Macintosh did a great job as the Charlie Company officers subordinate to Capt. Prince.
We filmed this story in 2003 and Miramax did not release it until 2005, which made us all wonder what might be wrong with the project. As it turns out, it was a matter of editing to balance the A Story with the B Story and saving the story until a significant time when it had the best chance to being seen and appreciated. In the end, it was likely wise to wait and release The Great Raid around the 60th Anniversary of VJ Day.