The Killing Fields
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  • Moving film- bad history
    "The Killing Fields" is a drama that will leave you with disturbing images that will haunt you for some time- but as an historical document. The principal aim of the film seems to be to put the blame for the Cambodian genocide on the Americans, despite the fact that the Khmer Rouge death machine was something strictly home grown. In 1950, Khieu Samphan received his PhD at the Sorbonne for his thesis that became the heart of the Cambodian genocide- a proposal to empty the cities and force everyone back into agriculture. This is the plan the Khmer implemented that led to the real killing fields and death camps.

    Five stars for cinematic presentation; one star for accuracy. ...more info
  • War Drama about Cambodia
    Most war movies from the 80's are about Vietnam and sometimes the horrible events in Cambodia are snowed under.
    'The Killing Fields' is about the friendship between NY Times Reporter Syd and his Cambodian interpreter and later friend. When the western journalists flee the country they try and get him with them by forging a passport but it fails and Tran stays behind. He gets caught by the Khmer Rouge and forced to work in slavery, by not letting known he speaks English he survives and escapes and finds his friend Syd again.

    The movie is great and emotional. Some scenes are awful but lifelike. Though shot in Thailand, the scenery is beautiful. The acting is fine too, the man playing Tran won an oscar. His own personal life is very closely linked to the events in Cambodia too and this movie is also in part about him. He unfortunately got killed in the late 1990's, possibly by the Khmer in LA....more info

  • Wonderful, but don't expect a good night's sleep afterwards
    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

    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.

    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.

    ...more info

  • The Killing Fields Review
    It is a great movie. It Let me Know about problems and conflicts outside the U.S. It really made me think about the world outside my of own....more info
  • To this day one of the greatest movies related to war ever made
    The insanity of Pol Pot and his regime, Hell on Earth!

    I just watched "The Killing Fields" after almost two decades after I first saw it in the eighties and I cannot believe how intense and gripping this movie is to this very day. Of all the genocides in human history this one that took place in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979 just after the Vietnam War is probably the worst in human history. This is not only because of the number of people who were killed or because of the torture and methods of extermination of the poor victims but because the communist Khmer Rouge, the very guys who were supposed to run the government were doing it to their own people. This was not some enemy indulging in hate crime. Coinciding with the US pullout of Vietnam, as the foreigners also leave, Cambodia celebrates happily welcoming their new military government but the initial revelry soon turns to a life threatening situation as the Khmer Rouge gradually start mobilizing their plans. The mass evacuation of all the people in the major cities to the fields begin. No one is spared, including bed ridden patients in hospitals. Simultaneously the killings begin. According to their screwed-up principles all educated people (even all those who were wearing spectacles were considered educated) foreigners, anyone related to the former government, the sick, the unhealthy were all to be exterminated and what follows is Cambodia's period of hell. Without any value for human life Cambodian citizens are butchered like animals. People are killed anywhere and everywhere without respite and their corpses abandoned without proper burial or funeral. Khmer Rouge's motto when it comes to human life - "if they survive no gain; if they die no loss". I also read from reports on sites on the web that after years of war the Khmer Rouge had totally lost the value of human life.

    In all other cases of genocide there was hatred and enmity for one regime for another. But in the case of Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge killed their very own people and two million of them with their stupid and bizarre ideals that got them nowhere. Many foreigners were also killed and these include Vietnamese, Pakistani's, Muslims, Christians and Buddhists. In fact The Khmer Rouge were just waiting to find the most silly reason to dispose somebody or anybody. The film also reminds the world what will happen to people and governments if power is given to those madmen who have no idea about how to use it. These Caligulas eventually end up abusing the system with gross misuse of power. Only the murders in Sierra Leonne and the stories of child soldiers can come close to the crimes that happened in Cambodia but then again there is no comparision. Dith Pran whose story is told in this movie continues his crusade to this very day of educating people in Cambodia and around the world of what went on in his country in those years of torture, pain, suffering and death so that such an incident never takes place again. There are several sites online describing the genocide.

    The Khmer Rouge believed that only labour and an agrarian society could revive Cambodia's economy and so "everyone" was made to work in the fields. They had a target of producing a targeted quantity of rice per acre and only very few of the groups could achieve that target. Every worker was exhausted to starvation on poorly fed meals causing widespread disease and malnutrition resulting in further deaths. Hungry people scavenged on whatever that was edible and because only cultivated crops were to be consumed other plantations and crops were either removed or destroyed. In their places mines were planted everywhere. Pol Pot called them "the prefect soldiers" Millions of them were planted, almost one for every citizen of the country. The Khmer Rouge were also against wasting bullets and victims were clubbed or bludgeoned, killed with sharp bamboo sticks or had their throats slit and left to die.

    The Movie tries best to cover all aspects of this regime's insane thinking. But here's more. I remember watching Roland Joffe (director of this movie) explain this in a documentary other things that were taking place during the regime though they weren't shown in the movie. One of the worst crimes that was committed by the regime was in the Tuol Sleng school (now converted into a war museum) that was converted into a prison (nicknamed the notorious S12) through which 14,000 or so people went in an only a handful survived. The rest were tortured to the limits of unimaginable and unbearable pain and agony and subsequently murdered in the nearby Choeung Euk, before the forced and framed confessions were extracted out of them. The paintings of Vann Nath one of the few survivors (who survived because of his painting skill) tell it all. Most of the grizzly images he painted are graphic and certainly not for the faint of heart.

    The other aspect of the movie is the well dramatized indoctrination of the masses, particularly the children. Children were brain washed because it was easy to get a new generation with the ideals of party ingrained in them than teach or convert an older generation Children were allowed to judge a prisoner's or a victim's fate, spy on people, even their own parents and for all which they were praised and given better positions. It is not sure if the children were doing it out of fear or survival. The Khmer rouge did not believe in and strongly discouraged parent-child family set-up. As converts to the regime peasants were involved in torture and killings too. Many of these guards and soldiers were barely out of their teens. Of the several disturbing scenes in one very moving scene a volunteer in one of the indoctrination classes raises her hands to be forgiven. What was on her mind? Escape this dreadful life by getting killed or maybe she thought she would be forgiven and allowed to live. Little does she know that she and many others who exposed themselves as educated were going to their graves the very same evening.

    Finally when the Khmer Rouge were ousted, they left behind just a handful of doctors and engineers for the entire nation. Even the Vietnamese who finally liberated Cambodia from the Khmer Rouge and who had seen enough in the war in their own country were appalled by what the fleeing Khmer Rouge forces had left behind.

    There are tons of info on the genocide on Wikipedia and elsewhere on the web. Dith Pran has his own site. Dr. Haing S Ngor who played Dith Pran and who was a Cambodian Genocide survivor himself won an Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role in 1985. Unfortunately he lost his wife and family in the Genocide. The pain and fear is very much there on his face and playing a Cambodian would have been second nature. Unfortunately he was killed in Los Angeles in the late nineties during a burglary. I'll never forget his Oscar award acceptance speech where he tearfully dedicated the award to the millions who had died and to his homeland, Cambodia. Another Cambodian in the U.S who became popular by writing about her life during the Khmer Rouge times is Loung Ung. The movie also won Oscars for Best Cinematography and Best Editing. Besides the Oscars the movie won several awards world wide. Shot in Thailand the movie has some very amazing made sets. Particularly note the war torn streets through which Haing and friends make their escape. You also cannot help enjoying the village side of these countries despite the crimes that were going on in them.

    The only annoying thing was the pop music of Mike Oldfield at certain times of the movie but John Lennon's "Imagine" played at the befitting moment was a lovely touch by Roland Joffe and will certainly move you. "Band on the run" by P.McCartney and the Wings is also heard earlier in the movie.

    During the nineties I remember reading and even watching on TV, how Pol Pot (I am quite sure it was him) on one occasion was literally man handled by the people of Cambodia when he tried to enter Cambodia via the main airport. Almost everyone was trying to get his share of the bashing. He was lucky to have got away alive. He and many of the war criminals got away with their crimes never to be tried. Some surrendered and some were captured but most of them are either at large or escaped persecution or punishment.

    Released 6 years after the ousting of the regime this is the closest that you can get to the horror and crime that took place in Cambodia's worst period in history.

    Very highly recommended, this is a must-see!

    ...more info
  • Opened my eyes to the sorrow of Cambodia
    I've recently read a ton of Cambodian history - "First They Killed My Father", "River of Time", "Brother Number 1", and a few others. My interest started with this movie.

    "Killing Fields" is not perfect. I agree with some earlier reviewers that the anti-American take is a bit too much. The counter-point to that is, I guess, that the Nixon Admin brought a lot of that on it's decendents. And don't forget that 1984 (the year this movie was released) was the height of the Reagan years - Hollywood was much more anxious to take shots at the Establishment in those days than they have been during the Clinton love-fest.

    "Killing Fields" does a few things very well: I got a sense of what Indochina must have been like before 1975, and what the madness of the Khmer Rouge takeover must have been like. The scenes of the evacuation of Phnom Penh are one of the highlights of the movie - total chaos. I also got a sense of life under the Khmer Rouge - physical labor right out of the Middle Ages, no food, fear of the "Organization", fear of the child-soldiers, fear of each other.

    Some technical points: You really have to pay attention - the accents of some of the Cambodian actors and (especially) the actor who plays Pran are hard to understand. This is doubly unfortunate during the 2nd half of the movie, when "Pran" narrates the action. It took me at least 2 viewings of these scenes to understand what was going on. Also, during "Pran's" journey to Thailand, it's very unclear who some of his companions are and what happens to them.

    Overall, "Killing Fields" is an important and interesting movie. I recommend it highly....more info

  • Superb Retelling Of True Story of Cambodian Genocide!
    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!...more info

  • 3.5 stars out of 4
    The Bottom Line:

    An intelligent look at the atrocities that occurred in Cambodia and their effects, The Killing Fields is consistently interesting for 140+ minutes (no small feat), features great performances by Ngor and Malkovich, and ends in a wonderful catharis (though one marred slightly by the inappropriate use of John Lennon's Imagine); trounced by Amadeus at the Oscars, The Killing Fields is probably the better film....more info
  • Most of the film is anchored by Haing Ngor's performance.
    After an initially slow start, The Killing Fields builds in suspense, becoming more absorbing and compelling, and by the 80 minute mark the movie is full of unbearable suspense, as we sympathize greatly with Haing Ngor's Dith Pran and his ordeals in Cambodia. The question is whether or not he will survive and make it out of The Killing Fields. There is one particular shot that will stay with me forever, the scene when Pran actually encounters a killing field, with all the rotting bodies inside stretching as far as the eye can see.

    The film's best aspect is easily Haing Ngor's brilliant performance. For a man who never acted before, he is absolutely mesmerizing, never failing to convince for a moment and it's because of him that the movie is as good as it is. Trust me, if you become involved in the story, you will be sympathizing with his plight. It's a truly harrowing experience....more info

  • Absolutely extraordinary...will change your life.
    This movie took my breath away...I highly recommend it, there are no words to describe it. ...more info
  • Excellence!!!
    theres no shadow of doubt that this is a classic that presents the khmer rouge issue in cambodia and an extraordinary history that everyone got to see....more info
  • Genocide While The World Watches...Again
    A powerful, touching account of one man's stuggle to survive the horrors of the Khmer Rouge. Some reviewers dislike Sidney Shanberg's suggestion that the U.S. was responsible for the Khmer Rouge attrocities. His point, I believe, was that the U.S. did nothing to STOP it. Nobody did. I DO think the U.S. made two fatal errors to help the Khmer Rouge gain in numbers and popularity. First, bombing the cambodian countryside to weed out north Vietnamese and viet cong troops led to many innocent cambodian deaths. Secondly, the U.S. support of a military leader Lon Nol, at the expense of Sihanouk, the legitimate ruler of Cambodia, led to immense corruption of the government. The Khmer Rouge was able to come into the vilages with food and medicine and "educate" the peasants on the ways of the "evil" americans and their puppets, the Lon Nol regime. Once they had the support of the people and control over the country, they were able to begin their reign of terror. The deranged beliefs and genocidal tendencies of Pol Pot were appalling, but so was the ability of the world to sit back and watch as it happened....more info
  • A compelling look at a modern-day holocaust
    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....more info

  • So Powerful ...
    I put off seeing this movie for so long, despite my fascination with that period of history (the late 70's) in Cambodia. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to handle viewing graffic depictions of the Khmer Rouge atrocities I had read so much about. Finally in college, while taking a course in Southeast Asian politics, my curiousity got the best of me and I rented it. I was pleased to find that the movie, while certainly intense, wasn't too much to stomach - even for a wimp like myself (no explicit torture scenes or anything like that). Yet I still walked away with a good feel for how horrible that era in Cambodia really was. Now I've seen this film countless times!

    I continue to be amazed by the one scene where Dith Pran is saying goodbye to Sidney Schanberg, as he (Pran) is being forced into Khmer Rouge custody. Meanwhile Schanberg reluctantly gets to return to a life of freedom and luxury. Their farewells are so poignant and the music is PERFECT, with the rain pouring down on them - DAMN this scene is haunting.

    Equally intense is the scene showing the heartpounding, panicked evacuation of the American embassy in Cambodia, as well as the cathartic finale of the movie: the way a zealous Schanberg sprints across the New York Times newsroom after receiving word from the Red Cross, leading to the film's fantastic final scene. It gets me teary-eyed every time.

    Aside from the emotional fervor this movie inspired in me, I believe it was also very accurate from what I've read and researched. Even down to the cranky, impatient mannerisms of the real-life Schanberg, which were portrayed by an outstanding Sam Waterston. (Outstanding performances were given by all in fact, especially John Malcovich and Dr. Haing Ngor - who has an astounding past of his own with the Khmer Rouge.)

    While overwhelmingly bleak, The Killing Fields was ultimately inspirational. Watch this movie to be educated, and moved!...more info

  • Killing Fields
    In this film, the great Sam Waterson plays no-nonsense New York Times reporter Sid Shonberg, who is reporting on the Cambodian genocide of the early 1970s. In one early scene, he confronts an armed gaurd, pops him in the shoulder with his passport, and says "I am walking out of here, what are you going to do, blow my f---ing head off?" This after, from behind barbed wire, demanding to take a piss and obtain a pack of ciggarettes. All the man wants is to get back to work, nothing else matters.

    Such risks are typical of this reporter, who usually works with Dith Prhan, native of and Shonberg's guide through war-ravaged Cambodia. Where Sydney will almost get in the face of anyone, or any gun barrel, Prhan is gentle and kind, making his way through danger using persistant persuasion and friendliness.

    Shonberg has a habit early in the film of treating his counterpart as somewhat of a subordanent. When Prhan asks him if he is going to leave the country as the war evolves into mass murder, Shonberg replies "that's none of your bussiness," even though Dith's fate-and his work-is inextricably linked to his American friend.

    When the war grows worse and the Kamar Rouge show their true brutallity, Shoneberg realizes confrontation won't always guarentee that the soldiers won't blow his f--king head off. He starts to rely more on his friend to guide him through a country decending into butchery and chaos. Syd also works to get Dith out of Cambodia, as his love for him becomes increasingly apparent as the maddness grows. At one point Shonberg gives Dith a brotherly tap on the leg and a reassuring smile, which would have been incoceivable earlier. But the American fails get Prhan out of Cambodia, and while he returns to New York, Dith is inducted into forced labor and brainwashing

    The first hour of the film is extremelely intense, while the second hour is poinent. You really see the evoluntion--or the braking down--of Waterson's character, as his vaneer of toughness turns to hearbreak and regret. This is what the film, in many ways, is really about, dispite the political backdrop. The contrast between the two journalists is what really makes The Killing Fields into so much more than a war movie.

    The perfomances are excellent to the point where you watch over and over. Waterson's ability to slowly, painfully let his character's gaurd down is amazing--something that we may yearn to see Jack McCoy do, but that will probably never happen. Still this film probably got Sam his job on Law and Order.

    Well deserved. ...more info
  • personalizing war
    Sydney Schanberg received the Pulitzer Prize in 1976 for his reporting as the NY Times correspondent in Cambodia (1972-1975). This story dramatizes his relationship with his Cambodian guide and interpreter Dith Pran. Schanberg left Pran when journalists fled the country during that genocide that killed about 1.7 million people when the Communist Khmer Rouge overtook the country after American forces left neighboring Vietnam....more info
  • Great movie, could have done without the political revisionism
    This movie is based on the fall of Phnom Penh, Cambodia to the Vietnamese trained Communist Khmer Rouge. It is the accounts of NY Times reporter Sydney Schanberg and his aide Dith Pran that are shown here masterfully

    The Khmer Rouge is one of the worst regimes in the 20th century and that is saying a lot. They moved the Cambodian people from the cities and urban areas into the rural areas and forced them into agricultural production. Those that did not die at the hands of the Khmer Rouge died from diseases and malnutrition that city life had left them ill prepared for.

    My only complaint about this movie and the reason I am docking it 1 star is for the political views espoused by Sydney Schanberg. America may be held accountable for many things, certainly Lyndon Johnson's personally orchestrated war (for which both he and Robert McNamara should have been tried for war crimes) in Vietnam is among them.

    To blame America for the Khmer massacres is insane. The Khmer, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Soviet Governments are the villains here and take 99.9% of the blame for the atrocities committed. Yes America was involved in covert bombing campaigns in Cambodia but it did nothing to precipitate the events depicted in the Killing Fields and possibly held them off for the briefest of times. This kind of revisionist history is straight out of the lexicon of Noam Chomsky, who first denied the events occurred and then tried to place the blame on anyone else but his "idealized" government system of communism.

    America and western countries do share the blame though of not educating their people enough about these events. It is a chapter of history that we would like to put behind us which makes it all the more important that we never forget it happened and that brutal regimes like the Khmer Rouge exist and will subject their own people to the worst atrocities.

    As for the using of the song "Imagine" I am not sure that John Lennon would have liked the irony in the lyrics. The communist Khmer Rouge tried to strip the normally religious Khmer people from their faith. As religious faith tends to get in the way of Communism. "A brotherhood of man" Pol Pot referred to himself as "Brother Number One" and also operated a "Big Brother" type regime. "No need for greed or hunger" strip them of their possessions and make everyone engage in food production and see how quickly everyone starves to death. "No hell below us" why have it below them when the Khmer's can endure living hell on Earth? "Imagine all the people Living for today..." They have to live for today because the "people's government" will take it from them indiscriminately tomorrow. Sorry John, I have seen and read all I need to on your "ideal" government of Communism. You may be a "dreamer" but everyone that has seen your "dream" felt like they were living in a nightmare.

    ...more info
  • A Great Film
    It all started with John Malkovich. Me seeing the movie I mean, not the film itself. I was scanning through Malkovich's filmography and saw this film in their. I had heard of the film, but had no idea what it was about but I checked it out. Malkovich is close to top billing, but his role is really small...Having said that, this was an amazing film. Truly a work of art. The movie stars Sam Waterston ('Serial Mom') playing Sydney Schanberg, a New York Times columnist who heads to Cambodia on the brink of war. Bombs have been dropped, labor camps have been set up and Schanberg wants to write about all of it. When he gets there he meets Dith Pran (Haing S. Ngor, who won an Oscar for the role), who becomes his friend and interpreter. Malkovich plays Schanberg's photographer Al Rockoff; His role is brief, but he leaves his mark. After Schanberg's war entraps himself and his fellow journalists, Pran saves him from being executed but is himself placed in a labor camp. The script is based on a New York Times article by Schanberg called The Death and Life of Dith Pran. When I saw that, I figured this would be a rather depressing story. Truth is, the film is quite uplifting. The choice to use John Lennon's "Imagine" for the final scene was perfect. Anyway, back to the synopsis...Schanberg is back in New York, while Pran slaves at the labor camp. Schanberg has no idea whether Pran is alive or dead, but doesn't give up on the idea of one day reuniting with his friend. Most films that take place in this setting, I'm not a big fan of. I'm not saying I didn't like these films, but movies like The Constant Gardener and Beyond Borders are a bit like this movie. Although, for the record, this film is way better. Having said those last two things I was surprised that I liked this film. Whether you're a fan of these kinds of movies or not, you need to see this. It's an important and uplifting movie, that no one should not see.

    GRADE: A
    ...more info
  • Always get on the chopper!
    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....more info
  • Tragic and touching, but long-winded
    Although there are mostly 5-star reviews here, this is not the type of movie to have posters with less than stunning reviews (except the political posts). This movie is obviously well-made and well-received (7 oscar nominations and 3 wins), but I found it to be too long at 141 minutes and it did not really hold my interest.

    Director Roland Joffe said he interpreted the story as a love story and not a war movie, and indeed that seems to be the way he presents it. Playing John Lennon's "Imagine" at the end was a bit on the sentimental side, though.

    I've watched it 2 or 3 times and just had a hard time sticking with it. There is almost enough material to expand into 2 movies.

    DVD has a nice commentary, a short text-based blurb about actor Haing Ngor, a list of awards, cast/crew blurb, setup options and a trailer....more info

  • Changed my life before i was born.....
    this movie "the killing fields" takes u on a journey through one of the worst acts of genocide in humam history. the horrific mass murders committed by the Khmer Rouge for the sole purpose of cleansing Cambodia for a new beginning is chillin. when you watch this movie you cant help but wonder how another human being can be so evil. ive watched this movie several times and its so gripping! the actors & director did an a amazing job of capturing the beauty of Cambodia but also...Cambodia's darkest hours. ...more info
  • "The Killing Fields"
    This is your special opportunity to witness the authentic killing fields in Phnom Penh when Khmer Rouge, a communist groupled by Pol Pot, took power in the capital of Cambodia on April 17th 1975. Not only does this film portray accurately the cruel intentions committed by the Ultra Communist Khmer Rouge Regime, but it also haunts you with the question on injustice as to why the prime minister of Cambodia would treat his people in this brutal way.

    If you want to experience a vision of hell this will be the ultimate movie for you. Be prepared to be surrounded by dark moments of the past, where voices of the victims beaten by the Pol Pot men will be living in your senses.
    ...more info
    I had learned about this movie after reading an amazing memoir that just came out last summer called, "The Bamboo Chest". The author, Frederick "Cork" Graham was an extra hired by the production company to play one of the marines that you see during the US Embassy evacuation of Phnom Pen. But, the day Graham was supposed to go to the site, he was invited on an opportunity to actually sneak into a forbidden area of Vietnam, near the Cambodian border, which ended up in him becoming the first American political prisoner held by the Vietnamese since the end of the war.

    He was an 18 year old photojournalist covering the covert insertion: talk about life imitating film!! If you enjoyed the movie, then you'll especially enjoy Graham's book to get an idea of how those caucasian extras appeared in the movie (no they werent' brought out from Hollywood). You'll also get the background dirt on Sydney Schanberg, from quotes from Graham's bureau chief in Bangkok who was with AP in Phnom Pen with Schanberg!

    And remember, in 1983, when "Killing Fields" was made in Thailand, and Graham was captured, the Khmer Rouge were still fighting, so Graham fills in on not only the history in more detail than the movie, but also what was happening in South East Asia in the early 1980s.

    Read "The Bamboo Chest"? Then watch "Killing Fields"! Seen "Killing Fields"? Then read the "The Bamboo Chest"!...more info
  • Outrageously powerful in truth and suffering
    This is a cult film in many ways even if time is making it a lot less poignant than it used to be. It is definitely a denunciation of the Cambodian caper of President Nixon. The bombing and then the invading of Cambodia were neither justified nor in any way effective. The Vietnam war was lost when Nixon decided to invade Cambodia and this invasion spread American troops and military means over two wide a territory to even pretend the war was not lost. The invasion of Cambodia was the last straw that broke the camel's back. We could wonder today whether Kissinger let Nixon do this mistake to bury him in this war and thus enable himself to negotiate some kind of a peace agreement. An American journalist lost in this chaos and overwhelmed by the arrival of the Khmer Rouge in Phnom Penh was a witness to this senseless and absurd caper or continuation of a ridiculous war. But he had to use the services of a local journalist to be the interface between him and the locals. Unluckily this Cambodian journalist stayed too long and he could not escape from the claws of the Khmer Rouge. Then it is a story of resistance and resilience to survive the most horrendous conditions. He will manage to escape absolutely alone though he had started in a group of six or seven. Even the child he had been entrusted with will die along the way blown up by a mine. This is a true story, a testimony about one of the most astounding catastrophe and tragedy of our modern world, a war unjustified and lost even before being started waged by the USA in a country that they did not even know leading to one of the worst ever genocide in modern history performed by the Cambodians themselves onto the Cambodian people they made regress to some medieval state in just a few months and for a few years that lasted centuries. We westerners love exporting our worst nightmares to foreign countries and some of us never learn a lesson and are always ready to do better than some others before us. If the French lost the Indo-chinese war in 1954 there was absolutely no reason why the Americans could win it. If the French lost the Algerian war in 1962 and the British lost the Middle East and Egypt quite some time before there is absolutely no reason why the Americans could do better. This film is a testimony to the suffering the vanity of some of our inspired western leaders imposes onto millions of people around the world. For one case that ends with a little bit of joy, millions of cases end in plain death.

    Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris Dauphine & University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne
    ...more info
    In 1984 Sam Waterston starred as New York Times reporter Sidney Scheinberg in "The Killing Fields". Clint Eastwood was offered the role, but turned it down. He said it was because he is a "Western WASP," not an East Coast Jew, but he probably ran from it because he is a Republican and knew that Scheinberg had been a biased Vietnam reporter and did not want to promote that. Scheinberg filed numerous reports advocating the message that the U.S. was not doing the right thing in Vietnam. The early part of the film promotes the liberal myth that it was U.S. bombs and U.S. aggression that created the situation in Cambodia. The perfidy of such a concept is mind-boggling. The U.S. did create the situation in Cambodia, because it was U.S. Democrats, led by Chappaquiddick Teddy, who de-funded the South Vietnamese until they collapsed. Then they have the bluster to tell the world, using their powerful friends in the film industry, that the Cambodian holocaust was not because they disarmed the forces of freedom, but because the Communists were incensed at American crimes, therefore justifying their rampages of mass murder against innocent civilians. Is there some alternate Universe in which this can be true. Answer: No.
    However, like a fair number of films that liberals make, "The Killing Fields" ends up promoting a semi-conservative message when it gets into truthful events that cannot be portrayed any other way. Pol Pot's murder of Cambodia is undeniable. In putting it on film, it simply speaks for itself. There is little to conclude in walking out of the theatres that showed "The Killing Fields" beyond the simple conclusion that, "Communists killed millions of people," which is a fact that does not allow for much leeway. Leftists still try to find that leeway, however.

    HORSE MANURE...more info
    In 1984 Sam Waterston starred as New York Times reporter Sidney Scheinberg in "The Killing Fields". Clint Eastwood was offered the role, but turned it down. He said it was because he is a "Western WASP," not an East Coast Jew, but he probably ran from it because he is a Republican and knew that Scheinberg had been a biased Vietnam reporter and did not want to promote that. Scheinberg filed numerous reports advocating the message that the U.S. was not doing the right thing in Vietnam. The early part of the film promotes the liberal myth that it was U.S. bombs and U.S. aggression that created the situation in Cambodia. The perfidy of such a concept is mind-boggling. The U.S. did create the situation in Cambodia, because it was U.S. Democrats, led by Chappaquiddick Teddy, who de-funded the South Vietnamese until they collapsed. Then they have the bluster to tell the world, using their powerful friends in the film industry, that the Cambodian holocaust was not because they disarmed the forces of freedom, but because the Communists were incensed at American crimes, therefore justifying their rampages of mass murder against innocent civilians. Is there some alternate Universe in which this can be true. Answer: No.
    However, like a fair number of films that liberals make, "The Killing Fields" ends up promoting a semi-conservative message when it gets into truthful events that cannot be portrayed any other way. Pol Pot's murder of Cambodia is undeniable. In putting it on film, it simply speaks for itself. There is little to conclude in walking out of the theatres that showed "The Killing Fields" beyond the simple conclusion that, "Communists killed millions of people," which is a fact that does not allow for much leeway. Leftists still try to find that leeway, however.

    STWRITES@AOL.COM...more info

  • Unfair to Al Rockoff
    This movie impugns Al Rockoff, the Photographer played by Malkovich.

    In the movie, Al takes Pran's photo for a fake passport to get him out and it fades and so Pran can't escape.

    It's not true - you can check on the Internet. The photo did not fade, and Pran left the compond for other reasons. Al did his job and this movie is not accurate. ...more info
    I'll try hard not to slide into the "Triumph of Humanity" routine as many a doting reviewer is wont to do, but despite its age (about 25 years), it's misplaced use of Lennon's music, and its willed oversight of some inconvenient facts (e.g., the blanket bombing of Cambodia by US airplanes), this is a phenomenal movie. For several reasons.

    First, Southeast Asia's tryst with wars has germinated into a bunch of memorable film epics (Full Metal Jacket, Apocalypse Now) and some good contextual dramas (Deer Hunter). But here is a story told a little closer to the ground, of people who were not very "important" and certainly not very powerful, who got caught up in events that were indifferent to them. It succeeds because it conveys both a political/human rights story and an intense personal drama.

    Second, the movie doesn't succumb to typical Hollywood devices where haphazard chances of life and unanticipated twists of fate tiptoe into a theatrical formula with such alacrity that what might once have happened to a real person begins to look like it happened to John Wayne. Killing Fields trusts us instead to find the characters interesting in their rawness against their grotesque realities. It is a risk that works and makes it into a deeply affecting experience.

    Third, the film is a masterful achievement on all technical levels. The stunning visuals of Cambodia are convincing, which makes the point that much more strident. The background score, or the lack of it at crucial moments, is marvellous. But the most special moments are the human ones: the conversations, the exchanges of trust, the waiting around, the sudden fear, the quick bursts of violence, the desperation.

    Fourth, and most important, it is doubly memorable because of its authenticity. Not only is the story true, the co-star Haing S. Ngor was a non-actor, a medical doctor by training, and an actual survivor/refugee of the real 'Killing Fields' of Cambodia.

    The movie may be seem slow-paced in the second half to some as we see our Cambodian protagonist camouflage himself to escape the dreaded Khmer Rouge, but that's because it relies less on dialogue at this stage and more on the stirring visuals.

    It's the sort of stuff one wishes never to have to watch, much less live through. But what a fabulously constructed motion picture!...more info
  • Historical Tear Jerker
    Its all true. The history of how a group of complete psychos inspired by some bizarre form of nutty totalitarian communism came down from the hills in Cambodia, and murdered and tortured half of its population. If you wonder why its important to fight for human rights and democracy in places you can't pronounce, see this movie. If you think you have a lousy job or life, see this movie. If you want to understand what real courage is all about, see this movie. See this movie and find out what happens when America abandons countries to fend for themselves because it doesn't have the courage to 'stay the course'. America did it in Afghanistan after the Soviets pulled out, we did it in Cambodia and Vietnam and in Lebanon. We did it in North Korea. We did it to the Kurds in Iraq. We did it in Somalia. We will probably do it again very soon. The results are predictable, no? ...more info