The Killing Fields Reviews

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Super Reviewer
October 13, 2013
With the gut-wrenching first half of the film devoted to portraying with gritty realism and a beautiful cinematography the takeover of Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge, the second half relies on Ngor's magnificent performance to show a man in an amazing struggle to escape from hell.
Super Reviewer
½ August 4, 2011
The Killing Fields in the incredible true story of the atrocities committed by Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. Brilliantly acted and directed The Killing Fields is a powerful film that touches on what is probably one of the greatest crimes of the 20th century along with the Holocaust. The Killing Fields is a stunning drama film that brings to light a terrible crime. This is a brilliant film that exposes the horrors of the Khmer Rouge, and one mans survival through the ordeal. The Killing Fields is an accomplished film that though is a solid drama, also plays out like an important history lesson. The film will most likely want to make you read on the subject. The film is an important one, and like Schindler's List, also evokes the humane side to a terrible ordeal. A film that evokes emotions as you watch the events unfold before you. The cast that grace this film are terrific, and the thing that's pretty interesting is that actor Dr. Haing S. Ngor who plays Dirth Pran is an actual survivor of the Cambodian Killing Fields. This is a superbly crafted drama film that has a strong story, and boasts some terrific performances. This is a must see film for anyone who is interested in the subject, and to those who enjoy a solid, drama film; The Killing Fields is a strong, near flawless picture, and one you can't easily forget.
Super Reviewer
August 8, 2010
The horrors of the Cambodian genocide became buried in the first hour and twenty minutes of background information on the conflict between a small group of journalists, eventually huddling in an American embassy, versus an emperging Khmer Rouge government hellbent on capturing photographer Dith Pran. Thought to be benign, rebels overtake the government with the help of Americans, ignorant to their full power after the end of the Vietnam War. Not to say that these events were not important, but the film came across as more of a biography of Dith Pran, a captured Cambodian, then on the actual killing fields full of rotting corpses. For the next hour the tumultuous record of exposure to the dictatorship based on genocide is captured by Dith Pran, working the fields, trying to escape without being killed by small children, the hierarchy of the system. The ugly betrayal of humanity is alarming, not always documented by groups of people being slaughtered. It's etched across actor Haing S. Ngor's face as his mortality flashes before his eyes. My main qualm is the choice of music, which is either a reject 80's synth piece, or a racially insensitive set of bing bongs. Plus, the last song played is "Imagine", which stinks of a tearjerker cliche.
Super Reviewer
½ August 29, 2008
An exceptionally well made film. The Killing Fields is an important, compelling and emotive story brilliantly brought to the screen by director Roland Joffé. Great performances from Sam Waterson, John Malkovich, Julian Sands and a heart-wrenching portrayal from Dr. Haing S. Ngor as Dith Pran. I came across this film by accident really, but it drew me in and horrified me about an era of history I wasn't well informed of. The Killing Fields is an incredibly honest tale of war, tragedy and friendship, with the perfect placement of John Lennon's 'Imagine' at its beautifully poignant ending.
Super Reviewer
½ November 8, 2006
The Killing Fields is based on the true story of Dith Pran, a Cambodian journalist caught up in the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge who seized power in the mid seventies. I saw this film many years ago and it had a profound effect on me at the time, not having previously known of the events it documents. To be honest, it is not quite the masterpiece I remembered it to be; the first hour is a pretty generic, if decent foreign-journalists-caught-up-in-civil-conflict story and it is showing its age a little. The soundtrack in particular at times sounded like it'd be more at home in a John Carpenter film than an epic human tragedy. Also the scale of what happened is almost impossible to get your head around and the rather dry, factual way it is presented means that the emotional connection of something like Schindler's List is not quite there. Where the film comes to life however is in the final hour, when you see what happens to Pran and his countrymen after the west inevitably did its usual disappearing act once Cambodia had served its purpose and the barbarians were at the gates. Pran's tortuous journey goes some small way to describe the horrors of a regime that rounded up anybody with an education and left them to rot in open mass graves which littered the country and these images are extremely powerful. In all a worthy and intelligent attempt to show the plight of yet another population used and then tossed to the wolves by an insidious foreign government (mentioning no names...)
Super Reviewer
½ May 14, 2007
Seldom have I seen a movie that feels so real and authentic. Unlike so many of today's films, this one plays things really subtly and never goes into any over-dramatisation. That, added to the fact that most of the actors are unknown, makes it feel more like a documentary than a Hollywood production. There's some things you should know before watching it though, because the content is something that's not easily digested. Gruesome killings and shocking imagery is commonplace in this film, and there are moments so horrific that it'll leave a permanent imprint on your memory. Haing S. Ngor, who experienced these events on a first-hand basis, is as fantastic as to even outshine a big star like John Malcovich. And that is no small feat coming from someone who is not really an actor. The emotions he displays goes straight into your heart, and you can tell that his tears come from a very real and dark place. A movie of the same age as yours truly, that remains a powerful piece of cinematic excellence.
Super Reviewer
½ June 1, 2008
Excellent film that follows the trials of a pair of journalists (Sam Waterston, an American and Haing Ngor, who is from Camboida) who are terrorized and barely escape alive from Cambodia while trying to cover the Vietnam War. It's nice to watch a film that isn't just shootous and chaos in the middle of the jungles of Asia. Sam was incredible in an Oscar-nominated role and Dr. Ngor won Best Supporting Actor for a role he pretty much lived in his own life. Sadly, Ngor was shot and killed in a robbery attempt in 1996. He survived the Killing Fields in real life, but died in America. How ironic is that?
Super Reviewer
½ September 7, 2008
An engrossing true account of living under the Khmer Rouge. I was first shown this movie as part of an American history class over four years ago, and the amazing cinematography and full force acting still stick in my mind. I will always remember the scene in which Dith Pran must pretend he doesn't understand what is being said on the radio. It is unfortunate that Mr. Pran is no longer living, as he was eager to correspond with anyone interested in his life and experiences; my teacher encouraged all of her students to e-mail him if they had questions, and various classmates staggered across the years had in-depth correspondence with him.
Super Reviewer
July 15, 2007
Two passionate and courageous journalists of different nationalities become witnesses of the horrors of war in southeast asia, one of them is a native who will have to hang on to his life while the nightmare remains.
Haing S. Ngor portrays the victim Dith Pran, with such candidness and affability that is hard not to shed a tear while you see all he had to go through, and all the sacrifices he made, for love and friendship. Remarkable, startling, but more important, incredibly uplifting.
Super Reviewer
July 6, 2007
My favourite movie of all time - heart wrenching drama made with real intelligence. Best movie music as well by Mike Oldfield
Super Reviewer
November 15, 2013
A horrific tale of Cambodia and a foreigner's relationship to a native in trying to get him out of his war torn country. Despite the plethora of Vietnam movies, this remains the only major film on the Cambodian conflict. It maintains its power.
Cameron W. Johnson
Super Reviewer
March 29, 2012
Since when did they let British people make movies about the Vietnam War? Man, a year before this film alone, they were iffy about Oliver Stone, an red-blooded American veteran from the war, making "Platoon"; but hey, in all fairness, the guy is so crazy and offensive that you could sense it before he even really got his career moving. Maybe the Brits fooled everyone with that poster, because with this film's name and that old West-lookin' poster, you'd think that this is the most tobacco-spittin'-ist, gun-shootin'-ist Western that we've ever seen, and I know that sounds like yet more American territory, but really, if they'd let the Spanish and the Italians be icons of the Western film genre, I think that we could at least cut the Brits some slack. Of course, we're not talkin' Westerns; we're talkin' about 'Nam, and everyone knows that it's only the Americans' job to go to war with most every major Asian nation. It's no place for the Brits, unless they're planning on having a war with the Vietnamese to see who is more obnoxious, and even then, it would be kind of underwhelming, seeing as the Brits would lose by lunch, because the Vietnamese had to have been the most obnoxious people on Earth in the '60s. Yeah, I know that's very offensive, but really, although a lot of them weren't that bad back then and certainly aren't that bad now, let's see you come back and be totally tolerant after they've thrown you're buddies on fecal matter-covered spikes, sent children out with grenades and robbed you, all while yelling at you in the most obnoxious jibber-jabber... you bunch of Brits. Still, I must admit that although you weren't really there, y'all know how to still make some pretty decent Vietnam war films, though not quite good enough to drown out the missteps that tragically triumph over potential yet again.

With this being a British Vietnam War drama from the mid-80s, it should almost go without saying that this thing is dry and even kind of dull, dragging along very quietly with a loose grip on both editing and tension. This of course damages the film's compellingness, which was already tainted from the get-go by offering very little immediate development, and as the film continues, it fails to make up for that immediate lapse in development by providing very little exposition. The two aspects of slowness and a lack of exposition, when combined with the kind of repetition that plagues this film, form a dreadful mix that often means one thing: Nothing. Well, sure enough, for long periods in the film, absolutely nothing happens, and when something does happen, it's so messily tacked on the shaky line that is this film's storytelling. This concept of portraying the horrors of the Vietnam War through the eyes of the innocents caught in the middle, as well as the journalists that went to find something unthinkable brutal, only to find far more than they ever could have expected, is wildly inventive and potentially stellar, but in execution, the unique concept is done an injustice by a tone that's both dry and unrefreshing. However, for every misstep this film makes in executing its ambitious concept, it will pull a right move. It may not always be a smooth film, but it is one that will make you think, because although the film is not as provocative as it could have - nay - "should" have been, you'll still walk away with plenty to chew on.

As much as I joke about how everyone is portraying the enemies of the Vietnam War as wildly obnoxious and evil, there were plenty of victims on both sides, and even between the battlefields, and when this film removes the reigns and tells it like it is, things get pretty hardcore. Whether it be a shot to the face, cries of fear, dismemberment, children taking shrapnel or all-around pandemonium, Roland Joffé doesn't shy away, but neither does he focus so deeply on the brutality to where it's manipulative. The film is harsh, violent and ultimately effective, which isn't to say that Joffé only nails the brutality of the situation, because there will be points where the fine score, lovely cinematography and sharp editing all supplement Joffé's tender, thoughtful atmosphere and create sharp emotional resonance that may not be in the film enough, but really wake you up, if not just plain break your heart. Joffé may be the very man that keeps this film from being truly powerful, but when he delivers, he knocks you cold, being matched in resonant skill only by his performers, all of whom are excellent, with leads Sam Waterston and Haing S. Ngor standing out the most. In the beginning of the film, Waterston's Sydney Schanberg character is a charismatic, professional one, but as he walks through the most horrifying sights that no man should see, defeat and anguish falls upon him little by little, a fact emphasized particularly well during a scene in which he's looking through unspeakably horrible footage and listening the operatic music in the midst of it all, and with all of the jaw-dropping, real gore and sweeping music, the thing that catches your eye the most in that sequence is Schanberg's cold, broken and lifeless face, racked with anguish in one of the many definitive testaments to both the Sydney Schanberg character and Sam Waterson's acting abilities that you can find throughout the film. The same, if not greater amount of praise goes out to Haing Ngor, who's portrayal of a clever and skilled, yet still very civilian and honorable man caught in the most dangerous of situations is believable, emotional and haunting. These two men, and others, go through the most senseless, godless of horrors, and while the flaws in the final product keep it from being a truly impacting portrait on war, the performances are among the most key aspects that make this film as effective as it ultimately is.

When the horrors die down, there's still much to be desired in the execution of this should-be distinctively brilliant, very unique concept, as it is plagued by limited exposition, as well as some repetition and storytelling that's both unrefreshing and often fairly dull, yet the film will often make up for some its mistakes with glowing moments carried by an assured and appropritately disturbing, when not deeply emotional atmosphere set by both the imperfect Roland Joffé's and his consistently stellar cast, headed by the hauntingly powerful Sam Waterston and Haing S. Ngor, both of whom play two of the biggest parts in making "The Killing Fields" a generally compelling and ultimately provocative portrait on the brutality of war through the eyes of the mere observers caught in the middle.

3/5 - Good
Super Reviewer
June 13, 2008
The direction by Roland Joffé along with the Oscar-winning cinematography by Chris Menges bring the story to vivid life. There are a few times when the music distracts but, thankfully, those instances are the exception rather than the rule. The ending sequence, featuring John Lennon's "Imagine", is particularly touching though now bitterly ironic given Haing S. Ngor's murder a dozen years after this film. This is a compelling story of hope in the face of tyranny.
Super Reviewer
June 17, 2010
A devastating, searing true life war story focusing on the war reporting of New York Times correspondent Sydney Schanberg, played by Sam Waterston in a superlative Oscar nominated performance, he won a Pulizer Prize for his coverage of the civil war in Cambodia before its capital, Phnom Phenh, fell to the Khmer Rouge in 1975. Stunningly photographed on location in Thailand, directed with great skill and intelligence by Roland Joffe, with powerful Oscar winning cinematography by Christopher Menges, who captures the full horror of this Asian holocaust, in which about three million Cambodians perished, in a inhuman campaign of ethnic cleansing by the tyrant Pol Pot. Lacerating scenes include those involving Schanberg's desperate attempts to free his friend and Cambodian assistant, Dith Pran, played by the late Dr. Haing S. Nigor, who in real life was a survivor of this human tragedy, he delivers a heartfelt and unforgettable Oscar winning performance, he is left behind in the chaos, and must survive the living nightmare of the Khmer Rouge's "re-education camp.' a contemporary version of hell on earth. The film also features exceptional supporting performances by John Malkovich, Julian Sands, Craig T. Nelson, Athol Fugard, Spalding Gary and Bill Paterson. A poignant and intensely moving film, which is one of the most powerful haunting motion pictures ever made on the subject of the Vietnam War. Winner of 3 Academy Awards, Best Supporting Actor: Dr. Haing S. Ngor, Best Cinematography: Christopher Menges, Best Film Editing: Jim Clark. Note: On Feburuary 25, 1996 Dr. Haing S. Nor was found murdered in the garage of his apartment building, shot to death at the age of 55, in Los Angeles, it is very sad and ironic that a man who endured and survived 4 years of imprisonment, torture and starvation during the Khmer Rogue atrocities in his homeland, and struggled to be free, should die so brutally. His relatives and friends believe that his killing was revenge for his opposition of the Khmer Rogue. Highly Recommend.
Super Reviewer
½ September 1, 2007
The relationships between the central characters are not well defined, and the musical score is mostly annoying, but the final hour of the film that shows the brutality of the Khmer Rouge in full force is an effective portrayal of a shameful moment in human history.
Super Reviewer
½ November 13, 2007
Want to be a war correspondent in the future? Then see this one for a bit of orientation experience.
Super Reviewer
½ March 3, 2013
'The Killing Fields' (1984) is pretty deep and definitely well-acted. In fact it won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, Best Editing and Best Cinematography. And I love the original score created by Mike Oldfield. The music is done in this weird and atmospheric way that adds on to the horrific scenes of violence. It's very impacting, but not emotional scaring. This movie didn't ruin me from the inside because of all the bloody deaths of people including small innocent children, but it's definitely something that will be remembered for how upsetting it was because of the history. No film can get more realistic than this.
Super Reviewer
May 1, 2011
This movie was ok. I honestly didn't get the hype. It was a good story - very sad - but it wasn't anything I haven't seen before.
Lord Naseby
Super Reviewer
April 28, 2010
In mid 1975, a man named Saloth Sar took power in a small southeast Asian country that was completely neutral in the war between the United States of America and Communist North Vietnam. he then promised peace and prosperity for all of his people. everyone would be totally equal. he then proceeded to kill of everyone with even half a brain in his country. some estimates of the amount of people that he killed, range as high as 2.2 million in a country full of 7 million people. Saloth Sar is better known by the name of Pol Pot. The country that he took over as leader of the Khmer Rouge (Khmer Rouge meaning Red Khmer with Khmer being the major ethnic group of the country he took over) was Cambodia and this is a movie about the Killing Fields. Oh and by the way, if you do not know who Pol Pt was, look it up NOW. watch this movie NOW. forgive me if I get a tad preachy here, but this is not the sort of event in history that we can afford to forget.

Yes I know, this film didn't win Best Picture so this is a little bit of a deviation from my latest review pattern. although I feel that this film fully deserved to win Best Picture over the sub par period drama about two rival composers, Amadeus.

I was raised my whole life (this is my dad's second favorite movie after The Godfather) being led to believe that this film was extremely brutal. well, in a way that hurt me because I had this level of brutality on the level of Saving Private Ryan and it wasn't that brutal at all. this is not to say that it wasn't brutal. it totally was. what the KR did to gain power is extremely horrifying. this movie truly captures just how horrible it all was. If you were a doctor. you were killed. if you were a lawyer. dead. non Khmer Rouge politician. really dead. student. dead. spoke a language other than Cambodian. dead. journalist. dead. if the Khmer Rouge were bored and needed something to do. dead. you get the idea. The result was that after Pol Pot was no longer in power, there were no smart people left in Cambodia.

now for the film itself. the acting was really good. I liked John Malcovitch and Sam Waterston a lot. but, the highlight of the film was the Oscar winning performance by the late Haing S. Ngor. he was absolutely amazing. He played Dith Pran, a Cambodian Journalist helping out the main character. he had easily the best performance of the whole movie. the whole movie was overall the best movie of 1984. its brutality and the power behind what the film was about made it an excellent film. Replacement winner for the actual 1984 Best Picture winner, Amadeus.
Super Reviewer
October 25, 2008
One of the best drama's I have seen. Very compelling, dramatic and all the actors were at their Oscar best in this powerul drama.
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