The Killing Fields (1984)

TOMATOMETER

AUDIENCE SCORE

Critic Consensus: Artfully composed, powerfully acted, and fueled by a powerful blend of anger and empathy, The Killing Fields is a career-defining triumph for director Roland Joffé and a masterpiece of American cinema.

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Movie Info

Covering the U.S. pull-out from Vietnam in 1975, New York Times reporter Sidney Schanberg relies upon his Cambodian friend Dith Pran for inside information. Schanberg has an opportunity to rescue Dith Pran; instead, the reporter coerces his friend to remain behind to continue sending him news flashes.
Rating:
R (adult situations/language, violence)
Genre:
Art House & International , Drama
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
 wide
On DVD:
Runtime:
Studio:
Warner Home Video

Cast

Sam Waterston
as Sydney Schanberg
Dr. Haing S. Ngor
as Dith Pran
John Malkovich
as Al Rockoff
Julian Sands
as Jon Swain
Craig T. Nelson
as Military Attache
Spalding Gray
as U.S. Consul
Bill Paterson
as Dr. Macentire
Athol Fugard
as Dr. Sundesval
Tom Bird
as US Military Advisor
Ira Wheeler
as Ambassador Wade
David Henry
as France
Joan Harris
as TV Interviewer
Joanna Merlin
as Schanberg's Sister
Jay Barney
as Schanberg's Father
Mark Long
as Noaks
Sayo Inaba
as Mrs. Noaks
Mow Leng
as Sirik Matak
Chinsaure Sar
as Arresting Officer
Hout Ming Tran
as KR Cadre
Thach Suon
as Sahn
Neevy Pal
as Rosa
Show More Cast

Critic Reviews for The Killing Fields

All Critics (40) | Top Critics (7)

It must be nerve-racking for the producers to offer a tale so lacking in standard melodramatic satisfactions. But the result is worth it, for this is the clearest film statement yet on how the nature of heroism has changed in this totalitarian century.

Full Review… | August 24, 2008
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

The screen is swamped by a bathetic, self-preening sententiousness.

Full Review… | April 9, 2008
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

The intent and outward trappings are all impressively in place, but at its heart there's something missing.

Full Review… | April 9, 2008
Variety
Top Critic

The film's overall thrust -- angry, intelligent, compassionate -- makes this producer Puttnam's finest movie to date.

Full Review… | February 8, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

The best moments are the human ones, the conversations, the exchanges of trust, the waiting around, the sudden fear, the quick bursts of violence, the desperation.

Full Review… | October 23, 2004
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

The movie is diffuse and wandering. It's someone telling a long, interesting story who can't get to the point.

Full Review… | May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Killing Fields

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.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

½

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.

Alex roy
Alex roy

Super Reviewer

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.

Spencer S.
Spencer S.

Super Reviewer

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