Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Killing Fields (Roland Joffe, 1984) C-

I had high hopes for this one, really I did. Unfortunately, everything about The Killing Fields seemed emotionally disconnected, especially during the times when it really needed to rely on that, and besides that, more often than not, I had no idea what was going on. The first 30 minutes were totally confusing as Sydney (Sam Waterson) and Pran (Dr. Haing S. Ngor) ran from place to place in Cambodia, taking pictures and getting news stories. The screenplay didn't help, because it didn't explain what they were doing well enough and it also got repetitious after awhile. Most of the film consisted of the same three scenes over and over again: (1) Sydney and Pran go to some place to write an article (2) Some catastrophe (military coup, taken hostage, etc) happens and they are forced to stay (3) Sydney and Pran, using their smarts, eventually get out of the situation by the skin of their teeth. Pran's eventual escape still remains a mystery to me because I have no idea how he left the prison camp (was that what he was in?) or who that guy who got Pran to speak French was and what purpose he served (how did he get that American money and map?) I seriously have no idea what the Academy was thinking when they nominated this for so many awards in 1984. The Best Picture nomination is vaguely understandable (quality aside, it is a heartwarming film about friendship and survival and all that bullshit) but Waterson should have been embarrassed that his nomination caused Steve Martin to be denied one for All of Me. Nothing about the performance points in the direction that he was required to act. He yells, he talks with Pran, he gets emotional, he misses his friend....that's about all that goes on here. Any mildly competent actor could have pulled off this performance. Ngor's nomination (and eventual win) can be partly justified- that last hour does belong to him- but, again, nothing really required him to act that much. All he has to do is wear that same stone-face and recite some lines in broken English.

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