The Killing Fields (1984)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Political Drama  |   Release Date - Nov 2, 1984 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 141 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom , United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Dan Jardine

The Killing Fields is a brutally honest exploration of loyalty and fidelity during the Khmer Rouge's horrific Cambodian holocaust in the mid-1970s. Based on the true story of Dith Pran (played by non-actor Haing S. Ngor in an Oscar-winning performance), the harrowing depiction of the atrocities committed during dictator Pol Pot's bloodbath stays with the viewer long after the film has ended. Pran's desperate struggle to survive in the barbarous conditions of the "re-education camps" (the apocalyptic images in the Valley of Death are particularly potent) is ironically counterpointed with the middle-class comfort of the friend who left him behind, New York Times reporter Sydney Schanberg (Sam Waterston), whose Pulitzer Prize for his reporting from Cambodia proves pyrrhic when compared to Pran's fate. Ngor's naturalistic and empathic portrayal of his character's desperate fight for survival is the key to this film's visceral power. His remarkably expressive face combines with an almost naive faith in the power of one man to survive in such a hellhole. The film aims the finger of responsibility directly at the American government of Richard Nixon, arguing that his "secret" war in Cambodia led to Pol Pot's genocidal policies. Nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, The Killing Fields won three, for Ngor, Chris Menges's cinematography, and Jim Clark's editing.