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Best known for directing edgy neonoir thrillers (The Last Seduction, Joy Ride), John Dahl takes a step up in scale with this action drama based on the true story of the 1945 liberation of more than 500 American POWs from a Japanese war camp. The long setup about the Bataan Death March may help clue in audiences sketchy about the war in the Pacific, but it's a lumbering start from which the movie never fully recovers. Benjamin Bratt lacks the dynamism one would expect of the commanding officer of a U.S. Rangers rescue unit; James Franco, however, is solid in the less flashy role of the mission's mastermind, and as the POW leader Joseph Fiennes manages to be heroic while prettily languishing from malaria. The bleached-out palette distracts as the film wears on, the colors popping only near the end during the well-staged raid. R, 132 min.

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