Making things right

The Killing Fields (1984) ***** Starring: Sam Waterson, Haing S. Ngor, John Malkovich. Director: Roland Joffe.

The Killing Fields is done with a thread of hope and humanity and how things should be made right despite the horror of the atrocities of war.

American Journalist Sydney Schanberg (Sam Waterson) is covering the conflict in Cambodia in the 1970’s and is indignant at what’s going on.

We’re reminded of the horror of the war when a casual conversation is interrupted by an explosion on a street—it’s shocking and alarming.

The country is slowly but surely being torn apart as Pol Pot and his regime decimate the country with his ‘Year Zero’ cleansing campaign, which aims to re-educate the Cambodian people and eliminate dissenters, which truly off-centers Cambodia, sending it into shock and fear.

Foreigners are leaving the country and Schanberg and his photographer Al Rockoff (John Malkovich) attempt to make up a foreign passport for Dith Pran (Haing S. Ngor), Schanberg’s Cambodian interpreter, but it’s not easy.

The “mission” to help Pran leave is thrilling and suspenseful, the aftermath a riveting escape attempt from a prison camp.

Pran stayed in Cambodia and is imprisoned, but he attempts to escape the prison camp and flee to safety.

Schanberg is dealing with a guilty conscience over leaving Pran behind and tries to find him.

This is a story truly centered in the good. Loose ends in relationships aren’t forgotten and left behind, but are dealt to. Forgiveness and reconciliation come, despite living in a world beset by violence. The ability to survive and endure through a deathly situation is haunting but is compelling and urging us to agree that one should live.

The Killing Fields contains violence and coarse language, but in the context of war. This is accomplished filmmaking, it’s intelligent, and directed with a sense of urgency and purpose, which is what this great story deserves. Roland Joffe’s directorial debut is outstanding, it’s a film that stays firmly in the memory as something special.