The Killing Fields

1984, Movie, R, 141 mins


A deeply moving film, THE KILLING FIELDS is the somewhat-fictionalized story of New York Times reporter Sydney Schanberg (Sam Waterston) and his efforts to find his friend Dith Pran (Haing S. Ngor) after the Cambodian translator falls into the hands of the brutal Khmer Rouge. Although Dith's family is evacuated with the last US personnel to leave Phnom Penh, Schanberg persuades his translator to remain behind with him; and when Khmer Rouge troops enter the city, Dith convinces them that Schanberg and his photographer (John Malkovich) are French.

Regrettably, Schanberg is unable to return the favor later, and Dith is sent off to a rural reeducation camp, which he barely survives but eventually escapes. While undertaking the arduous journey to safety, he comes across the horrifying remains of some of the three million people who died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. Meanwhile, racked with guilt, Schanberg, who has received a Pulitzer Prize for "international reporting at great risk," does everything he can to locate his friend.

THE KILLING FIELDS wisely emphasizes the human element of its story, concentrating on Schanberg and Dith's friendship, and lets the political situation speak for itself. Haing S. Ngor, the Cambodian physician whose real-life experiences were similar to those of the character he plays, gives a sincere, heartrending performance that is the film's emotional core. Although Waterston is less effective, he too contributes a believable performance, as does Malkovich in an impressive film debut. Aided by Chris Menges' spectacular Oscar winning cinematography, director Roland Joffe's first feature is a significant achievement, its sequences unfolding with precision as the emotions mount. leave a comment

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