A photographer is trapped in Cambodia during tyrant Pol Pot’s bloody cleansing campaign, which claimed the lives of two million “undesirable” civilians.
Sydney Schanberg (who died last July 10, 2016, at the age of 82) is a New York Times journalist covering the civil war in Cambodia. Together with local representative Dith Pran, they cover some of the tragedy and madness of the war, in Phnom Penh.
When the American forces leave, Dith Pran sends his family with them, but stays behind himself to help Schanberg cover the event. As an American, Schanberg won’t have any trouble leaving the country, but the situation is different for Pran; he’s a local, and the Khmer Rouge are moving in.
The Killing Fields manages to edge out even Saving Private Ryan, and without a doubt, there’s no better war film out there that’s done a better job of capturing the realistic details and emotional loss of the time period (that being, the 70’s in Cambodia/Vietnam).
The performances all around superb without exception. Haing S. Ngor who plaiyed Dith Pran, who was tragically killed a few years ago during a street robbery in LA, delivers a riveting, emotionally wrenching turn as the guide who is trapped in Cambodia and forced to fight for his life. He deservingly won the Oscar, though it’s a shame he was snubbed for the best actor award. Inarguably, he’s the film’s central character and he also has more screen time than top-billed Sam Waterston.
The Killing Fields is a suspenseful and exhilarating experience, a journey through an apocalyptic landscape that features one shocking image after another. Watch and you’ll see why the film is so acclaimed.
It must be nerve-racking for the producers to offer a tale so lacking in standard melodramatic satisfactions. But the result is worth it, for this is the clearest film statement yet on how the nature of heroism has changed in this totalitarian century.
– TIME Magazine
The best moments are the human ones, the conversations, the exchanges of trust, the waiting around, the sudden fear, the quick bursts of violence, the desperation.
– ROGER EBERT
The story is powerful, the script intelligent, the cinematography beautiful and the performances nearly flawless.