This Korean War drama would have been much less offensive if it wasn't concerned with such a brutal and horrifying topic--the systematic torture and brainwashing of American prisoners of war by the North Koreans. Reagan stars as an intelligence officer who volunteers to enter enemy
territory to confirm reports that American POWs are being treated brutally by their communist captors. Reagan is parachuted behind the lines and then makes his way to the nearest POW camp, where he infiltrates a fresh group of GIs being led in. Shocked to find that all the rumors about brutal
treatment are true, Reagan submits himself to the communist indoctrination of Russian officer Homolka and pretends to accept their ideology. Another soldier, Martin, also pretends to be brainwashed, but only so that he can smuggle medicine to an ailing GI who won't capitulate. Martin's and
Reagan's covert method of defying the communists is directly contrasted with that of tough GI Forrest, who fights against the Russians and Koreans at every turn. Armed with detailed, first-hand knowledge of the communists' heinous behavior, it is up to Reagan to escape and tell the world. The
events depicted in the film and even parts of the dialog are based on actual testimony by Korean War POWs. Unfortunately, this very important and serious subject matter is given the classic Hollywood propaganda-mill comic-book treatment. Russian and Korean communists are all portrayed with a
one-dimensional, leering, evil quality. The heartless Reds are easily identifiable because they all maintain unbearably smug expressions and hold their cigarettes in their left hands while cackling with glee at the pain of the Americans. Homolka seems to have wandered in from a Warner Bros.
cartoon because his performance is so outrageous. Homolka and his brood are so ridiculous and distracting that the viewer can never really believe that these men are actually doing anything but pretending to be evil torturers and that the joke will be revealed any moment. While the very real
crimes committed against the POWs more than warranted a gripping screen treatment, PRISONER OF WAR fails because it is long on sensation and short on insight.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: This Korean War drama would have been much less offensive if it wasn't concerned with such a brutal and horrifying topic--the systematic torture and brainwashing of American prisoners of war by the North Koreans. Reagan stars as an intelligence officer who… (more)