Based on true events, The Raid, tells the story of a band of Confederate soldiers who escape from a New England prison on their way to Canada. While in Canada they receive orders to rob the banks and set fire to the small town of Saint Albans in Vermont. With their Raid scheduled, Major Neal Benton goes into town undercover as a Canadian Businessman in order to get the lie of the land. With his time spent in the town he meets a beautiful widow and her son, leading the Major to serious doubts about his orders. Hugo
Fregonese's The Raid is a powerful film which looks to dissect the fog of war, and in doing so paints a harrowing and poetic portrait of a man who lives the
life of soldier. Van Heflin gives a powerful performance as Major Benton, a man whose soul is violently torn between his responsibility to his country and his moral compass. Many films seem to demonize the confederate soldiers but this film does a great job at reminding the viewer about the other side of this war. Major Benton is a man who witnessed his wife burned alive courtesy of the Union army and when the Major first enters town he is a man surrounded by a world in which he has grown to despise. He walks around like a normal civilian but inside he is bursting with rage every time he passes a union soldier. At one point he even comes across an auction in which he sees his fallen confederate soldiers' belongings being sold off as mere trinkets. This quiet instability early on is what makes Major Benton's transformation that much more rewarding, as the film beautifully captures how both sides are guilty of heinous offenses just like both sides are full of innocent civilians. Lee Marvin's Trigger-happy Lt. Keating, one of the men under Major Benton's command, is a character who represents the blind, vengeful nature of some men who only want to get even. Some may not relate to Major Benton's ultimate decision but with that decision the film comes full circle capturing how Benton's actions only mirror those of the men responsible for his wife's death - a soldier following orders. These blurred lines between duty and morality is what makes The Raid so fascinating and its honesty and lack of manipulation is what makes this a must see film.
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