Movie Review: ‘Battle For Saipan’

Casper Van Dien (Starship Troopers, Alita: Battle Angel) returns to war, but instead of giant bugs, this time he is patching up wounded soldiers at an understaffed Army hospital during World War 2. Having not really slept for days, things seem bad enough until he is forced to join the fight to defend his fellow soldiers, nurses, and patients from an onslaught of Japanese soldiers. For a movie based on real events, this was a surprisingly captivating and dramatic film. I am not a history buff, so I cannot comment on the films accuracy, but aside from some questionable character decisions and an overabundance of weapons fire (which I guess is too be expected in a war movie), I was intrigued to see how the movie played out and enjoyed most of the actor portrayals.

The movie opens with some quick text background, stating that the US stormed the Japanese island of Saipan on June 15, 1944, to gain a tactical advantage only to have to fend off a suicidal charge from the Japanese Army on July 7th. This film then takes place entirely on that final day, starting at 0600 hours with bible quote voiceover (that is repeated once or twice later) and a small group of soldiers getting ambushed. The survivor(s) of the ambush warns the nearby hospital to prepare for battle, but they are already understaffed and undersupplied, so defense falls on medics/soldiers that only have basic training to fall back on.

Aside from Casper Van Dien, the film also stars Louis Mandylow (Rambo: Last Blood) as Major William Porter and Jeff Fahey (The Lawnmower Man, Lost) as General Jake Carroll. Both of their character arcs are fairly generic and predictable, but the actors play them well. There is a lot of action and weapons fire in this movie, though it stops at odd times long enough for the heroes to survive; until some of them do not, which is often after they have made the odd decision to go alone or do nothing in the face of danger. Nitpicking aside, I found myself on the edge of my seat wondering how the battle was going to end; again, not a history expert, films like this do a decent job of shedding light on what I consider lesser-known aspects of war. The film concludes with somber historical footage of the aftermath.

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