The Killing Fields: 30th Anniversary

In Watch

Director: Roland Joffé
Starring: Sam Waterston, Haing S. Ngor, John Malkovich, Julian Sands

Celebrating its 30th anniversary with a new Blu-ray release, we decided to take another look at Roland Joffé’s classic 1984 film The Killing Fields.

Based on the book The Death and Life of Dith Pran by Sydney Schanberg, The Killing Fields follows the story of said New York Times journalist (Sam Waterston) and his Cambodian journalist friend and interpreter Dith Pran (Haing S. Ngor). Set in Cambodia in May 1973 during the horrific events of the civil war, Sydney and Dith are attempting to report the atrocities happening in Cambodia.

However, things go awry when an American B-52 accidentally bombs the wrong town, and all hell breaks loose. Sydney and Dith are left stranded in a country in turmoil, and when there is an opportunity to leave, Dith is unable to flee to the USA with his friend Sydney. Dith is left to fend for himself in order to find a way back to his American journalist buddy.


The Killing Fields is undoubtedly a work of great direction and scale. The sheer size of this movie is remarkable; to view the hoards of Cambodian people being evacuated by the Khmer Rouge, is simply astonishing. The level of destruction caused by US dropped bombs is unbelievable. You will be asking yourself how did they do this? It’s really a masterclass by Roland Joffé.

However, the truly sensational part of this film is in the acting, and in particular Haing S. Ngor’s sensational performance as Dith. Sam Waterston and John Malkovich are both brilliant in their respective roles, yet it’s Haing S. Ngor who steals the show, despite having no prior acting experience to this movie. He was able to perfectly depict a man in an unimaginable situation superbly and deserves all the plaudits possible for his performance.

If there was one negative about the film, it would have to be the soundtrack, which feels completely out of place in some scenes. At one point it sounds as if John Carpenter was involved with his synthesiser, and it really does distract from what’s happening onscreen.

Other than that the film is a masterpiece, an epic film of immense scale, which should be watched by all. It’s a vitally important film about a terrible time in Cambodia’s history.

The Killing Fields is released on Blu-ray on 3rd November. 

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