I put off seeing this movie for so long, despite my fascination with that period of history (the late 70's) in Cambodia. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to handle viewing graffic depictions of the Khmer Rouge atrocities I had read so much about. Finally in college, while taking a course in Southeast Asian politics, my curiousity got the best of me and I rented it. I was pleased to find that the movie, while certainly intense, wasn't too much to stomach - even for a wimp like myself (no explicit torture scenes or anything like that). Yet I still walked away with a good feel for how horrible that era in Cambodia really was. Now I've seen this film countless times!
I continue to be amazed by the one scene where Dith Pran is saying goodbye to Sidney Schanberg, as he (Pran) is being forced into Khmer Rouge custody. Meanwhile Schanberg reluctantly gets to return to a life of freedom and luxury. Their farewells are so poignant and the music is PERFECT, with the rain pouring down on them - DAMN this scene is haunting.
Equally intense is the scene showing the heartpounding, panicked evacuation of the American embassy in Cambodia, as well as the cathartic finale of the movie: the way a zealous Schanberg sprints across the New York Times newsroom after receiving word from the Red Cross, leading to the film's fantastic final scene. It gets me teary-eyed every time.
Aside from the emotional fervor this movie inspired in me, I believe it was also very accurate from what I've read and researched. Even down to the cranky, impatient mannerisms of the real-life Schanberg, which were portrayed by an outstanding Sam Waterston. (Outstanding performances were given by all in fact, especially John Malcovich and Dr. Haing Ngor - who has an astounding past of his own with the Khmer Rouge.)
While overwhelmingly bleak, The Killing Fields was ultimately inspirational. Watch this movie to be educated, and moved!