Saving Private Ryan

Review No. 466

Deeply poignant.

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A

DIRECTED BY STEVEN SPIELBERG. WRITTEN BY ROBERT RODAT. STARRING TOM HANKS (CAPTAIN JOHN H. MILLER), EDWARD BURNS (PRIVATE FIRST CLASS RICHARD REIBEN), MATT DAMON (PRIVATE FIRST CLASS JAMES FRANCIS RYAN), AND TOM SIZEMORE (TECHNICAL SERGEANT MIKE HORVATH). ALSO STARRING ADAM GOLDBERG, BARRY PEPPER, BRYAN CRANSTON, DALE DYE, DEMETRI GORITSAS, DENNIS FARINA, GIOVANNI RIBISI, HARRISON YOUNG, HARVE PRESNELL, JEREMY DAVIES, JOERG STADLER, KATHLEEN BYRON, LELAND ORSER, MAX MARTINI, NATHAN FILLION, PAUL GIAMATTI, TED DANSON, AND VIN DIESEL. DISTRIBUTED BY DREAMWORKS ON JULY 24, 1998. PRODUCED IN ENGLISH BY THE UNITED STATES. RUNS 2 HOURS, 49 MINUTES. NOT FOR CHILDREN, DUE TO GRAPHIC WAR VIOLENCE AND PROFANITY.

SAVING PRIVATE RYAN WAS WATCHED ON APRIL 26, 2013.

“Like finding a needle in a stack of needles.” –Captain John H. Miller (Tom Hanks)

Saving Private Ryan is director Steven Spielberg’s followup to 1993’s Schindler’s List. Both are epic dramas that present the tragedies of war, specifically major traumas during World War II. The prior film scoped in on Oskar Schindler, a man who would do anything to liberate the Jews during the Holocaust; he gave his fortune away to the cause and died without a penny of it ever returned to him. Saving Private Ryan, however, wants to differentiate between its hero and its protagonist–two completely different characters.

The film opens with a flashback to June 6, 1944–D-Day, when the beaches at Normandy were stormed. The sequence is an extensive massacre that exceeds twenty minutes, and we are introduced early on to Captain John H. Miller. It’s fitting that he doesn’t stand out, and Tom Hanks–a man who can’t help but stand out in his most minor roles–does an awful good job of tackling the character. It’s representative of later scenes, where we learn his character is only a primary focus. He’s assigned the mission to bring home Private James Francis Ryan (Matt Damon), whose brothers were all killed in action, but all the reason he can gather for completing this task is that he himself can only go home if Private Ryan is home.

Saving Private Ryan is well written. Occasionally, a deus ex machina moment will excuse itself as a plot point, but discount these rarities and the film is a flawless, astonishingly realistic masterpiece. Most of the director’s canon has consisted of works inspired by his childhood. Saving Private Ryan is a clear exception, but it’s difficult to deny the genius that transfers through from his conformities. From films such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Jurassic Park, it’s rather obvious that Steven Spielberg is a true genius in technical style. Spielberg’s second-in-command here is none other than his cinematographer, Janusz Kaminski, who has photographed every film of his since the early 1990s. The film, therefore, has the power to be absolutely gorgeous when it wants to, or harshly brutal–“shaky cam” and all–during the rather grotesque combat sequences. Let’s not forget John Williams’s score, or the unique approach to sound mixing.

All this only builds up on the authentic effect of the film. On one note, that’s horrifying, but once you’ve entered the near-three-hour epic, the only way out is to finish.

TOMORROW, ON CINEMANIAC REVIEWS…

The Intouchables (@2:00); Amour (@4:30)

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14 thoughts on “Saving Private Ryan

  1. If you thought that the opening to this movie was one of the most traumatizing scenes filmed about the war (I still love this movie as one of my all-time favourites, though), then look up “Come and See”. That movie in its entirety can make the opening of “Saving Private Ryan” look like a Disney film (“Saving Private Ryan” will still be such a great movie, though).

  2. Love Saving Private Ryan. It’s the best war film in my eyes, but can’t disagree too hard when someone says otherwise. It just works so well for me like no other war film has. Saw this when I was probably to young to be watching (seen it a lot over the years), but left an impact – loved it ever since. Great review, and nice new layout to the site and the reviews.

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