|SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (1998)|
|"Seems to me, Cap'n, this mission is a serious misallocation of valuable military resources."|
|Time: 160 mins.|
Official Web Site
Won Academy Awards for Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Sound, and Best Sound Effects Editing. Nominated for 6 other awards.
Though the first 25 minutes of this film are truly horrific Spielberg lands us and his actors on Omaha Beach where only 18 of 5000 men lived through the assault the rest of the film is just as graphic. From the warnings the filmmakers gave, I was under the impression that once they began the mission to find Private Ryan the film would not be as violent. Well take that thought and throw it right out the window. This is a film about what the horrors of war do to men. How anyone survived, or for that matter went on to live a normal life after living through this, is beyond me. I understand that this is an important film for people to see so they can understand what really happens in combat, but it is not an easy film to watch. I have seen thousands of movies and this is definitely an overwhelming theater experience. Things happen to soldiers in this film you will never forget. And frankly after the first 2 hours I had had enough. I wanted the squad to find Ryan or die trying, which many of them do. It was just too much.
I wanted to give this film four stars, but I just can't. For the camera work and sound, definitely, but the story and characters just left me feeling flat and empty. I'm unsure what Spielberg was trying to say by sending these eight soldiers deeper into enemy territory to save one man. Was it worth them risking their lives so one man who was the last brother still alive from a family of four could go home to his mother? I'm not sure. Certainly every life is worth saving, and there's no guarantee the soldiers sent to find him would have survived the war staying where they were, but it just wasn't a compelling enough reason for me. Maybe if I was a mother I would understand. If anything Ryan became a symbol of their lives before the war, a place they were all desperate to get back to but few would ever see.
The actors did a great job given what they had to work with. The characters were very superficial. Everybody had their job the sharpshooter, the Jew, the guy from Brooklyn, the sympathetic medic, the best friend. The only characters that stood out were Hanks, as the Captain, and Jeremy Davies, as the cowardly translater Upham. Why did they stand out? Because you actually learned something about them. Everybody else just embodied their main characteristic. Now maybe Spielberg was just trying to make them "everymen" so people could understand and relate to the fact that many men, just like these guys, suffered and died horribly at the hands of the war machine. Great premise, but it doesn't really make you feel for them when they don't make it. Don't get me wrong, you still want them all to survive, though not because you know and love them, but because no one should have to experience what they did and die in such painful ways.
Hanks has become one of America's premiere actors and this film showcases why. He gives a touching and powerful performance as a man just trying to hold on to his last shred of decency, and sanity, while trying to survive long enough to make it home. He's seen and done things he can't understand or justify and it's written all over his face. Tom Sizemore does a great job as the Captain's right-hand man with very little to work with. He truly is one of the industry's most-underrated actors. However, the films' stand-out performance has to go to Jeremy Davies. A simple translater who gets thrust into the horrors of the war, he is incapable of fighting back because he just can't wrap his mind around the violence exploding around him. His actions are far from heroic and though you want to hate him, you just can't. He may have been you.
I found the final battle where our squad ends up fighting alongside the elusive Private Ryan for ownership of one of the last bridges standing on the way to Paris just as disturbing as the opening sequence. We have invested time and emotion into these characters and we know this vastly undermanned and underarmed squad is about to be slaughtered. The sequence erupts with gunfire and a raw energy rarely captured on film. The camera was everywhere at once, and for a brief moment you get the feeling that they might actually pull it off. But this is war, and from beginning to end no favoritism is shown. I can't really recommend this film for most people because of it's subject matter. This is not a "rah rah" we kicked nazi ass, patriotic kind of picture. I believe this is as close to the actualities of war as any audience has ever or will ever get in a filmgoing experience. I'm sure they took some liberties, but you'd never know it. If you think you know what war is all about, unless you've fought in one, you're wrong. This is an amazing piece of cinema, not to be taken lightly.