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Saving Private Ryan
Drama, Action, History, War
IMDB rating:
Steven Spielberg
Tom Hanks as Capt. John H. Miller
Tom Sizemore as Sgt. Mike Horvath
Edward Burns as Pvt. Richard Reiben
Barry Pepper as Pvt. Daniel Jackson
Adam Goldberg as Pvt. Stanley Mellish
Vin Diesel as Pvt. Adrian Caparzo
Giovanni Ribisi as T-5 Medic Irwin Wade
Jeremy Davies as Cpl. Timothy P. Upham
Matt Damon as Pvt. James Francis Ryan
Ted Danson as Capt. Fred Hamill
Paul Giamatti as Sgt. Hill
Dennis Farina as Lt. Col. Anderson
Joerg Stadler as Steamboat Willie
Max Martini as Cpl. Henderson (as Maximilian Martini)
Storyline: Opening with the Allied invasion of Normandy on 6 June 1944, members of the 2nd Ranger Battalion under Cpt. Miller fight ashore to secure a beachhead. Amidst the fighting, two brothers are killed in action. Earlier in New Guinea, a third brother is KIA. Their mother, Mrs. Ryan, is to receive all three of the grave telegrams on the same day. The United States Army Chief of Staff, George C. Marshall, is given an opportunity to alleviate some of her grief when he learns of a fourth brother, Private James Ryan, and decides to send out 8 men (Cpt. Miller and select members from 2nd Rangers) to find him and bring him back home to his mother...
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Wise Up People
War films can be broken into two basic categories; the propaganda film, which celebrates bravery and patriotism; and the anti-war film, which shows the suffering and futility of war. The most extreme propaganda films are usually produced when a war is threatened or actually in progress and either demonize or belittle the individual enemy soldier. This is useful for both inspiring the home front and for assuring it that there will be an ultimate victory. While these films play well with a wartime audience they appear somewhat silly when viewed in a post-war environment.

An exception to this war-in-progress concept was is "Saving Private Ryan". Cloaked in an anti-war facade, this film was more typical of what would have been produced in 1944 (its setting) than 1998 (its year of release).

Under its thin anti-war facade of realistic looking destruction, Private Ryan breaks with the characterization elements that are essential for classification as an anti-war work. Almost by definition anti-war films use a faceless enemy ("Paths of Glory") or portray the enemy soldier as sharing in the suffering and futility of war ("The Enemy Below"). Often they are portrayed as victims of a fanatical leadership and the audience is invited to identify with or at least understand them ("The Longest Day").

This is because after a war, both the victors and the vanquished have an incentive to portray their enemy as brave and determined, otherwise victory is hollow and defeat is humiliating. Not so in Private Ryan; if the German battle performance and basic infantry tactics shown in the film were representative of what was actually practiced, a single allied division could have occupied all of Germany by the end of June 1944. The final battle scene alone makes the viewer wonder how, facing such a totally inept enemy, the war could have gone on more than a few days after the D-Day Landings. Among the most obvious:

A sequence where American soldiers run back and forth in front of a Tiger I tank without drawing the fire of the tank's machine guns. These tanks had internally operated machine guns, which would have easily cut down these soldiers. Knowing this the soldiers would not have exposed themselves to this fire.

Tanks entering an urban area ahead of infantry, driving down the middle of the town as if on parade. Instead infantry would flank any defensive position on the street and secure the area immediately ahead of the tanks so they do not come into range of anti-tank weapons. These tactics were validated during early fighting on the Russian front and became operational imperatives for all Panzer units.

A Hitler Youth dagger found in the trench right after the first bunker is taken on the beach. The men in these bunkers were mostly older second-tier draftees and Ukrainian conscripts. Normandy was not expected to be the invasion target and it's highly unlikely that a member or former member of the Hitler Youth would have been assigned to these marginal units. But it was an excellent way to make the audience less squeamish about the brutality inflicted by the allied soldiers when these German units attempted to surrender.

So just what is "Saving Private Ryan"? The first 24 minutes are a high budget remake of the "Longest Day" whose less expensive landing sequence conveyed more tactical believability about the process of securing a beachhead. The next 90 minutes are a mistake-ridden, choppy, and contrived remake of "The Big Red One". Ultimately, this overlong odyssey said less about patrolling behind enemy lines than "Kelly's Heroes"- a counterculture comedy whose serious scenes and character development were superior in almost every way.

Then there is the finale, a total rip-off of Arthur Pohl's "The Bridge" (1949), which focused on a handful of recently conscripted German schoolboys who fight for control of an inconsequential bridge during the last weeks of the war. They were at the bridge because of a series of accidents and they naively stayed there because of their youthful idealism and sense of duty. Like Private Ryan, most do not survive the engagement. What is notable is not that Pohl was able to make a much better film for a fraction of the cost (that is not particularly unusual), but that he was able to convey more perspective four years after the event than Spielberg could manage 50 years later.

But these criticisms of Private Ryan are based on the assumption that Spielberg's intent was to make a worthwhile war film and there is simply nothing to support this assumption. More likely Spielberg's agenda was make money while subtly refuting post-war portrayals (such as "Das Boot" and "Cross of Iron") of the German soldier as something more than the sub- human creature of WWII propaganda days or the cartoon villains of his own "Raiders of the Lost Ark" series.

The genius of Private Ryan is its success in packaging this sick message inside a commercially successful film. At the time of its release and its almost universal acclaim, this aspect of the film was largely unrecognized (and unexamined) by both audiences and critics. In this respect it owes less to the war films it shamelessly plagiarizes than to early 1950's cinema, where McCarthy-paralyzed Hollywood directors resorted to subtle themes that went undetected by studio executives and regulators. Only recently has its status begun to erode as individual critics more carefully examine its elements, away from the euphoria that surrounded its initial release

Although "Saving Private Ryan was popular, remember that the "Rat Patrol" ran for 58 episodes, watched by television audiences who were also entertained by similar silly nonsense.

Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
Average war movie.
Take away the gratuitously gory opening scenes, and what you have is an average war movie. Yes, war is hell, but just being explicit about what a bullet or shell can do to a human body isn't going to turn you against war. Personally I found this movie exploitative.

If you want to see what the effects of the Second World War were really like, then ignore the movies. Instead check out the classic seventies series 'The World at War'. Far more shocking and sickening than any Hollywood blockbuster.
The Best War Movie out there.
Saving Private Ryan is a military movie based during World War II. The movie starts with the invasion of Normandy at what is now known as D Day. Captain Miller, who is played by Tom Hanks, leads his troops onto the beaches of Normandy against the Germans. Once they are able to take the beach, they learn of story of Private James Ryan. James and his other four brothers are scattered throughout Europe battling in World War II. The United States Headquarters learns that all of James's brothers have been killed in action, leaving James the only sibling to survive. The United States Military learns that his mother will be receiving all news that all three of his brothers have been killed in action. In a plot to give his mother some type of comfort, the Military sends Captain Miller and his troops on a hunt to find Private Ryan and tell him what had happened and to get him back home.

The theme of the film is courage. Throughout the film the soldiers show tremendous courage in their journey from the beginning until the end. The soldiers had to go through one of the most horrific and bloody battles from World War II and had to show tremendous courage to make it and take the beach. After they took the beach they had to go on a journey in order to find Private Ryan. They had to search throughout Europe to find Ryan while going through several battles and their own battles with each other. They lost many men including Corporal Caparzo. All of those men lost, just so that they could get Private Ryan and send him home to his mother.

Lighting and sound effects were two major techniques used in the movie to enhance and capture the attention of the viewer, and to create a very lifelike impersonation of what those scenes were like in real life. When Caparzo was shot by a sniper the scene was very dark, it was raining and there was little visibility for the soldiers due to fog. The surround sound of the rain made it very intense and made it feel as if you were right there. The sound of explosions going off at every corner captures the moments of war that make it horrible to be in. It makes you after these scenes make you think to yourself what it would really be like in a war like that and if that's how it really was.

Saving Private Ryan is one of the best military movies of all time. The courage that these men faced with themselves and to find someone that none of them knew was extremely heroic. They made it possible to help with a grieving mother who had lost not one but three sons in the heat of battle in World War II. This movie is a must see so that we can try and understand what these young men and women had to go through and sacrifice in order for us to live in freedom.
Amazing insight into World War 2 battles that take your breath away!!
An amazing and compelling insight to warfare. Umbelievable camera shots/angles bring World War 2 to life especially for the US troops on D-Day. The use of flash bullets, and color saturation just add to the effect of a killing ground that not many people survive to come back from.
Probably the best war movie ever made
This film gives you everything you could want in war film. Well choreographed battle sequences and some real human emotion. Everybody who has seen at least the first 10 minutes of this film then you know it deserved some kind of award just for that great depiction of the battle on Omaha beach.

Sure there's still 2 hours and 30 minutes left after that but it only makes the film better. After the battle tom hanks and several men are assigned to a mission to retrieve Private Ryan un harmed and return him home due to his two other brothers being killed leaving him the last son alive. So now there is a good story for a war film and plenty of movie left for various battles, subplots, and all sorts of things.

The film even without the battle sequences would probably still work thanks to the great emotional and raw scenes but it just wouldn't be a 10. This as you already know is definitely a film everybody needs to check out at one point, your response to the film might be completely different from mine so you make a review and express your opinion you've acquired from watching the film. Thanks for reading my review and be sure to check this film out.
I Agree: This Is The Best War Movie Ever Made
Without looking, I am sure other reviewers here have headlined their article "Best War Movie Ever Made"" and I agree. However, before briefly discussing the film, let me just say if you don't have a decent 5.1 surround sound system, you aren't going to fully appreciate this movie (DVD).

It's a great film to start with, and sitting in a room surrounded by five speakers with bullets flying from all directions around you - as in that spectacular 22- minute opening scene or in the final 45 minutes of action against the Germans in tanks - is an astounding movie experience. The sound in this film elevates it even higher.

The visuals are outstanding, too. I've never seen so many grays, beiges and olive-greens look this good: perfect colors for the bombed-out French city where the last hour takes place, perfect for the faces and uniforms of the gritty soldiers, for the machinery, the smoke-filled skies, etc.

My only complaint is the usage of Lord's name in vain 25-30 times, but, hey, when you consider it's tough men in tough times, that's what you are going to hear. In real life, the profanity probably was worse than the film.

It's hard to picture the brutality of war being any worse than you see here, but it probably was. This is about as graphic as it gets. The violence and gore was shocking when this film came out in 1997 and still is when watched almost a decade later. It's unbelievable what some of the WWII soldiers went through, but that can be said for any war. I believe the purpose of this film was to pay tribute to the sacrifices these men made, and it succeeds wonderfully. Hats off to Steven Spielberg and to Tom Hanks, the leading actor in here, both of whom have worked hard for WWII vets to get the recognition they deserve, not just on film but in a national memorial.

Anyway, language or blood and guts aside, this is still an incredible portrait of WWII. The almost-three hour film is riveting start-to-finish, especially with that memorable beginning action scene, probably the most dramatic in the history of film.

As "entertaining" as those action scenes were, I found the lulls, if you will, to be even better. Listening to Hanks and his men discuss various things as they look for Private Ryan, was fascinating to me. Hanks is just superb in here and once again shows why he is considered one of the best actors in his generation.

The most memorable and powerful moment among the "lulls," is the shot early on of the Ryan mother sinking to her knees on her front porch as she realizes she is about to get disastrous news from the war. Moments later, Harve Presenell, playing Gen. MacArthur, eloquently reads a letter by Abraham Lincoln that is so beautifully written, so profound that it is quoted near the end of the film, too, and I never get tired of hearing it.

This is a man's movie, and shows the horrors of war as few others ever have. To say it is "memorable," just doesn't do it justice. It is the greatest war movie ever made....period.
The message appears to have been the first casualty
The action scenes in this film are superb - gritty, realistic and plain nasty. However, it remains a source of irritation that such good film making is washed down with an unhealthy dose of flag-waving patriotism. What is the message of this film? That occasionally you find SOMETHING worth fighting and dying for or that it's glorious to die for your country (read Owen for further comments on this)

Something else it has led to is a number of American reviewers giving the "We died to save your a$$es" speach. This itself is both stupid and untrue - the people who wrote those messages did nothing. America got involved only when it was directly threatened by the Nazis, and not before.

I am glad, however, that such views are in a minority from the American postings - It's a pity that the many are tarred by the few.

Millions of normal Europeans died in this war - from bombings, shootings, torture, starvation, disease and the Holocaust. This film made only a token attempt to reference this - nothing more.

The thin red line was a much better, less commercial film with that very neccessary ingredient - a message - this one remains a catalogue of missed opportunities and a formulaic start and end.

Cinematography the only redeeming thing
I heard so many great things about 'Saving Private Ryan' that my curiosity for this movie turned to pure shock as I watched it. I have to say that I really do not like war movies, so thats an obvious bias against this movie, but there were sooooooooooo many things about this movie that just made it a laughing stock of me and my friends. The cinematography in this film is simply amazing, in fact i'd say some of the best cinematography i've ever seen, but despite it's technical excellence, SPR is a pathetic, manipulative attempt by Speilberg to make him feel better about himself. The only character development in the movie takes place in the scenes before that particular character's death, it's happens in EVERY case; it's like clockwork. The ending is absolutely horrendously manipulative, and in fact the whole story doesn't really make sense as a result of it. SPOILER ALERT - don't read any farther if ya don't want to ruin the flick for yourself. At the beginning we have the shot of that old man at the grave, then it closes in on him and his memory begins of what happened... the only thing is that we find out the old man is really Ryan, not Tom Hank's Character, so i'm wondering how Ryan has all these memories of the beaches and the rest of the movie. Theoretically shouldn't the 'memories' start when Ryan enters the movie? Oh well, I can see arguments against my point, but the use of some certain camera angles REALLY makes the point of saying that the old man is Tom Hanks. I found this movie, above all things (even manipulative) to be extremely boring. Here's another case of a movie that had a about a 12 minute story stretched out to infinity. There are hundreds of little things that made me laugh about this movie in the wrong way, and obviously I won't go into all of them but I do feel this movie makes the German Armies look rediculous, specifically in the tank scene. There is many shots of the American soldiers running across open areas with dozens of germans shooting at them but they hardly ever get shot, while the Americans seem to hit somebody with every single bullet, and three people with every explosive. Other humorous moments include Tom Hanks diffusing a potentially hostile situation by telling everybody that hes a school teacher and the weak,poetry loving-'i've never shot anybody'- soldier killing a guy for no real reason in the situation. The performances were pretty good, I guess, but the script was so laughable that most of the things the guys say make you crack up no matter how well they say them. If you wanna see a good war movie, see Platoon, or if you hate war movies like I do, and you feel like watching a war satire, check out Starship Troopers.
Terrible, Terrible Movie
What a piece of trash, if you want to see a war movie that is good see Thin Red Line. SPR is poorly acted, the cinematography is below average and the entire movie is flawed with inaccurate and misleading information. This movie is an example of what is wrong with Hollywood and the way big studio movies are made, thier #1 objective is to make money off the movie at any cost even if that means turning out a piece of garbage that leads the public to believe this is the best out there, when in fact the opposite is true.
Actually it's pretty GOOD history
I know it's fashionable to trash successful movies but at least be honest about the trashing... Pvt. Ryan was fiction but it was pretty good HISTORICAL fiction. The details were well thought out and based on reality.

There was nothing stupid about the portrayal of the German army... Rommel DID blunder in his placement of force, The high command DID think Calais was going to be the invasion spot, not Normandy. Hitler didn't wake up until noon on that day and his aides were afraid to wake him. The Rangers did come in right behind the first wave and did take a beach exit by sheer will to get the hell off the beach. The bluffs were the scene of heavy close fighting. The german defenders were mostly Eastern European conscripts from defeated areas. (note that the 2 men that tried to surrender were NOT speaking German). There WAS a young man rescued from interior Normandy after his brothers were all killed. He WAS an airborne trooper (the difference was that he was found by a chaplain and was removed from the front.)

The battles inside Normandy were small actions town to town, street to street, house to house. Small actions like taking the radar station happened. Small actions like a handful of men defending a river bridge against odds happened. Small squads of men, formed out of the misdrops banded together ad hoc to fight. There were all enlisted groups and all officer groups. A General did die in the glider assault. FUBAR aptly described much of what happened that day.

And there were only Americans in the movie because the Brits and Canadians were many klicks away in a different area... this was Omaha beach. The story was an American one. And Monty DID bog down the advance and everyone knew it. And as for "American Stereotypes"... well those pretty much define America: my college roomie was a wise-ass New York Jew. My best friend was a second generation east coast Sicilian. My college girlfriend was a third generation German. My first wife was French and English. I'm Irish, my boss is Norwegian and I work with a Navaho... you get the point?

So much for it being bad history. It was in fact an excellent way to let a jaded and somewhat ignorant-of-their-past generation *feel* something of what their grandparents (LIVING grandparents) went through. It is perhaps less important that the details be exact as the feel be right. Even now the details are not fully known or knowable about that campaign... it was too big, too complex and too chaotic to be knowable. There is not even an accurate casualty count of D-Day itself.

Now as to the depth of characters. What I saw there was the extraordinary circumstances into which ordinary people were thrown and what happened to them. I saw the things that would mark a generation (I have heard in my elderly male patients sentiments similar to what Cpt. Miller was expressing when he announced his ordinariness) I saw the dehumanization that occurs with war and its mitigation moment to moment, man to man... Cpt. Miller didn't know anything about Ryan and he didn't care... until Ryan revealed his humanity to him with his story of his brothers. Pvt. Reiban was ready to walk out of the situation until he discoverd his captains ordinariness and his humanity. Then he began to look to him almost as a father. Pvt. Mellish rightfully delights in his revenge for all the times he's had to take it because he was Jewish by telling German captives he's "Juden!" Nerdish Cpl. Upham can stand alongside his bigger, stronger, braver Ranger compatriots and describe the poetry and melancholy of Edith Piaf's song... then face his cowardice, turn around and stand up in the face of danger and finally demonstrate the dehumanization of the enterprise he was enmeshed in by executing Steamboat Willie... even though Willie had no more choice about being there than Upham did and in other circumstances would have made a friend.

I could go on and on with this but enough already. OK, perhaps it is not The Best Movie Ever Made but it is still a good movie. And if one will take the blinders of fashionable negativism off they will see it. Finally, this is not a patriotic story... if anything it is an acknowledgement and thank you to all those old men still out there that did so much for us. To them I say a deep and sincere thank you.

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