SAVING PRIVATE RYAN Send This Review to a Friend
I had the advantage of perspective in coming back from a trip to Europe to catch up with SAVING PRIVATE RYAN after all the hype and extravagant praise. Is the film really that good?
Mostly the answer is yes. But with some reservations. I recall having interviewed Steven Spielberg on a beach on Martha's Vineyard way back when he was making "Jaws," his first blockbuster that started him on the road to riches, or as he was to later put it, "gave me my f--- you money," meaning that he could now have the freedom to make films of his choosing. Spielberg, in a brief respite from shooting "Jaws," recalled that when he was a movie-struck boy he made a mini war movie with a Super 8 camera by getting a few friends to play soldier and having them run around his camera to give the illusion of an army in action.
Now, with the full panoply of Hollywood technology, personnel and special effects, Spielberg has made a real war movie, and his depiction of the Normandy landing in World War II is brilliantly brutal in recreating the horrible, bloody ordeal our brave but frightened soldiers endured at that fateful time. Limbs are blown off, blood gushes from gaping wounds, men drown. And the final, more circumscribed battle scene also captures the realism of fighting, dying and in some cases barely surviving. The film stands as an epic achievement.
Yet, Spielberg being Spielberg, there is also a measure of sentimentality in this work. At moments the war all but stops for dialogue that is pure Hollywood of old. The plot itself turns on how the high command shows its heart by sending soldiers to find and bring home a private because his three brothers have died in action and the army does not want to risk more pain for the grief-stricken mother, although it is willing to risk the lives of the men on the mission.
It is a tribute to the solid acting of Tom Hanks who heads the rescue mission, the talent of the supporting cast, the know-how of Spielberg and the expertise of virtually everyone having a hand in the film that one is caught up in the story and the mission. Always present is the reminder of what our soldiers were called upon to do in World War II to crush the Axis.
Although war is shown as hell, this is not an anti-war film. This is an affirmation-of- courage-and-patriotism film. Some have seen the film as an attempt to restore a spirit of heroism to replace the cynicism engendered by the Vietnam debacle. It's still Hollywood, but Hollywood at its most talented. Spielberg has upped the ante and made this mostly realistic and gripping saga hard to match for a film in this category. Certainly it is not to be missed. A DreamWorks release.