Saving Private Ryan: A Retrospective Review
As the release of Dunkirk approaches, people are saying it is the new Saving Private Ryan and it is in the top of World War II (WWII) films. I set up a poll and this film was chosen to be the film I rewatch and review. It is a 1998 epic war drama film set during the Invasion of Normandy in WWII and is directed by Steven Spielberg. It stars Tom Hanks, Jeremy Davies, and Matt Damon.
The Story/The Direction:
The story is about United States Army Rangers Captain John H. Miller (Hanks) and his squadas they search for aparatrooper,Private First Class James Francis Ryan (Damon), who is thelast-surviving brotherof four servicemen. The story is a simple one that is entwined with great direction by Spielberg. The opening scene speaks for itself. It is probably one of the best portrayals of a battle that I have seen. The camera moves chaotically from under water shots to beach action shots. This adds to the realism of the scene. The cameraman is part of the battle. He/She is not just filming one. You don't know how much time actually passes until the battle is over and you realize that it took 26 minutes. This scene was so violent that when the film was originally released there were multiple WWII veteran' who had to leave the theatre.
This violent scene is then contrasted back to Washington where the order is constructed to bring Private Ryan home after his three brothers were killed in duty. The camera stays steady on these clean men in comparison to the opening scene. I loved this contrast as the war was fought by civilians like that of Miller and his team and not the higher ups in Washington. While the orders always came from there, the battles were fought on the ground. With their orders, Miller and his team journey through France trying to find Ryan as they wonder why should they risk their skin for this one guy. Miller states that their mission now is to do so because thats what they are told. However, when they find a German machinegun nest protecting a radar installation, they attack it even when it's against orders. They could avoid and continue on to find Ryan. They don't and break protocol to what they think is right for the overall mission of destroying the Nazi's. Then when they finally reach Ryan, he breaks protocol because he'd rather stay with "the only brothers he had left." This of doing what is right and what is protocol is such a great concept to explore especially in a war film. This is further explored when they deal with the German soldiers. After two are shot down and some American solider laugh it off, we cut to Miller's face who looks in with it. Then when the squad captures a German solider, some of the men want to kill him and some want to let him live as he is just a soldier like they are following orders. It also adds a humanity portion to all soldiers not just the side that you want to win. With this aspect this film alligns itself with All Quiet on the Western Front, unlike Hacksaw Ridge, which showed killing the enemy as a victory.
The characters also add to the contrast between the ones taking the orders and the ones giving them. Each member of the squad has a family of their own that they want to return to. They have served in combat aside from Upham (Davies) but they are all civilians that were not prepared to be in battle. The standouts are Hanks as Miller and Davies and Damon as Upham and Ryan, respectfully. The former looks and compares himself to who he was before enlisting, an English teacher. He has killed many people that even people back home such as his wife could not fathom. Is he the same person? Will his wife even recognize him? Will they understand what he went through in the opening scene on Omaha beach? Ryan and Upham represent other levels of civilians gone soldiers. Ryan came from a small town in Iowa and his experience was paratrooping in past Omaha which ridhim of that horror but he had his own battles. Upham is innocent as he has never seen a battle field before and this represent the viewer. We see the journey to get to Ryan through him. Most of us have never seen battles before and don't even understand the slang such as "fubar." While not the most character driven film, as a team, the squad feels real and human which is what it's supposed to do.
The biggest flaw with this film is that I don't understand what the movie was supposed to tell me. Was it just supposed to show the brutality of the war? There wasn't any clear message. As I mentioned, the film did contrast those taking orders and those giving them but to what end? Nothing is really shown to come from this possible message. Also there's a slight plot hole that had me asking,"how does Ryan remember the trek that Miller and his squad went through?" It's not a big issue because it could have been told to him but they never really address it.
After almost 20 years since it's release,Saving Private Ryanis still regarded as one of the best WWII films. It is powerful as shown through Spielberg's phenomenal directing. While not his best film, this film is a great knotch on his belt. I can rewatch it today and the opening scene is just as powerful and cringe worthy as the day I first saw it years ago. I also forgot that Paul Giamatti, Bryan Cranston, Ted Danson, Ryan Hurst, and Nathan Fillion were in the film which was a pleasant surprise when I saw them.
Rating: 4.5/5.0 bowties
What did you all think of the films? Let me know in the comments section.
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