Saving Private Ryan

Saving Private Ryan is a haunting and moving movie that will live in my head for a long time to come. There are good movies that come around only once in a long time and Saving Private Ryan is one of those.

I never write a review immediately after seeing a movie. I like to let the movie sink in for a day or two before setting out to write the review. After Saving Private Ryan, I’m sitting here two hours later writing the review. The movie is so unsettling that I feel that writing this review might help me come to grips with some of what happened during the film.

Saving Private Ryan opens with a 30-minute sequence of the Omaha Beach D-Day invasion; this is a war sequence is so realistic and raw that I will be remember it for a long time. I must warn you now, Saving Private Ryan deserves its R-rating. This is not a movie for young children and if you are squeamish, you might want to cover your eyes here. The opening sequence is so extremely violent and realistic that it not only leaves you breathless, but it leaves you unnerved and senseless. I have not seen anything like this before and I doubt that I will see anything close anytime soon. Spielberg shoots this opening sequence with such intensity that I was left to wonder why all these unnecessary atrocities were committed.

What we find out is that three brothers from the Ryan house were killed during the war, and all three telegrams are being delivered to the mother on the same day. However, there is a fourth still in the war. A group of eight soldiers led by Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) is sent out into the middle of the war to find Private James F. Ryan (Matt Damon) and bring him home to his family. The journey is long and hard, and about halfway through the film I was already reeling.

Those of you who read my reviews know that I rarely cry at movies. And even when I do cry, it usually comes at the end. Saving Private Ryan is the first movie where I found myself crying halfway through. There are many war movies, and many of them are about the Second World War. But, most all of them are candy coated.

Spielberg takes the gloss out of the war; he strips the war down to its most natural form, and he shoots this war from the point of view of a soldier. Having done this, Spielberg has made less of a war movie and more of an anti-war movie. Saving Private Ryan left me wondering why we fight wars.

Is there anything to criticize about Saving Private Ryan? No. In every sense, this is a perfect movie. Spielberg, who pumped out some mediocre stuff lately (Lost World, Amistad), comes back strong with Saving Private Ryan. This movie will make my top ten list this year, and will likely be the number one film on the list.

Things to note about Saving Private Ryan range from the score to the acting. The score by the ever-talented John Williams is just as raw as the film is. It takes our emotions and leads us in all the right directions, all the while not being overly melodramatic or distracting.

The acting is top-notch, from the leads (Tom Hanks and Tom Sizemore) to the supporting cast (Matt Damon, Jeremy Davies, Edward Burns, Adam Goldberg, and Barry Pepper). Spielberg is able to get great performances out of everyone onscreen.

Kudos to Robert Rodat for writing this powerful and moving movie. Kudos also to cinematographer Janusz Kaminski for shooting this film in the way that it is. The film is not a colorful film, nor is it bright. Kaminski strips the colors out of the film leaving us with just enough colors to live with, leaving us feeling slightly uncomfortable. Kaminski’s work is some of the best I’ve seen this year. Pay close attention to detail during the first thirty minutes or so. That shows just how good Kaminski is.

Saving Private Ryan is one of the most shocking and memorable films of this year - and of this decade. There is imagery from this film that I will never forget and there are characters that will haunt my memory forever. This is a motion picture that doesn’t make war look like a glorious thing; it shows war as it is, a stupid thing. Don’t Miss Saving Private Ryan.

Edited by Cher Johnson.