Saving Private Ryan
Details: (MA15+), 170 mins, United States, English
Synopsis: Nothing could have prepared the soldiers at Omaha Beach for the battle they are about to wage. Filled with hope and resolve, none of them knows if they will survive the small strip of beach ahead of them. As his eyes scan the Normandy coast, Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) believes that getting himself and his men past the gauntlet is the greatest challenge he has faced in the war. But his most difficult task still lies ahead. Even as the Allied forces begin to get a foothold at Omaha, Miller is ordered to take his squad behind enemy lines on a dangerous mission to find and retrieve one man: Private James Ryan (Matt Damon). The youngest of four brothers, Ryan is the last survivor, the other three having all been killed in action within days of one another. As the squad pushes deeper into enemy territory, Captain Miller's men find themselves questioning their orders. Why is one man worth risking eight, why is the life of this private worth more than their own?
A genuine epic with something relevant and timeless to say about the inhumanity of war.
Most of the advance word you've heard about Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan is true. This depiction of the World War II invasion of Normandy and its aftermath is a blow-you-away kind of movie – the lengthy Omaha Beach sequence near the beginning of the picture depicts war as never before seen on the screen.
The basic story follows the formula of many World War II movies – the journey of a small, racially mixed, patrol on a dangerous mission. Tom Sizemore even looks and acts a bit like William Bendix, who was a staple in those films. Here the mission is an odd one: to locate and rescue one man, Ryan, whose brothers have already been killed. In a way it's the opposite message to the films made at the time, when the individual was never as important as the group.
So much of Saving Private Ryan is so good that, when it indulges in typically Spielbergian flagwaving and sentimentality, which it does at the very end, it's joltingly disappointing. But not enough to ruin a remarkable achievement. The camerawork by Janusz Kaminski is quite outstanding, and the creative use of sound is, itself, an object lesson in the movie-maker's art. Tom Hanks gives another noble, possibly Oscar winning, performance, and is well supported by a strong cast, with Matt Damon making a powerful impression as Ryan himself.
Saving Private Ryan is a fine piece of contemporary filmmaking, a genuine epic with something relevant and timeless to say about the inhumanity of war.
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