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Drama, Action, History, War
IMDB rating:
Steven Spielberg


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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)
Saving Private Ryan 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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The perfect war movie..
"Saving Private Ryan" is one of those movies you can't believe didn't win the picture Oscar. That didn't stop it though from reaching such a huge audience and touch the lives of millions. The movie has one of the best introductions ever put on screen. The attack on D-Day is immensely powerful and painfully well directed. Steven Spielberg knows exactly how to make this movie strong and action-driven while focusing on the psychology on the characters and the cruelty of war.

The movie is about 8 men searching for a soldier by the name of James Ryan (Matt Damon), who's the last of four brothers still left alive. After the attack of D-Day most of the soldiers still suffer the war syndrome and seem very doubtful of finding one person in a whole war-zone. Back at home, Ryan's mother gets a letter about three out of four of her sons dying in war, and begs the soldiers to find her last one.

It's a beautiful film that depicts war as it should be. Vicious, disgusting, violent, heartbreaking, unfair, and tragic. Spielberg's use of the hand-held camera is almost breathtaking, as he gets right into the action and swings left and right to create a sense of realism and panic. His incredible editing and beautiful cinematography is unforgettable and is strongly influential.

Tom Hanks gives an incredible performance as Captain John Miller, a dedicated and loyal soldier who's on the verge of losing his mind. The pressure from being a captain and enduring the worst attack in history sends him in mental torture, trying to covering his pain and suffering from the rest of the soldiers.

The story doesn't focus on the heroic aspect, but rather the truth about war. Spielberg knows that even though you get to know the characters, they have a chance of dying. There is a unique subtlety in that these characters seem to have the drive to save private Ryan so they could go home.

Definitely one of the best directed films in a long time, "Saving Private Ryan" is a bright gem in recent film-making. Robbed of the Picture Oscar, the movie is a true representation of D-Day and post D-Day. It's a movie that inspires above all else.
Was this a joke?
It's the World War II era ... and nobody smokes.

There's only one person in this movie who opposes war .... his "cowardice" winds up costing lives.

For a moment, it seems there's ONE nice person in the nation of Germany. The merciful American soldiers let him go. This turns out to be a huge mistake, as he returns, days later, with a group of his friends to kill them all. Lesson learned - there is not even ONE reasonably nice German.

The movie ends with a salute to the American flag and blasting, inspiring music.

Was this movie made for two-year-olds?

When it comes to subject matter as complex as war, I think simple-minded movies like this do more harm than good. I'd recommend a movie written at a more grown-up level.
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.
The Most Overrated Film Of All Time?
It may not be the MOST overrated, but it's certainly up there along with Scream and Fargo and There's Something About Mary.

Oh what a battle scene - the fantastic motion sickness inducing cinematography, the masterfully overhyper editing, the gore, oh the wonderful gore. And so forth.

The Omaha beach landing was quite intense. It was brutal and affecting. But people just can't seem to get it into their heads that one extended battle scene does not a great film make.

After *that*, we get yet another version of a tired, clichéd mission movie, filled with your usual stereotypes: reminiscing about the good ol' days before this all ever happened, doing whatever it takes just to get home, blah, blah, blah. Also painfully stereotypical are the characters: we have the saddened captain who misses his normal job and life, we've got the hardnut sergeant, the Italian guy, the Jewish guy, the New Yorker, and so forth. And all the Germans are skinheaded bastards - and by the way, where the hell were the other allied troops? Oh, I forgot, it was the Americans that won the war (flag shots at the beginning and end are just painfully sad).

The middle of the MOVIE is incredibly boring. Pointless, predictable set-pieces are tiresome. The scenes in which the rattled soldiers tell little stories of life at home (the medic talking about his mother, Ryan talking about his brothers, etc.) are awful attempts at evoking sympathy and sentimentality.

Then there's the final battle. Outnumbered, the men revert to primitive tactics (a bit like Predator). Quite unbelievably, this lengthy fight is incredibly boring, and the one at the end of Young Guns is far better.

5 Oscars? Obviously due to the beach landing bit, they are mostly undeserved. Best Director - should have been Peter Weir, or Terence Malick. Best Cinematography - John Toll for The Thin Red Line, without any doubt in the world. Editing - Out Of Sight deserved this even more than The Thin Red Line. I suppose the two sound awards are justified.

For people to call this the Greatest War Film Of All Time is just wrong. The best is Apocalypse Now. This is not the best World War Two film either - Das Boot is. This can't even be described as the best D-Day/Normandy beach landings movie either - The Longest Day kicks its a**. To go even further - this is not even Spielberg's best war film. Schindler's List is superior.

To summarise - great beginning, but the rest sucked. If you haven't seen it, don't bother. Or, if you insist, watch the beginning, then leave/press stop. You'll be doing yourself a big favour.

A brutally realistic and emotionally powerful depiction of war
I've seen my fair share of war films, but it's really surprising that I've waited this long to finally see (in full) what is probably the greatest WWII film ever made. There's probably no amount of words that I could write that would do justice to what I feel like having seen this for the first time. The only thing I regret is not having seen it on a bigger screen (although, to be fair, I was 9 years old when this first came out).

The plot, as if anyone didn't know it by now, is that an Army captain (Tom Hanks) who just landed at Normandy Beach is charged with retrieving a Private Ryan, the last surviving of his mother's sons, and returning him safely home. Of course, as all of the characters point out several times throughout the film, they run into a lot of FUBAR (Fouled Up Beyond All Recognition) situations. And if there's one truth that this film gets at, it's that war is ugly (original, I know right?). Still, the call of duty is just as important to every single one of these men as is their devotion to each other. They face a lot of moral quandaries, and even make some questionable decisions, but when it all comes down they have each others' backs and the knowledge that completion of the mission will earn them the right to go home. I can't really think of a stronger motivation than that.

Another thing which this film does right is with its selection of story, which also plays into the human element. The mission isn't to take a hill or some other landmark: it's to rescue someone. Using WWII as a setting for this story allows the average person to really connect with it on a deeper level than if it had just been a typical war film with a large ensemble cast. And by the way, the cast in this movie is pretty insane. Granted, there are many films before it (THE LONGEST DAY is one example that comes to mind) that did the same thing, but the attention to character in this one sets it apart from the rest. There are elements of cliché, but every main character is fully fleshed out.

This film is also extraordinary for its cinematographic approach. Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski utilized a hand-held style which puts you into the thick of the action and aptly portrays the chaos and confusion inherent in those situations. This is also enhanced by a gritty look partially achieved by shooting on film. Last, but not least, there is an emotionally resonant score by John Williams which punctuates the story at all the right moments yet is never intrusive or overbearing. I also appreciated the diegetic use of the Edith Piaf song, "Tu es partout" before a climactic scene, and which conveys to the audience the feelings of the people these men left behind in service to their country (even though it's a song about love lost, and to be sure there were plenty of people who never came back).

Overall every single one of these elements, including some I haven't mentioned, combine to create a brutally realistic and emotionally powerful depiction of war, the heights of which has been reached by few. And not just that, it managed to do all of this without leaning too far in the direction of being pro- or anti-war. It presents it as is, the good with the bad, and doesn't demonize the enemy as so many films are apt to do. Hopefully this hasn't been too long-winded, but this is an incredible film that deserves to be seen by everyone.
Based on true events
From Stephen E. Ambrose's book, 'Band of Brothers,' written in 1992. In Chapter Six, 'Move Out,' Fritz Niland -- a member of Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, U.S. Army, lost his brother Bob Niland, who was killed on D-Day. A second brother had been killed on Utah Beach on D-Day. And a third brother was killed, a pilot in the China-Burma-India theater that same week. His mother received all three telegrams on the same day. However, in "real life" Fritz was never lost, was immediately located by a Father Sampson, escorted to Utah Beach, and was flown to London, and then back to the States.
Fantasy reigns supreme
Spielberg just about had it here, at least for the first half hour or so. He looked at the bone-crunching, grisly history of D-day and had the movie to put it on the screen with some respect for honest reality. Then, with his Hollywood sellout lack of vision, Spielberg decided to throw it all away on patriotic fantasy. The 'true' story the film may be based on has some chaplain in France discovering Ryan after word was passed along that his brothers had all been lost and the lad should be shipped back to America so his mother still has one child to work the farm. Or, the story could be straight out of the writer's head but it hardly matters. The premise itself strikes the viewer as utterly ludicrous after a half-hour of complete slaughter, the seas red with human blood and gore. We are expected to believe that an army chief is sitting in his office and worrying over Private Ryan and his family while the assault on Normandy is costing thousands upon thousands of lives, while the allied bombers are missing their mark up and down the coast and Hitler's machine guns are just mowing down allies like grass. What romantic rubbish and so typical of Hollywood. And the portrayal of the German prisoner is morally offensive. The German people have never been less human than Americans, even when they were lead by an evil leader into a war. To portray them as Spielberg does the prisoner, a bumbling idiot who later becomes a murdering snake, hissing shhh as he slowly sinks a huge knife into an American chest, is low-brow, hateful stuff. But nobody is going to notice. Believe me. In fact, we love to see the world in black and white, simplistic terms. Here come the Oscars for Spielberg. Americans (and my own Canadians too) are generally not prepared to see the truth about themselves. Capital 'D' Denial reigns supreme, especially at the box-office. Spielberg's big budget is spent to further anesthetize us while claiming to be trying to do justice to the truth. If he'd stayed on the beach at Omaha, he'd have a nine out of ten. Instead, he rates several points less for this updated version of that old T.V. series called Combat. Please see Amy Taubin's review at the following URL. It's much more articulate and generous than mine.
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.
B-movie about D-day.
The more I think about this film and read differing reviews about it the more I feel it wasn't meant for me. I'm a Finn, not American. I don't know if Spielberg meant this film as a last hoorah for the G.I.:s, but to me that is what he made. All right the film does have something to tell for everyone: in the insane theatre of war one should try to do the right thing, have courage to do it, that your actions have consequences, war as a whole creates nothing but bad feelings and probably something else too but nothing that has not been told earlier.

And I suppose that isn't so bad, I mean there have certainly been worse films. But what does bother me is that Spielberg set out to do a film about what war is really like and to me, he failed. Yes I have seen the opening scene and to me it was more about exploitation and action film then about anything else and not even very memorable action. Even if one would skip all the omissions and strange things about the film (in the landing scene no naval artillery support, no air force support and the illogical German tactics in the final battlescenes) to me the main plot is a strange curiosity that only serves to illustrate that the average soldier wasn't that interesting or important. Apparently with some links to reality the main plot remains distant and odd to me.

With Oscar, block-buster, critically acclaimed material as ww2 with all the gore how could Spielberg go wrong? First of all the acting. Well I could not stop wishing there would have been some lesser known actors used, maybe even amateurs. A lot has been made out of the cinematography and yes, it is good. Although to me it is not so effective when there is apparently too much money to make a film and then the camera work tries to make it look more realistic. As ww2 films go this film is a far cry from "Come and See". Yes I do admit that flag waving is a common problem among ww2 movies, I just wished that Spielberg could have avoided it.
I love to hate Spielberg
In "Saving Private ryan" the characters are so stereotyped("the brave"; "the cute";"the rebel";the timid")that the critics and audience should be ashamed of.Why we should forgive the director's mistakes just because he is "Steven Spielberg"?even some of the gruesome scenes of the film seem stolen from a real war documentary,SPR is a lot more inferior than the deep"The thin red line" and to give every award of the planet to Spielberg is just ridiculous and childish,you just make him more spoiled and rich!.
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