Steven Spielberg and creating films that stretch through multiple genres, with multiple variations of filmmaking styles, cinematic depths, and settings is a story older than time. The man is a legend, known to create some iconic moments in cinema, and some absolutely crucial tropes that define western popular culture films in general.
For most people Saving Private Ryan was one of the first War films that they ever saw, and for Steven Spielberg, it was a barebones take on the genre. It was a war film that paid tribute to the sacrifices of brave American heroes that went behind enemy lines and never came back. However, it is also one of the most celebrated action films ever made, so let’s take a deeper look into Saving Private Ryan!
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The Movie Review
The story starts on the 6th of June 1944 as the U.S. Army docks at Omaha Beach and there begins the Normandy Invasion. It follows the point of view of one Captain John H. Miller (Tom Hanks) who leads an attack from the beach, into the artillery lines and overwhelming the German resistance.
After surviving Normandy, and paying a price of blood; Captain Miller and his squad are sent after the last of four brothers; James Francis Ryan of the 101st Airborne Division. They are tasked with finding and saving Private Ryan so that he can safely be sent back home to his mother.
Before I say anything about this film, you have to understand that the depictions of war here are absolutely brutal. There are fountains of blood, decapitated bodies, mutilated corpses, and limbs flying around everywhere with explosions, gunfire, and screams as the only music for the first 30-40 minutes in the film.
Later on, however, it calms down and turns more into a drama about the morality of an American soldier and how they should be interacting with people who are presumably their enemies. Though, the most important and some of the most memorable moments arrive at the climax of the film, which without spoiling anything; touches both the human heart and mind as its subjects. Not to mention; it has some of the highest quality of action ever depicted in a war film.
The film has some of the industry’s most talented actors in the mix, I mean; if you’ve got Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Edward Burns, Vin Diesel, Nathan Fillion, Bryan Cranston, Ted Danson, Giovanni Ribisi, and many other character actors in a film you’ve already made something humongous.
It’s safe to say that in the acting department; Saving Private Ryan absolutely kills it! Tom Hanks plays the Captain, who used to be a school teacher but was forced to join the army as the war started, along with other characters with their own distinct stories. In particular, Matt Damon’s portrayal of the young James Ryan was an incredibly emotional and sympathetic character that I absolutely loved.
The direction that Spielberg chose to go with had three things in focus; brutality, morality, and sympathy. These three things are shown in the most vivid ways that they could ever be seen in a war film. From the terrifying nightmarish hellscape of the Normandy coast to the moral battles within the squad to the sympathy you feel because all of the characters have stories of their lives outside of war. Spielberg also implemented some of the highest budget set designs, and production values that have ever been done in a war film and they absolutely pay off.
The film is accompanied by long-time Spielberg collaborator Janusz Kamiński’s cinematography, which makes the dread seem all the more terrifying and the somber moments feel warm in contrast to the brutality. Whereas the legendary John Williams’ score heightens each and every section of the film, it elevates the terror of a war-torn battlefield and enhances the moments of somber reflection between comrades during the quiet moments.
Steven Spielberg had already achieved diamond status in filmmaking way before Saving Private Ryan came out. However, once this film released; no one and their critic best friends could ever compare Spielberg to any other filmmaker alive. He had dipped his hand in each and every genre, from horror to science fiction, anti-war films to actual war films. Spielberg had added another medal to his collection of masterpieces.