Saving Private Ryan
Director: Steven Spielberg
Year: 1998
TRT: 2:49

Reviewed: 2/16/03

Speilberg got it pretty much all right on this one. What a gutbuster. I remember seeing this in the theater when it came out, and afterwards walking out of the darkened theater into the streaming sun, and shaking a bit. The pure intensity of it is pretty fucking powerful. Taking the time to watch it again, though not quite as overwhelming as seeing it in the theater, it still has the same amount of power and carries the same amount of remorse.

The story is bookended in two ways. The external is present-day, looking back on the fact. The internal ones are looks at the sheer brutality of war. It starts with the D-Day invasion, with about 16 minutes of the mind-numbing horrors of the chaos, confusion, bravery and the bitter losses of the front line. Specifically the story follows Captain John Miller, played to perfection by Tom Hanks, as he and a small band of hand-picked troops set off from their victory, though heavily paid for, on a very specific mission handed down from the highest authorities, to save one Private Ryan, whose 3 other brothers have been killed in the line of duty within an extremely short period of time. This journey shows an amazing glimpse into the small band of soldiers that now must face anything as they foot it across country to try and save a single person. Sure there are some things Spielberg accentuates a bit to really tug at the emotional heartstrings, but it helps the flow of the story, and helps personalize the diverse characters followed in this film.

One of the main reasons this movie works so well is because of the great performances by everyone involved. Each man in the small group Captain Miller pulls together has their own personality, and they never become the stereotypical, homogenous "fighting men," but gives them the individual humanity they deserve. Great turns by Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Barry Pepper, Giovanni Ribisi, Jeremy Davies, and even Vin Diesel. Secondly is the look. Between the unsaturated colors, high shutter speeds (which makes action have kind of a strobe-light effect), and a lot of hand-held camera shots, it really feels like a true war film. Last but not least is the sound. Make sure you have the time to watch it without waking anyone up. There are times when you should feel the ground shake, and with the separation of channels, it's definitely that much better with surround-sound audio output. If you were stuck in a cave and have not for some reason seen this movie, pick it up.

Media Notes: I watched the "Special Limited Edition" DVD put out by Dreamworks, whatever the hell that means. Limited in that they only burned 10 million instead of 20? I dunno, these things are still a mystery to me. Not to cheapen the disc at all, but it's just an unanswered question I have yet to resolve. So anyways, the DVD itself is pretty well stocked, with a message from Spielberg about our veterans, a documentary, production notes, cast & crew bios, and some trailers.