Saving Private Ryan
Dir: Steven Spielberg
Star: Tom Hanks, Edward Burns, Tom Sizemore, Matt Damon, Barry Pepper, Vin Diesel
Cert / Year: 15 - R / 1998
Format: DVD R2

Three out of the four Ryan brothers are killed in various theatres during World War 2. The army chiefs think that is enough for one family to take, so they decide to return the last surviving brother home. The only problem is he is lost somewhere behind enemy lines after parachuting into Normandy on D-day. Captain John Miller and a small section of men are given the job of going to get him. This is their story and of their mission to save private Ryan.

After a period of making nothing but Vietnam war movies this film marked a switch in Hollywood to rediscover the battles World War 2. It also marks the rise of the ultra American, flag waving spin put onto all modern films. Despite this fault it remains an impressive movie, and one that would influence most following war movies leading to the creation of the impressive television series Band of Brothers.

Ok lets get my pet gripe out of the way. The United States did not single handily win the war in Europe. In fact they only made up one third of the servicemen on D-day, therefore to deny even the slightest acknowledgement of any other countries involvement (maybe via the RAF, the Royal Navy, or the French populous) is incorrect and a little insulting. A fact made worse by the script at one point having a pop at Monty who was probably the best Allied commander of the whole war (the failure to take Caen is mentioned, despite the fact that thousands of British and Commonwealth troops died fighting two elite SS panzer regiments thus keeping them from reinforcing the American sector around St Lo). This biasing of history towards America is sickening.

Taking the film on its own merits though revels one of the most impressive war films ever created. The opening invasion of Omaha beach is brutal and brilliant. A level of reality has been given that puts the rather tame section in The Longest Day to shame. The beach does run red with blood and people a killed left and right, just as the survivors describe the real battle. This single scene is so shockingly awesome that it has been the prototype for all future war movies. Spielberg’s direction is outstanding as he uses neat tricks like hand held cameras, underwater shots, and losing the sound after a shell goes off in front of the soldiers to actually covey what the poor guys were going through. In fact all of the battles in the film are impressive but no more so than this opening one that really conveys the true horror of war.

As the film moves on we get to meet the members of Captain Millers section and it turns out to be a powerhouse of young acting talent. We all know Tom Hanks can really act (although I'm still think he is a little lightweight for this sort of role) and he does hold the cast together remarkably well. But when you have Matt Damon, Vin Diesel, Jeremy Davies, Giovanni Ribisi, and Barry Pepper (before committing career suicide with Battlefield Earth) all giving on form performances things really do work. Even Tom Sizemore is impressive. This is a great cast aided by cameos from many well-known actors.

Saving Private Ryan manages to hit just the right balance between impressive action and interesting story. With the top line acting talent being given plenty to work with in terms of character development. The scenes between Captain Miller and Ryan are particularly moving, as is the scene where they sort out the airborne soldiers dog tags. It is a total vindication of Steven Spielberg’s immense talent that these character scenes and the battles scenes are so finally balanced, and so equally impressive.

The only major problem comes from the opening and closing scenes of the film that is set in the present day with a soldier visiting war graves. It is a similar trick that Spielberg used in Schindler's list. Only this time instead of a poignant reminder of the good that can come out of the worst situation, we are privilege to a vomit inducing flag waving exercise. The fade out to the US flag is just awful (what about the other Allies), and what’s more its pointless with the film gaining much more credibility if these scenes had been omitted.

As a recreation of the fighting in Normandy Saving Private Ryan has no rivals. As a historically correct account of the battles there it has many flaws. Fortunately while this is annoying it cannot ruin such a superb film. Outstanding direction and fine acting make this about the best war movie made in recent years. If it hadn't have been for the pointless start and end this would have been a classic, as it is it will have to make do with being superb war film.


The mission is a man.


Captain John Miller: "The Statue of Liberty is kaput" that's disconcerting.

Captain John Miller: He better be worth it. He better go home and cure a disease, or invent a longer-lasting light bulb.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Picture 1.85:1 Anamorphic Another film that uses grainy washed out film stock for effect.
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 This is good stuff listen to the bullets whizz over your head, as the most is made of a clever soundtrack.
Features A very interesting Making of Documentary
Production Notes
Cast & Crew Biographies
Verdict A fine transfer but rather sparse extras.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Reviewed by Glitz Back Top Home