Saving Private Ryan
Rating -

 War (US); 1998; Rated R; 169 Minutes

Tom Hanks: Captain John Miller
Edward J. Burns: Private Reiben
Tom Sizemore: Sergeant Horvath
Jeremy Davies: Corporal Upham
Vin Diesel: Private Caparzo

Produced by Ian Bryce, Bonnie Curtis, Kevin De La Noy, Mark Gordon, Mark Huffam, Gary Levinsohn, Allison Lyon Segan and Steven Spielberg; Directed by Steven Spielberg; Screenwritten by Robert Rodat, Frank Darabont and Scott Frank

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Written by DAVID KEYES

Steven Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan" scrambles off the screen like a traditional war epic; as in most similar war films, the first few minutes depict such raw energy and empowerment that it would be a surprise if you didn't feel tears roll down your face. It is in these first scenes alone that suggest why Spielberg's new movie deserved the "R" rating, for they are violent, commanding, and almost real. Seeing them is almost like having them happen to you.

Then the movie goes on and on and on. It has been quoted as an Oscar-worthy picture, but I doubt that it deserves a picture nomination, for the simple reason that Spielberg's film paces itself too fast to the point where we have the realization that the film's running time is stretched too long. But performances, on the other hand, deserve everything they get. Edward Burns, Tom Hanks, and Matt Damon give us their most commending performances here, so emotional and charging that I would be surprised if each one wasn't at least nominated for an Oscar.

The film is about Private James Ryan, played by Damon, who is trapped behind enemy lines after his other three brothers are killed in the line of duty. The United States government then orders a few boot camp soldiers with war history in their background to go in search of James Ryan and bring him home. Losing three brothers and being trapped behind enemy lines, apparently, is a ticket home for this guy.

This is all to describe the setup for "Saving Private Ryan," because most of the movie is the quest of these unlikely-teamed soldiers as they move through battles and masquerade through the crowds until they can finds Private Ryan.

The journey is no easy one for the characters, nor the audience. I imagine that Tom Hanks, Edward Burns, Matt Damon and all the others were put through hell in making this movie. In numerous interviews, I had heard that these actors were actually sent to boot camp before filming the picture, so that they could get the true interpretation of war and its consequences.

It's not hard to tell that they really were. Damon himself provides a stark and convincing performance, as does Hanks, Sizemore, and the rest of these guys.

But the film is Spielberg's, and it's his vision that puts us through awe and hell all at the same time. There are several battle scenes contained in the movie that are so powerful that you watch them and think back on the sad moments of "Platoon" and "Apocalypse Now." They are among the best scenes Spielberg has directed, and by far the most powerful since he depicted the Nazis killing the Jewish in his triumph "Schindler's List."

But as a whole, "Saving Private Ryan" is good--not great. Yes, all the power is there; yes, the actors give rousing performances; yes, the film contains one of the largest emotional charges I have ever seen in the movies; but generally speaking, Spielberg's film is just too long and too overdone. "Schindler's List" was indeed a long movie, but the film paced itself so well that you couldn't care what length the picture was. In "Private Ryan," the subplots and camera shots are fast, complicated, and extremely crammed together. This makes for a film that seems longer than it really should be. I'm willing to believe that this type of material can make a terrific three-hour movie, but not when everything moves so fast and so much.

These complications reminded me of "Once Upon A Time In The West," a film which, too, moved so fast that it got dull and boring to the point where the film seemed too long. However, that movie does not contain the energy and raw power of war battle as "Saving Private Ryan" does. This provides Spielberg's picture with breathtaking sequences of filmmaking. Yes, it is a good movie, but, like "Amistad," it has its problems.

1998, David Keyes, Please e-mail the author here if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.
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