1998; Rated R; 169 Minutes
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
| Written by DAVID KEYES
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
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.
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
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.
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, Cinemaphile.org.
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