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Jan 07, 2004 03:19 PM 2441 Views
(Updated Jan 07, 2004 03:19 PM)





In interviews and biographies, Spielberg has talked openly about the influence the WWII stories on him, with Ryan, he confronted the era head on, and attempted to memorialize the sacrifices of WWII veterans while creating the most visceral and realistic portrait of war ever put on film. It must be noted that when Spielberg set out to make this movie and went to the veterans, they were quite sceptical about giving him information; Reason: You are just goin to make another war movie with all the elements of Hollywood, Spielberg assured them he is not goin to make that kind of film. Only then they did divluge the details of the war. And the result is for all to see, Spielberg even stated that if it were not for the teenagers he would have depicted the war more bloody and more gory.

The film is bookended by flashback scenes of an older man visiting the graves of fallen soldiers. From that point, we are thrown into the opening battle and then, taken through the rest of the events. We learn that three brothers from one family have died in the war and that the army is looking to send a group to find the remaining brother, James Ryan(Matt Damon). The film then follows the search for the last remaining Private Ryan, whose other four siblings have all been killed in combat. A crack combat team lead by everyman Tom Hanks is assigned the duty, and they don't take all that kindly to their new mission. While searching for the fabled Ryan, much discussion and exploration on the themes of honor, sacrifice, duty and ultimately the valuing of one man over many ensues. We also are immersed in the violent and chaotic backdrop that is war. The crew ventures across the countryside in a long and tough journey to try and find the missing soldier.

The performances throughout this journey are truly fantastic, especially Ed Burns and Tom Sizemore. Sizemore is really impressive, with a powerful and outstanding performance. Also quite good are Adam Goldberg and Jeremy Davies. Hanks leads the film like a master, with a performance that is absolutely top-notch. Throughout the film, each of these characters builds and grows and the audience is there for every moment.

Now for the technical details, this is where the film outshines everything:

Photography: Superb in one word. To explain, the film purposely canvasses a wide range of cinematic styles, using an arsenal of photographic tricks to achieve a kind of heightened realism. Grainy, overexposed film stocks, desaturated colors, dropped frames and other techniques are brilliantly employed by director of photography Janiusz Kaminski (who won a second Academy Award for his work here). The film is meant to be a visual and aural assault during key segments, and these stylistic choices are entirely appropriate to the material.. Spielberg wanted the film to be shot as combat photographers would shoot in the war and Janusz Kaminski gives him splendid results. The camera technique used is simply brilliant, aided superbly by the editing. The camera bobs up and down under the water with murky, muted sound beneath -- then back to the surface for another gasp of air to the sounds of bullets and xplosions ripping at u from all directions. Just marvel at the creativity of Janusz Kaminski, Spielberg and editor Michael Kahn (also not forgetting the contribution of the sound department on this sequence) at this underwater sequence, mentioned above, its like u ar in the water struggling to get to the dry land. the first time u ar in, the camera and the editor let you stay longer beneath the water, the second time, it's a litte short time by the third and fourth time the camera just goes in and resurfaces almost the same moment, u almost feel that u have walked that distance inside the water. Thru this intimate technique, u can only be amazed what it must have been on that day. The camera moves at a frentic pace, thru all the dirt, blood and captures every particle of the faltering earth the explosion gives. Spielberg had opted for a stark and gritty look at the picture. The edgy contrast, combined with slightly muted colors contributes to the documentary style realism of the film. If you observe, after about 25 minutes in the film, a special lens was employed to create a flaring effect of background flames. This results in bright columns of reflected glare rising up from each small fire. This technique was also used in Minority Report. D-Day was in June 6, 1944 and it was overcast conditions on that day, but on the shooting day, it was full of sunshine, to overcome this problem, Spielberg and Kaminski, created smoke all around the shooting area, to create that look. You can see the smoke all over the place after the battle stops in the beach.

Editing: Superb editing, the toughest scenes to cut of a movie are its action sequences and my! Michael Kahn, who won for Schindler's List, (He won for this also, I gave him the award the day I saw the movie just for the beach sequence) does a fantastic job over here. One problem for Kahn was to depict the beach longer than it really is (the beach in Ireland is not as long as the original one) and boy! what a job he has done!

Sound Design: Deservedly won the Academy awards for Gary Rydstrom, I have never heard such aggresive or superb use of all the surround channels. The effects sound lethal. Bullets whizzing overhead from every possible direction, motors, guns, explosions, yell. Notice the sound of the mortar guns in the beach sequence, when the allied soldiers are in the boats and the guns are showering explosions in the sea, and the resulting drops of water falling on them. The sound starts in the rear channel and ends up in the front. When the squibs go off on the beach, U can hear practically every bit of sand and pebble falling back on the ground. Masterpiece recording! The combination of the documentary style photography and active sound matrix put u right in there.Those guys in Skywalker Sound really deserved the award. Quite simply, this soundtrack is BOOM!, and just about destroys everything in its path. And the battle scenes are nothing short of a sonic maelstorm. I almost hate to say it given the subject matter, but if you distance yourself from what is on the screen and just listen to the sound, it is a lot of fun to hear! This is an amazing, completely immersive juggernaut of a soundtrack that just can't be argued with on a technical level. Score by John Williams is subdued and very less, much like the atmosphere of the movie.

Set Design:Production designer Tom Sanders and crew transformed the Irish coast to a battleground with barricades, iron hedgehogs etc. Also the sets in the last sequence in the bombed village look perfect.

Direction: He is the general over here! Spielberg must be given enormous credit for his mastery of the camera. Simulating a hand-held 8 mm camera during the battle scenes, SPR pulls u into the war like no other movie I have ever expereinced. And for the first 25 minutes, the place you are pulled into isn't a place where you want to be. the depiction is shocking, unnerving and close to nauseating. Speilberg doesnt sugar-coat the mayhem. There are decapitations, limbs being blown off, faces blown away, bodies charred up etc. just like a real war. Filmed on the coast of Ireland along a stretch of beach similar to Normandy (the original beach is now a protected historical landmark), Initially, he wanted to shoot with the British army as extras but after the Defense ministry ruled out, he just moved onto Ireland, with its army as extras. Wonderful direction, he must be lauded for depicting the war as it was and as it is now. Ever since his beach scene, directors now go for the same style of bloodletting sequences, e.g. Gladiator, Black Hawk Down. All in all, no other but Spielberg could have made this.

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