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4.80 

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''Saving Private Ryan'' -- Modern Day Masterpiece
Aug 19, 2001 10:03 AM 3672 Views

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''Saving Private Ryan'' is Steven Spielberg's latest World War II drama about the invasion of Normandy. Specifically, it concentrates on one group's mission to find one man, a Private James Ryan, the soul survivor of a family whose four boys had gone off to fight in the war. A family in which three of those four boys had died in combat.


The movie opens with a sequence that is sure to become a widely recognized and historical cinematic achievement - the American landing at Omaha beach on D-Day. For close to half an hour, the audience is bombarded with the massacre of this ill-fated American landing.


Through these scenes we learn that, although the D-Day landings were largely successful, the planed attack at Omaha beach fell apart. Planes didn't bomb their targets properly before the landing and during the landing boats arrived in the wrong areas and at the wrong times. FUBAR - it was all one big mess.


So we, as the audience, live through this dramatic event as we fight to cross the beach and take out the guns. Speilberg's camera is strategically placed and moved so that the audience is in the action with the fighting men. Through incredible special effects we feel the bullets whiz by and our hearts pound as we are shaken by the carnage. And it's through these gut wrenching scenes that we're moved through shock, silence and tears. This was the reaction that I felt while watching these opening sequences, it's what my neighbour felt, it's what the person in front of me felt, and it's what the entire audience felt. ''Saving Private Ryan,'' for me, is nothing short of a perfect movie.


The film stars Tom Hanks as Captain John Miller, the man who, shortly after the invasion, is assigned to what appears to be purely a mission of propaganda to find one man, Private James Ryan. He assembles his team and their journey takes them through hell. And it's a hell that is froth with decisions that tear at the soul, decisions that must be made for the sake of the mission. It's a situation that forces you to quickly learn who you are personally and in regards to honour, orders and duty.


Yet, after trudging through hell, Captain Miller and his men finally do complete their mission. But what do they find? They find a man who is just as committed to his duties as they are, a man who won't leave his post just because he's earned a free ticket home at the hands of his dead brothers and military propaganda. ''The only brothers I have left are right here,'' Private Ryan says, pointing to his fellow troops. So Captain Miller and his men join forces with Private Ryan's men for two reasons, to carry out the duties assigned to Ryan's group and to keep there eye on Ryan himself. There final mission to defend one of the only bridges left in the region. A bridge that could be used by the Germans in a deadly, ultimately decisive, counter attack, and a bridge that could help the allies move forward.


All this leads us nicely into a climatic sequence which involves unseen tanks and a larger German division of men who are armed to the teeth. And in this final battle, we are presented with another unique sequence, that is all the more heartpounding than the shell shock of the first half hour. In short, it's a sequence that takes the best tension building ideas and melds it all into a brilliant and grand showcase of deep heroic consequence.


''Saving Private Ryan,'' like ''Schindler's List,'' successfully combines all of the cinematic elements flawlessly. The film is beautifully shot by long time Spielberg cinematographer Janusz Kaminski. Whether the scene is about saving a girl, or arguing about killing the enemy, ''Saving Private Ryan'' gives us ideas and shows us that war is truly hell on Earth. And, thankfully, it lets you laugh at just the right moments.


But largely, ''Saving Private Ryan'' is nothing more than an all out assault on our senses. And it works. Spielberg has succeeded in creating our first real anti-war film. He has created a film that is the perfect mix of emotion, suspense, remembrance and ideas.


And most importantly, ''Saving Private Ryan,'' will make people want to go out and learn more about the sacrifices that our grandfathers made so that we may live free and good lives. Anyone who sees this film should talk about it. Talk about it with your friends and family. I feel that this film is appropriate for children over the age ten and I urge parents to talk about it with your children (both before and after the movie). To me, that is the most wonderful thing about movies, that they can teach us about ourselves and our history.


So, please - don't miss ''Saving Private Ryan.'' It truly is as close as we'll ever get to experiencing war without actually having to experience it.


Grade: A


(Movie originally reviewed on July 26, 1998)


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