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Saving Private Ryan

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Saving Private Ryan

Starring: Tom Hanks, Tom Sizemore
Director: Steven Spielberg
Rated: R
RunTime: 160 Minutes
Release Date: July 1998
Genres: War, Action, Drama

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Review by AlexI
4 stars out of 4

An elderly man stepping into an endless sea of white crosses. He finds one particular cross amidst thousands and falls on his knees before it. Suddenly we're transported to Omaha beach, it is June 6th 1944. Landing crafts are breaking the dark waves. Men are silently praying, some are throwing up, partly of fear, partly of seasickness. A shaking hand is reaching out for the water cannister. "30 seconds...God be with you...". A soldier kissing a silver cross in the sun light and then all hall breaks loose. The unprepared soldiers are met with overwhelming gunfire. Now the camera, masterfully handled by Director of Cinematography Janusz Kaminski , is running, twisting on the beach. Chaotic flashes of light, the ground going up and coming down, confused soldiers, half crazed by fear, are helplessly trying to stay alive. Some of these scenes will forever burn into your mind. A soldier picking up his severed arm, wondering off in shock. A German bullet fired from the bluff above gazes a GI helmet, making a harmless clang, but before the soldier can registrate his luck, another bullet catches him in the forehead, tearing out the back of his scull. Another soldier, a young boy, is lieng on the ground with his belly wide open, holding his silver cross. Burning men thrown many feet in the air by mines and grenades, land with missing body parts. Whether you live or die is a matter of luck, not survival tactics or experience. Severed heads, limbs, terror, screams and panic are everywhere - this is the real apocalypse now. No one dies heroically, pretty or mercifully. There are no John Wayns or Rambos. These soldiers are ordinary men in extraordinary sercomstances and they behaved extraordinary. When ends with success and the gun fire stops, Kaminski's previously furious camera, elegantly flyes over the beach. The sea water is red with blood and the shore is covered with uncountless bodies. And while the majestic and powerful score kicks in, you can whipe off your cold sweat and start breathing normally after the most intense, graphical, terrifying as well as artistic combat sequence ever created. This is the beginning of Steven Spielberg's nightmare vision of the "last good war" - "Saving Private Ryan" .. Slowly the plot begins to take shape.

Capt.John Miller ( Tom Hanks ) and his troop: a sensitive army medic Giovanni Ribisi ), a language specialist that has never been in combat Jeremy Davies ), a jew that takes the subject of war very personally ( Adam Goldberg ), an understanding and loyal sarge ( Tom Sizemore ), a Godfearing southern sharpshooter ( Barry Pepper ), a Brooklyn loud-mouth ( Edward Burns ) and an Italian-American ( Van Diesel ) have survived the carnage of the D-day assault and have been ordered new mission: to find and retrieve Pvt.James Ryan ( Matt Damon ), whose three brothers have been killed in action. Ryan is a paratrooper that has been dropped somewhere behind enemy line, in the german territory. Miller's men openly question why the life of an unknown soldier should be more valuable then their own. As they move deeper into hostile territory, difficult decisions must be made. Should they save a little French girl from a war torn village at the expense of their mission? Should they execute a German POW for killing their fellow soldier or should they let him go at the risk that he will rejoin his forces and continue fighting? Actually the whole film is one big moral dilemma.

You can say that the plot is pure Hollywood - risking the lives of seven men to save one. But it is extremely effective as it displays the meaningless of war itself.

The cast could not be better, consisting of a few well known actors and fresh, new talents. Spielberg has masterfully recreated the bondage between the soldiers in the squad. We get a peek into their confused minds and tortured soals; we get to know them. This makes it extremely hard (emotionally) to see them die before our eyes for nothing and no one.

The visuals are breathtaking and award worthy. Incredibly original cinematography by Janusz Kaminski ("Schindler's List") bases itself mostly on handhold cameras that plases you right in the middle of the carnage of battle. This creates a much stronger effect than if you film from the air as in "The Longest Day" and several other films. Tom Sanders' historical art direction is equally spectacular - ancient churches and historical buildings ruined by explosions. Sanders has been very careful with details. The dramatic score by John Williams is not disappointing, however it sometimes pushes to hard. Williams' work in "Amistad" I enjoyed much better. The sound is as nothing I've ever heard before - you feel bullets around you, you have to turn around and check if the person beside you is still alive. The visual effects are likewise spectacular and absolutely convincing. But in comparison to last year's Oscar winner "Titanic", the real strength of "Saving Private Ryan" lies not in its visual beauty and marvelous effects, but in its deep and emotional plot and wonderful performance of the cast (especially by Tom Hanks and Giovanni Ribisi).

When the film ended I sat, cold sweltering and deeply moved by what I have just seen, or better described - experienced. "Saving Private Ryan" is probably the best and most powerful war film that has ever been made. Its achievement lies in its openness, its uncovered, graphical display of insanity and heroism of ordinary people that made the difference and eventually won the war. It's a monument to those who fought and died and to those who survived. It's purpose is not only to show us how the war was like, but also to realize that behind every cross there is a man, a life, dreams, hopes and family. "Saving Private Ryan" is a tale about humanity and self-sacrifis among the horrors of war.

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