Saving Private Ryan
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Saving Private Ryan

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When I was growing up, war movies showed Audrey Murphy, Gary Cooper or John Wayne charging into battle, a bayonet clutched in their teeth, guns blazing, heroes we were to admire. In the words of the Star Wars sage character, Yoda, ‘War not make one great’. This is the truth that Saving Private Ryan presents. The movie opens with an older man followed by his family, going to a massive cemetery, he stops at one mark and falls to his knees. Next we see landing craft getting ready for D-Day. The men in the crafts are mostly not more than boys. Boys that were not long ago on farms, with their families or in high school. That must have seemed like a lifetime ago. They shake with fear, vomit and cry as the crafts approach the shore. Soon the water is red with their blood. The first twenty minutes of this movie present war in far more real terms than any movie has ever done. The story is probably familiar to most reading this. A young soldier loses all three of his brothers in combat. General Marshall is determined that the surviving brother be found and sent back home. Home, the goal of ever GI out in the thick of battle. With an understandable resentment, eight men set out to find this one man among thousands and send him where they cannot themselves go, home.

No better cast could have been assembled for this film. Tom Hank, a long way from his sitcom dressed in drag is the captain in charge of this mission. He resents the mission but is determined to do his duty and complete it. Edward Burns as one of the other seven, hating the risk to be taken to send one man home never the less trudges on to do his duty as do all the rest in the squad. The squad is composed of the typical WWII mix, the tough sergeant, the guy from the big city, the country kid, the religious one and the soldier that has never seen true combat. They do not mesh as did the squads shown in the old Gary Cooper movies but they work together to keep each other alive. Hanks is outstanding in this role. Little touches like the mystery of his civilian life, the tremor in his hand, all create a mutil-dimensional person that we can identify with even if we have never faced what he is facing. The pain of the surroundings is reflected realistically in the faces and very movements of the actors. The story comes across in a real manner due in large to the fine talent assembled for this movie.

The director, Steven Spielberg, has become one of the truest talents in the film industry. He could always make a blockbuster movie that rewarded the investors and audience alike, but now he does so with a human conscience that draws you in and forces your own conscience to take notice. Pain and suffering abound in this film yet Spielberg offsets this with a human spirit that soars above such hardships and endures the unendurable. Every scene in this movie is crafted as a work of art. The range of human emotions is placed on display and held to the light for our examination. Although the movie is just shy of three hours long there is not a frame that should have been cut. Everything displayed is necessary for the telling of the tale. Everything adds to the experience and takes you along, mesmerized by the sheer power of the direction, the construction of something that will be remembered long after the lights come back in your living room and you go about your life.

The DVD is incredible. Added features include a special message from Spielberg, remembrances of WWII vets and production notes. The video is spectacular, Spielberg purposely washes out some of the color to give an almost hyper-real quality. The sound is an integral part of the movie. In the D-Day scene at the start, bullets fly all around the room, bombs burst on every side of you. You can hear the screams of pain encircle you as you watch. This movie is a must have for everyone that is serious about the true art of cinema. 

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