Thursday, November 25, 2010

#203 Saving Private Ryan (1998)


Director: Steven Spielberg

Cast: Tom Hanks, Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Barry Pepper, Adam Goldberg, Vin Diesel, Giovanni Ribisi, Jeremy Davies, Matt Damon, Ted Danson

Coming into a film like this, you can only try to prepare yourself. You can assume brutality, you can assume heart-tearing relationships being suddenly and unfairly destroyed, you can assume deep, strong stand-points on the ideals of war.

Prepare and assume all you want, it doesn't much change the experience. The horror of war perhaps never more realistically depicted than Saving Private Ryan–the highest grossing film of 2008 and one for which the Department of Veteran Affairs had to set up a 800 hotline for traumatized veterans who had seen the film.

The film begins with the Normandy invasion, a 25-minute slaughter of American soldiers, only even more crippling due to the shaking hands and vomiting out of sheer terror which you witness just moments before they strike the beach. Out of the survivors, 8 men are selected to carry out a special mission: saving private ryan. Private Ryan is one of four soldier brothers, and in fact is the only one left alive. In order to ease the suffering of his mother, he has been ordered to be retrieved and sent home alive. Of course, in order to locate him in all of France, 8 men risk their lives in his pursuit.

You can imagine all of the dilemmas brought up through this film-- the worth of one man's life over another, the insanity of war itself. It's a startling and humbling film that did bring me to tears. But of course Spielberg brings us to tears! He is not only a very capable director, but he also has the success to have any tool at his disposable to bring us his vision. What is important is that after the initial tears, the initial experience... comes the deeper implications which stick with us.

The men in this film are not the heroes we expect, but rather ordinary men who become some version of hero through braving and just doing the best they can. In this respect, we are able to at least ATTEMPT on some small scale relate to the terror and the confusion. Janusz Kaminski, Spielberg's cinematographer (who also worked on Schindler's List), does a brilliant job of knowing when to let us be overwhelmed by chaos and when we need to feel more-oriented.

A brilliant film that I look forward to learning more about.

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