Saving Private Ryan (1998) Poster

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Actually it's pretty GOOD history
dedjim10 June 2001
I know it's fashionable to trash successful movies but at least be honest about the trashing... Pvt. Ryan was fiction but it was pretty good HISTORICAL fiction. The details were well thought out and based on reality.

There was nothing stupid about the portrayal of the German army... Rommel DID blunder in his placement of force, The high command DID think Calais was going to be the invasion spot, not Normandy. Hitler didn't wake up until noon on that day and his aides were afraid to wake him. The Rangers did come in right behind the first wave and did take a beach exit by sheer will to get the hell off the beach. The bluffs were the scene of heavy close fighting. The german defenders were mostly Eastern European conscripts from defeated areas. (note that the 2 men that tried to surrender were NOT speaking German). There WAS a young man rescued from interior Normandy after his brothers were all killed. He WAS an airborne trooper (the difference was that he was found by a chaplain and was removed from the front.)

The battles inside Normandy were small actions town to town, street to street, house to house. Small actions like taking the radar station happened. Small actions like a handful of men defending a river bridge against odds happened. Small squads of men, formed out of the misdrops banded together ad hoc to fight. There were all enlisted groups and all officer groups. A General did die in the glider assault. FUBAR aptly described much of what happened that day.

And there were only Americans in the movie because the Brits and Canadians were many klicks away in a different area... this was Omaha beach. The story was an American one. And Monty DID bog down the advance and everyone knew it. And as for "American Stereotypes"... well those pretty much define America: my college roomie was a wise-ass New York Jew. My best friend was a second generation east coast Sicilian. My college girlfriend was a third generation German. My first wife was French and English. I'm Irish, my boss is Norwegian and I work with a Navaho... you get the point?

So much for it being bad history. It was in fact an excellent way to let a jaded and somewhat ignorant-of-their-past generation *feel* something of what their grandparents (LIVING grandparents) went through. It is perhaps less important that the details be exact as the feel be right. Even now the details are not fully known or knowable about that campaign... it was too big, too complex and too chaotic to be knowable. There is not even an accurate casualty count of D-Day itself.

Now as to the depth of characters. What I saw there was the extraordinary circumstances into which ordinary people were thrown and what happened to them. I saw the things that would mark a generation (I have heard in my elderly male patients sentiments similar to what Cpt. Miller was expressing when he announced his ordinariness) I saw the dehumanization that occurs with war and its mitigation moment to moment, man to man... Cpt. Miller didn't know anything about Ryan and he didn't care... until Ryan revealed his humanity to him with his story of his brothers. Pvt. Reiban was ready to walk out of the situation until he discoverd his captains ordinariness and his humanity. Then he began to look to him almost as a father. Pvt. Mellish rightfully delights in his revenge for all the times he's had to take it because he was Jewish by telling German captives he's "Juden!" Nerdish Cpl. Upham can stand alongside his bigger, stronger, braver Ranger compatriots and describe the poetry and melancholy of Edith Piaf's song... then face his cowardice, turn around and stand up in the face of danger and finally demonstrate the dehumanization of the enterprise he was enmeshed in by executing Steamboat Willie... even though Willie had no more choice about being there than Upham did and in other circumstances would have made a friend.

I could go on and on with this but enough already. OK, perhaps it is not The Best Movie Ever Made but it is still a good movie. And if one will take the blinders of fashionable negativism off they will see it. Finally, this is not a patriotic story... if anything it is an acknowledgement and thank you to all those old men still out there that did so much for us. To them I say a deep and sincere thank you.
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War is hell, and "Saving Private Ryan" peeks into the gates of Hades
ToldYaSo16 August 1999
Warning: Spoilers
I'd heard a couple of startling things about this film before seeing it. I'd heard that many veterans were having a hard time getting through the film without breaking down. I'd also seen interviews with veterans who'd seen the film and found the film to be incredibly realistic and consequently difficult to watch. Intriguing comments, since we all know there is no shortage of films about war from this century.

There are not many films that I've seen that have actually made me physically react to the action on screen. I'm not speaking of the three-dimensional variety either. What I mean to say is this film had me contorting and cringing at the gripping, horrifying action on screen. Somehow the extreme violence can be justified as the whole world knows that this is an important chapter in human history and a startling, graphic depiction only adds more weight to the seriousness of the subject matter. I'd have to say this is probably one of the most important films of the 20th century because of its frank approach to one of the darkest periods of our time on this earth.

I am always deeply moved and fiercely proud when given cause to consider those that gave their lives to protect our way of life and liberate those that already suffered dislocation, imprisonment and attempted genocide. These soldiers were truly noble and deserve our deepest gratitude. This sentiment is a common one, and will go some lengths to explain why this film has meant so much to so many.

Even with the attention to detail and care taken into how it was shot to accentuate to the fullest degree its realistic approach, it is still hard to imagine what it must have been like to be part of a war. But this film goes a long way to help your mind get around it. It's hard for me to say what kind of impact the cinematography would have on someone watching it on the small screen of a television versus the big screen, but from my perspective, this film really does benefit from a theatrical presentation.

What "Saving Private Ryan" does extremely well, is show the world the harsh reality of war without pulling any punches. The story about a squad of soldiers sent to retrieve the surviving brother of three dead soldiers is told with competency and due reverence from all perspectives of the characters involved. It is an uncommon and intriguing drama, but it serves as an excuse to describe a setting, rather than the other way around. The story manages to move us through all sorts of different landscapes and scenarios, giving us an unforgettable glimpse of a world unknown to most of us, and terrifying to those who are familiar with it from personal experience.
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This is one of the greatest movies ever made.
morales12317 May 2000
To think that this movie did not win Best Picture is a crime. Director Steven Spielberg uses all of his talent and resources to give to the world the greatest war film ever made.

Though it's true that this is not the type of movie you want to sit down with the family and eat popcorn, the emotional drive of the picture, the story's poignant messages, and the fantastic acting of the cast draws you into a world that is both dangerous and unpredictable.

Spielberg is able to take you into action and make you feel as if you are a participant in the movie and not just a viewer. This is Tom Hanks' best movie he ever did. Forget his performances in Philadelphia and Forrest Gump (though they were also good); he should have received another Oscar for the role of Capt. John Miller, a leader who must act strong in front of his men, but must also hide his emotions from them. It would have been well-deserved if he won again.

I give this movie my highest recommendation. Saving Private Ryan is a movie that makes you realize how life is precious and how honor and duty, though they are deep philosophical concepts that are praised in war, can put you in jeopardy of losing your life for something you may not believe in.
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weiz_one17 November 1999
I have never been affected by a movie the way Saving Private Ryan affected me. That movie really took me out of my seat in the movie theater and practically had me believing I was really in the battle with John Miller. When somebody was dying in that movie, it felt as if you could almost feel their pain. Speilberg did an unbelievable job of putting realism into this movie with the camera-work and everything else. Simply amazing. An all time great.
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The Greatest War Movie Ever Made
lc-229 July 1998
It gives a million reason why no one should go to war and one very powerful reason to go to war. It is a soul numbing realistic depiction of what our grandfathers, fathers, uncles, brothers and sons have faced in humanities darkest moments. Not just in WWII but in any war. No one can see this movies without being altered in some way. No one should miss it with the EXCEPTION of those war veterans that have already been there. The surround sound puts the audience in the middle of the battle.

Steven Spielberg has out done himself and effectively held up a mirror to civilization for events to which we should all be ashamed of, rather than appalled at the movie for its real life depictions. I suggest that this movie be made standard view for congress as well as the President each and every time the question of war comes up. This movie would not stop future wars but I would hope the objectives would be much more clearly defined. I say this as a US Marine.
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Numbing experience of SPR redeems baby boomers...
janesbit125 January 2000
It's been over a year since first seeing Saving Private Ryan -- it's a worthy effort by Speilberg--his best since Shindler's List by far. You've probably heard about the amount of violence, blood, and gore and that's all true--it's got the Viet Nam movie style violence (and then some) but it's not gratuitous. Were it sanitized like early WWII movies, modern audiences probably wouldn't take it as seriously.

The movie has that trademark Speilberg style--the structure is all tied up and unified from beginning to end, the emotional symbols abound, the music swelling when he's working at your emotions, the hand held camera that worked so well in Shindler's List to give you a feeling of participation, camera angles and periods of silence to disorient you (like Shindler), suspense techniques learned from Hitch... It's a movie that stays with you for a period afterwards.

Hanks will be the early front runner for Oscar after this flick--Academy members like him AND it IS his best acting job ever. While Speilberg will likely be criticized for attempting to manipulate the audience's emotions while keeping a distance from the inner core of his characters, Tom Hanks reveals a really complex military leader in this story, and does so without overacting--somehow it comes from within. While you may not empathize deeply with many of the platoon, you will still feel something because of the relationship that is formed with Hanks.

After the initial set-up, you will have the opportunity to participate in the D-Day operation and experience the horror of it. Those who have been in a real war can comment about how realistic or not Speilberg captures its chaotic horror in this scene.

In my case I again feel very lucky that my draft number was high, so I never had to face Nam like many of my classmates. Speilberg reminds us brutally in "Saving Private Ryan" that we All have a debt to pay to the brave souls who have sacrificed so much for us. What Tom Hanks does with his performance is to remind us of this debt in a very personal way.
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I Agree: This Is The Best War Movie Ever Made
ccthemovieman-127 February 2006
Without looking, I am sure other reviewers here have headlined their article "Best War Movie Ever Made"" and I agree. However, before briefly discussing the film, let me just say if you don't have a decent 5.1 surround sound system, you aren't going to fully appreciate this movie (DVD).

It's a great film to start with, and sitting in a room surrounded by five speakers with bullets flying from all directions around you - as in that spectacular 22- minute opening scene or in the final 45 minutes of action against the Germans in tanks - is an astounding movie experience. The sound in this film elevates it even higher.

The visuals are outstanding, too. I've never seen so many grays, beiges and olive-greens look this good: perfect colors for the bombed-out French city where the last hour takes place, perfect for the faces and uniforms of the gritty soldiers, for the machinery, the smoke-filled skies, etc.

My only complaint is the usage of Lord's name in vain 25-30 times, but, hey, when you consider it's tough men in tough times, that's what you are going to hear. In real life, the profanity probably was worse than the film.

It's hard to picture the brutality of war being any worse than you see here, but it probably was. This is about as graphic as it gets. The violence and gore was shocking when this film came out in 1997 and still is when watched almost a decade later. It's unbelievable what some of the WWII soldiers went through, but that can be said for any war. I believe the purpose of this film was to pay tribute to the sacrifices these men made, and it succeeds wonderfully. Hats off to Steven Spielberg and to Tom Hanks, the leading actor in here, both of whom have worked hard for WWII vets to get the recognition they deserve, not just on film but in a national memorial.

Anyway, language or blood and guts aside, this is still an incredible portrait of WWII. The almost-three hour film is riveting start-to-finish, especially with that memorable beginning action scene, probably the most dramatic in the history of film.

As "entertaining" as those action scenes were, I found the lulls, if you will, to be even better. Listening to Hanks and his men discuss various things as they look for Private Ryan, was fascinating to me. Hanks is just superb in here and once again shows why he is considered one of the best actors in his generation.

The most memorable and powerful moment among the "lulls," is the shot early on of the Ryan mother sinking to her knees on her front porch as she realizes she is about to get disastrous news from the war. Moments later, Harve Presenell, playing Gen. MacArthur, eloquently reads a letter by Abraham Lincoln that is so beautifully written, so profound that it is quoted near the end of the film, too, and I never get tired of hearing it.

This is a man's movie, and shows the horrors of war as few others ever have. To say it is "memorable," just doesn't do it justice. It is the greatest war movie ever made....period.
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Excellent despite some Spielberg slips into sentiment
bob the moo11 September 2002
During the Normandy landings during WW2 two brothers are killed. In another part of the world another of the Ryan brothers is killed in action, leaving their mother with one remaining son and three telegrams due to be delivered. A group of men, led by Captain Miller set out to reach Private Ryan and not only break him the news but to safely return him for return to the US.

What can I say – it is an excellent film despite some minor flaws. The plot is based on a real life situation during WW2 and allows for us to follow a group of men as they take part in the horrors (and humanity) of war. This is the film's strength and it is never stronger than in the first 25 minutes and, to a lesser extent, the final 20 minutes. The opening of the Normandy landing is simply pure emotional power and is really well done – it is so powerful that the actual plot itself is a bit of a letdown. I love Band of Brothers because the focus was on the war and what it was like to be involved rather than a sort of soap opera story. Here the plot is still very good but can't really follow that opening.

It also sinks into sentiment a tad too often. For example Ryan's mother lives in this sort of Norman Rockwell painting that is Spielberg's vision of middle America. Also there is a little too much use of gawkish dialogue as well – although it's hard to criticise the death scenes for being emotional, because they should be.

A minor flaw that is easy to get over is the lack of Brits. Like Band of Brothers (which had a few cockney accents) this is an AMERICAN film – so of course they will focus on the American experience. However it would have been nice to have some British (or any other) voices or faces among the Allies. I can understand why the film opens and closes with the stars and stripes and why the film focuses on the yanks but a little bit of perspective would be useful. There's nothing wrong with focus – but when it totally excludes huge bits of information then it's a problem. It always makes me think of the way that Michael Caine took his children back to the UK when they were taught in an US school that WW2 started in the 1940's (ie – when America joined).

However this is a minor flaw as, in fairness, it's an American film – why be surprised when it's focus is Americans! Of the cast Hanks is good – he is much more subtle than his Oscar roles where he played to the crowd. He benefits from having a great support cast of good actors, current actors, old faces, up and comers etc. Sizemore, Burns and Farina are the good current actors. Damon, Ribsi, Diesel, Martini etc are all very good on the way up – although Damon has one of the simplest characters. They may all be slight stereotypes of Americans but it's not a major flaw – just a screen writer wanting to cover all bases I think, although it does grate that they cover all these backgrounds but can't squeeze any other Allies in to the edges.

Overall it is excellent despite some stereotyping, US flag waving and the usual Spielberg love of sentimentality. Even if the actual plot is flimsy Spielberg expertly puts us as close to experiencing the horrors and the humanity within war as I hope we'll ever be.
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The most realistic harrowing battle scenes ever filmed...
Nazi_Fighter_David26 October 2008
Steven Spielberg makes a unique motion picture in regards to the D-Day invasion of World War II just in the gritty reality of the detail… For more than twenty minutes he revives for us the landing at Omaha beach… No one was prepared for how horrific it really was… No one understood what was going on: The terror, the chaos, the maelstrom of bullets, the near-deafening explosions…You really got a sense of what these guys had to go through…

Within that perplexity, the focus settles on six soldiers under the command of Capt. Miller (Tom Hanks) after they've survived their terrible hours breaking through the first line of German defense, they're given a strange perilous mission, to find one man, Pvt. Ryan (Matt Damon), a paratrooper who's somewhere behind German lines… For them, it's an abstruse order, but they have to get it done…

Throughout the film, Spielberg's attention to detail is amazing… For me, the most chilling scene in the movie is the death of an American officer… It's one of the most intimate… It's also a slightly confusing moment because two German characters resemble each other so greatly…

Toward the middle, a German soldier called "Steamboat Willie" is introduced… By the end of the film, he has become the 'bad' German… Later in the movie, another German is involved in the final fight… He takes part in an exceedingly painful scene of hand-to-hand combat with the American soldier… The two German soldiers have similar short haircuts and black uniforms… Because they looked so much alike, many of us have believed that they're one character… They're not, and the distinction of the two is very significant…
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This should cool off the Rambo wannabes
helpless_dancer15 April 2000
The opening beach assault sequences were the most violent, realistic, and upsetting filming I've ever seen; looked as though the thing was actual combat footage. The shushing noises of rounds cutting through the air was the most chilling part of all. Perfect portrayal of the insane stupidity of war and the anguish of all who enter this most foolish of enterprises. A must see.
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Simplistic Schlock for the Simple Minded
clark-carpenter19 October 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Great film is an illuminating thing: it shines its light into the dark recesses of humanity, revealing the greed, hatred, and hypocrisy that fester there. Bad film is often just as revealing: its existence and reception serve as a mirror reflecting the hearts of its intended audience. Saving Private Ryan is a classic example of the latter, in the flickering light of its propagandistic glow, the American people stand revealed for what they really are: stupid, self-absorbed, morally unsophisticated rubes ready to be fleeced by the first charlatan who comes along and tells them what they want to hear.

"Saving Private Ryan" is typical Steven Spielberg fare: a big budget spectacle, bereft of style, filled to the brim with childishly heavy-handed moralizing and peopled with facile "characters" who exist only as cardboard cutouts for the ensuing morality play. Even the film's underlying subtext is an old Spielberg standby - America GOOOOOD, Nazis BAAAAD.

The plot of Saving Private Ryan revolves around a simple moral question: is saving one life worth potentially sacrificing the lives of many? This fourth grade ethical dilemma is played out for nearly three hours over the background of the brocage of Normandy in the hours and days immediately after the D-Day landings, and is handled with Spielberg's usual wandering attention, ham-fisted lack of subtlety and babbling pop psychology. Spielberg being Spielberg, there's never any doubt how the question will ultimately be answered (hint: with saccharine sentimentality in front of a tombstone - because, obviously, the same scene wasn't manipulative enough when it was used to close Schindler's List).

The film opens with thirty minutes of unremitting carnage as US soldiers assault Omaha Beach. This opening scene has been hailed for its savage realism, but it is in truth one of the more cynically manipulative sequences in recent memory, full of irritating, disorienting jump cuts, pornographically Gibsonesque attention to gory detail, camera tricks and special effects artifices, all accompanied by a deafening soundtrack designed to overwhelm our capacity to think about what is being portrayed on the screen and to push us to simply immerse ourselves in its reductive US vs. Them POV. When I saw this film in the theaters, the audience cheered when the first German soldier was killed, then cheered again when American troops murdered surrendering Germans in cold blood: this, I'm sure, was Spielberg's intent.

Having bulldozed and buried any hint of the moral ambiguity of war, Spielberg gets around to the heart of the movie. It has been discovered by the War Department that one Private Ryan (Matt Damon) is now the sole surviving son of a family who has sent five sons to war. Unfortunately, Ryan was a part of the paratrooper drop that preceded the Normandy landings and is missing behind enemy lines. In a moment of supreme hokum (complete with a quotation of a letter by Abraham Lincoln that wouldn't feel out of place in a Ken Burns documentary), Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Marshall (Harve Presnell) decides that an effort will just have to be made to save Private Ryan.

At this point, Saving Private Ryan becomes just another motley-crew-of-experts flick. A team of caricatures is assembled: the tough-as-nails seargent; the feisty Italian; the pious Southern sniper with Talent on Loan from God (if the historical setting had been Vietnam, I'm sure this character would have been replaced by Cuba Gooding Jr. as The Magic Negro); the REMF pussy - all led by Tom Hanks in the role of Tom Hanks, Captain Everyman. Call them the Sanitized Seven. Battles ensue. Some of the caricatures die (does anyone really remember which ones?). The Germans never miss an opportunity to remind us how EVIL they are. One wehrmacht man - having been saved from certain death at the hands our intrepid heroes by the earnest pleas of the REMF - returns only to slowly and sadistically stab an American to death. Oh those tricksy Krauts! In the end, Ryan is saved and Tom Hanks is dying. But it was all worth it. Cue the graveside maundering. USA! USA! USA!

The problem with Saving Private Ryan is the problem with everything Spielberg touches. More broadly, it is the problem of the American commercial cinema. Lacking the courage of any real conviction, it cannot offer any challenge to its audience. Instead, it panders to that audience with easy answers, impressive effects, a soundtrack that booms and tinkles in all the right places and a nice mom's apple pie pat on the back for every red blooded American. What's missing is even the faintest glimmer of awareness that the world doesn't break down neatly into heroes and villains, cowards and the courageous, us and them. In the place of subtlety, it gives us spectacle, in the place of art, it delivers technically proficient propaganda.
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Amazing insight into World War 2 battles that take your breath away!!
stevenblackburn13 November 2001
An amazing and compelling insight to warfare. Umbelievable camera shots/angles bring World War 2 to life especially for the US troops on D-Day. The use of flash bullets, and color saturation just add to the effect of a killing ground that not many people survive to come back from.
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Typical Spielberg: All Frosting, No Cake
kitteh_harbls26 October 2006
Warning: Spoilers
In a historic and artistic context, here's a question that would bother Spielberg if he thought about it for a second: what if there was no such thing as special effects? If we take the special effects from his movies, would they still be great? What, you're waiting for an answer? Just like every Spielberg movie, we find Steve desperately clinging to special effects like a fish to water. Like Bush to oil. Like Uwe Boll to a video game-to-movie conversion (last one is not necessarily bad, by the way).

Just like everybody else, I was amazed by the "realism" of the first 5 minutes. Once you get past the battle scenes, there's not much to work with. I'm glad people (as manifest in the growing number of low reviews here) are starting to realize this.

Let's set aside the absurdity of the "plot" (I use 'plot' very loosely). That's just a vehicle; a pretext; an excuse to use special effects (Spielberg's one and only leverage). The main plot is that a mother lost a number of her sons, so the general (or whatever his rank was) thinks she shouldn't lose her last remaining son, Ryan. He reads a letter Abraham Lincoln sent to a mother who went through a similar experience during the civil war. Using musical cues and closeups, Spielberg is not trying to tell us how to feel; he's practically *begging* us to do so. After all, he knows better than anybody that people will - during the course of the movie - realize that the battle scenes aren't that numerous or long, so there better be some story to back the movie up.

Since he knows that he's addressing a crowd that made movies like Armageddon and Independence Day box office hits, he (correctly) realized that the script needs to be comprised of one element only: text. So long as the script contained text, it was good enough. And he was right. With enough flash and special effects, he was able to appeal to the idiocy of the average American, a tactic mastered by Jerry Bruckheimer, Michael Bay and their likes.

Now, back to the 'plot': once you set it aside, you'll realize that this movie is trying to instill many ideas into the minds of the movie goers. When he shows German soldiers, he shows them from a distance, so by not giving them a face, a human side, he teaches us that it's totally OK to thrill at killing them. Bad German bad! After our heroes free a German, Spielberg makes is very clear that he came back later to kill Tom Hanks. Spielberg is saying: they should've killed him the first time. The only good German is a dead one, apparently. Astonishing dishonesty and malice on the part of Spielberg. Not a trick was a spared to demonize every single one of them.

Unlike masters of movie making (a title Spielberg will never come close to) like Scorsese and Coppola, he desperately needs musical cues to tell when to feel sad, fearful, excited, etc. His approach to emotion is so utterly sappy, shallow and downright laughable that it's virtually impossible for him to let the scenes and the story speak for themselves. He must have very clear cues to give the viewers signals. The music is like a slap in the face. Spielberg manifests in moments like "tell me I lived a good life", grabs you by the throat and ORDERS you to shed a few tears. Insulting. Pathetic.

The only good part in the movie is the whole scene of the mistaken identity, where they realize this whining little weakling crying his eyes out is not the Ryan they wanted. Other than that, and looking at the chutzpah of the musical cues, the absurdity of the plot, the dehumanization of the Germans and the hilarious warfare errors, the movie is only good for another laugh, albeit not one Spielberg was aiming for.
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Wise Up People
aimless-4615 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
War films can be broken into two basic categories; the propaganda film, which celebrates bravery and patriotism; and the anti-war film, which shows the suffering and futility of war. The most extreme propaganda films are usually produced when a war is threatened or actually in progress and either demonize or belittle the individual enemy soldier. This is useful for both inspiring the home front and for assuring it that there will be an ultimate victory. While these films play well with a wartime audience they appear somewhat silly when viewed in a post-war environment.

An exception to this war-in-progress concept was is "Saving Private Ryan". Cloaked in an anti-war facade, this film was more typical of what would have been produced in 1944 (its setting) than 1998 (its year of release).

Under its thin anti-war facade of realistic looking destruction, Private Ryan breaks with the characterization elements that are essential for classification as an anti-war work. Almost by definition anti-war films use a faceless enemy ("Paths of Glory") or portray the enemy soldier as sharing in the suffering and futility of war ("The Enemy Below"). Often they are portrayed as victims of a fanatical leadership and the audience is invited to identify with or at least understand them ("The Longest Day").

This is because after a war, both the victors and the vanquished have an incentive to portray their enemy as brave and determined, otherwise victory is hollow and defeat is humiliating. Not so in Private Ryan; if the German battle performance and basic infantry tactics shown in the film were representative of what was actually practiced, a single allied division could have occupied all of Germany by the end of June 1944. The final battle scene alone makes the viewer wonder how, facing such a totally inept enemy, the war could have gone on more than a few days after the D-Day Landings. Among the most obvious:

A sequence where American soldiers run back and forth in front of a Tiger I tank without drawing the fire of the tank's machine guns. These tanks had internally operated machine guns, which would have easily cut down these soldiers. Knowing this the soldiers would not have exposed themselves to this fire.

Tanks entering an urban area ahead of infantry, driving down the middle of the town as if on parade. Instead infantry would flank any defensive position on the street and secure the area immediately ahead of the tanks so they do not come into range of anti-tank weapons. These tactics were validated during early fighting on the Russian front and became operational imperatives for all Panzer units.

A Hitler Youth dagger found in the trench right after the first bunker is taken on the beach. The men in these bunkers were mostly older second-tier draftees and Ukrainian conscripts. Normandy was not expected to be the invasion target and it's highly unlikely that a member or former member of the Hitler Youth would have been assigned to these marginal units. But it was an excellent way to make the audience less squeamish about the brutality inflicted by the allied soldiers when these German units attempted to surrender.

So just what is "Saving Private Ryan"? The first 24 minutes are a high budget remake of the "Longest Day" whose less expensive landing sequence conveyed more tactical believability about the process of securing a beachhead. The next 90 minutes are a mistake-ridden, choppy, and contrived remake of "The Big Red One". Ultimately, this overlong odyssey said less about patrolling behind enemy lines than "Kelly's Heroes"- a counterculture comedy whose serious scenes and character development were superior in almost every way.

Then there is the finale, a total rip-off of Arthur Pohl's "The Bridge" (1949), which focused on a handful of recently conscripted German schoolboys who fight for control of an inconsequential bridge during the last weeks of the war. They were at the bridge because of a series of accidents and they naively stayed there because of their youthful idealism and sense of duty. Like Private Ryan, most do not survive the engagement. What is notable is not that Pohl was able to make a much better film for a fraction of the cost (that is not particularly unusual), but that he was able to convey more perspective four years after the event than Spielberg could manage 50 years later.

But these criticisms of Private Ryan are based on the assumption that Spielberg's intent was to make a worthwhile war film and there is simply nothing to support this assumption. More likely Spielberg's agenda was make money while subtly refuting post-war portrayals (such as "Das Boot" and "Cross of Iron") of the German soldier as something more than the sub- human creature of WWII propaganda days or the cartoon villains of his own "Raiders of the Lost Ark" series.

The genius of Private Ryan is its success in packaging this sick message inside a commercially successful film. At the time of its release and its almost universal acclaim, this aspect of the film was largely unrecognized (and unexamined) by both audiences and critics. In this respect it owes less to the war films it shamelessly plagiarizes than to early 1950's cinema, where McCarthy-paralyzed Hollywood directors resorted to subtle themes that went undetected by studio executives and regulators. Only recently has its status begun to erode as individual critics more carefully examine its elements, away from the euphoria that surrounded its initial release

Although "Saving Private Ryan was popular, remember that the "Rat Patrol" ran for 58 episodes, watched by television audiences who were also entertained by similar silly nonsense.

Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
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Laughable pro-war propaganda movie
Michael Kenmore21 March 1999
Warning: Spoilers
(1/1/2017 Update edited for corrections; written as is.)

Of course the first combat sequence was great. But unfortunately, I was considered a sociopath for snickering at a man wandering around to pick up his dismembered arm, while the camera is still shaking on the ground -- it became obvious that Spielberg tries too hard to elicit the emotions from a cynical person like me.

I eventually became sick and nauseated at having been forced to watch the ultimately annoying and repetitive guerrilla cinematography, while the violence and mayhem prevails. Is it supposed to depict the reality of war? Maybe yes, but all it does is always impact, impact, impact, and I felt little or no emotion. After the first sequence, SPR stooped for the lowest level -- and I tried to keep awake during some tedious parts, but I ended up snickering and laughing at a few utterly lame and manipulative scenes (Remember Edward Burns' arrogantly stoic character and Tom Hanks' Capt. Miller's speech?).

One of the biggest problems with the film is that the audience at first showed disdain for the translator because he's a "coward" (why the critics say this in their reviews is beyond me), and then cheered when he shot one of the German soldiers to death just to show his courage -- I found this disturbing. After the final battle, the music began to cue and there comes the greatest manipulative climax I've ever seen -- from the slowly progressing (and clichéd) morph scene to the banality of a final nationalistic scene with the U.S. flag waving for another 25 seconds.

After I left the theater quietly, I let out intense rib-aching laughter all the way driving home. This is what Mr. Goldman observes as "phony and manipulative, to serve our Country." I'm sorry if I sound crude, but I debunk SPR for being blatantly manipulative and hypersentimental on par with Patch Adams, another worse movie that year.

This is my honest opinion -- to observe, dissect and criticize -- and I don't trust the critics anymore, because they went overboard just for the realistic depiction of war violence, calling the movie "the greatest war movie ever made!" In truth, older war movies are much better in terms of writing and acting (Paths of Glory and The Longest Day) -- despite the fact that they're tame for not being profane and gory.

And most importantly, SPR shouldn't be shown in English classes in high schools just as another critically overrated The Clockwork Orange shouldn't. It only serves to desensitize the kids because of the "war is bad" propaganda coupled with the U.S.-saluting totalitarianism. The epitome of a double-wham hypocrisy just like the propagandizing Nazi films.
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Saving Mister Spielberg
I.K31 August 1999
Visually, the best WW2 movie. In other ways, far from the best. The movie is loaded with errors and falls into demonizing the German soldier and praising the American. A few examples, far from the reality the combat scenes show the Germans acting like cattle without ANY strategy at all they just run and shout, one funny part is the behavior of the German tankers, they drive in a ruined village in a VERY narrow street, like they have never heard of ambush! -One starts to think if the script writer has ever heard of

the capabilities of the German panzer crews, SS-Captain Michael Wittmann attacked and destroyed 48 armored fighting vehicles alone in a single action! The most absurd part is the -"Macgyver/Rambo scene"-when Capt. Miller and friends start to throw the mortar grenades slaughtering a few dozen Germans. The most unforgivable error is that there were NO SS-units with Tiger tanks operational in Normandy at this point of time. This movie is way overestimated.
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Spielberg must really hate Germans
reinbo-518 October 1998
The opening of the film is visually stunning and really hits you in the face. But when Tom Hanks and his buddies have made it through the first enemy line this film turns in to a Hollywood war movie in which good and bad are clearly divided between the Americans (according to Spielberg, there were only white American teenagers and Tom Hanks participating in D-Day) and the Germans. The way in which he portays the reallity of battle also is not very objective(as history should be portrayed) whenever an American soldier gets shot, the audience is manipulated in feeling his pain and when a German soldier gets shot the audience is made to feel the excitement of victory. We are also made to belief that the German soldiers really liked it there killing Americans, while on the other hand the Americans are righteous believers in God and really have a lot of problems when they have to kill some one. Well Spielberg marketed this all as an important history lesson he had to tell, well he really must hate Germans depicting them in a way as he does in Saving Private Ryan
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Self-medication, Mr. Spielberg?
Fiona G.9 July 2000
This movie serves two purposes: a) glorify the American soldier from World War II and the American nation in general and b) help Mr. Spielberg overcome his own neurosis about being Jewish, a task he started with "Schindler's List." That probably makes him the envy of anyone who ever saw a psychologist: to get paid for spreading out your psyche instead of having to pay for it.

The first 20 minutes of this movie are amazing, indeed. Very well captured is the sheer horror of landing on a fortified beach; the disorientation, the killing etc. But after that, this movie drops on the level of "Armageddon": a mother has a number of sons, all of them died during the war, except one and the US military surely puts the life of half a dozen soldiers into peril to save that last one. Of course, that is completely logical.

The German soldiers, in the contrary, don't seem to have mothers or anyone who cares about them, they are ugly, lean-mean-killing machines, shouting incomprehensible things and should be killed wherever possible. They are also not just as scared as any other simple soldier on a battle field, they don't have any feelings at all.

So, what could have been a great movie, with all the money spent for and stars on it, playing in the same league as "All quiet on the Western Front" gets to be completely pathetic, unrealistic, super-patriotic and one-sided. Steven Spielberg once said that he often didn't feel he was a "real" American and was left-out because of him being Jewish and that the past of his family haunts him. It is ok to feel that way and I wish him he will finally get rid of both feelings. But on the other hand he also was left out of getting an "Oscar" until "Schindler's List." That was a well done movie, but on the long run it seems it didn't do Spielberg too good. Somewhere he must have come to the conclusion that doing movies about WWII helps him overcome his problems and making them patriotic will help him getting an Oscar.

If you are interested in a realistic look on war, watch "All quiet on the Western Front" or "Das Boot."
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Morally Weak Film Based on Flawed Sentimentality
Oslo Jargo (Bartok Kinski)22 September 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Saving Private Ryan, Spielberg's continued descent into narrow, arrogant, low-brow revisionism, is at best a languid patriotic trump-calling movie with nothing better to do than applaud the "glorious, morally superior American armed forces", who were in actuality nothing but teenage thugs who beat German prisoners and raped French women and looted European cities.

He starts off with Kleenex totting bravery and then leads us into brutal images that have no other point than to entertain the violent video game minded geeks of American malls, he then regresses into heavy handed sentimentality that leads the viewer to conclude that Americans were all "good guys". This is not the case, history has shown us so. Americans, for all their good intentions in World War 2, were just as loathsome as the Nazis, they had a deep segregationist attitude in the States which killed people because of skin color, arrested and imprisoned innocent, hard working Japanese people and locked them in concentration camps, kept black soldiers in separate units which often were the lowliest positions, fire bombed non-tactical European cities, most notably Dresden, hired former Nazis to combat the "communist threat" and finally, dropped two atomic bombs upon an innocent Japanese civilian population.

And after the war, things got even worse, the "Red Hunt", which resembled the trials in Nazi Germany in the 1930's occurred under a madman named McCarthy. So if you want to be blindly led by Spielberg's glorious war message that is simply propaganda, then by all means do and watch this film which has no redeeming qualities.

It is truly amazing that people unaccustomed to great films should reveal this one to be the "best wars film ever" as if no capable director had ever attempted to bring the horror and stupidity of war to the screen. Perhaps, instead of giving Spielberg the automatic credit of creating the war genre, they should go out and rent "Come and See" (Russian), The Burmese Harp (1967), Fires on the Plain (1959) or Paths of Glory (1957), truly far superior films to this Hollywood-bastardization and candy treatment of war. There is absolutely no plot in this uneven film and the whole landing at D-Day, according to Spielberg, was in some way just a side show to saving "Private Ryan". With such a simplistic statement, it is easy to see why most reviewers revel in the sense that 'action, action, action' is equated with 'greatness'. I only guess that because they must be entertained that directors continue to keep punching out such opportunistic filth. While most viewers, who are safely tucked away in their houses, waving American flags and discharging a few tears, saying, "You German scum! You German scum!" can truly appreciate blood and guts as "cinema" then there is a market for it. After you get through the puerile premise, then you can sit back, have a few beers and watch heads explode in the carnage that has no intellectual meaning and is the most cliché-driven rubbish that has ever been produced.

The scenes themselves are overdrawn, stolen from previous war films from the 1950's, namely the Longest Day (1962) which was a great film in itself. The beach landing is too long, and it shows only the Americans as "heroic" while the Germans are seen as "evil Hun scum". Tom Hanks, in his most idiotic and candid self, seems out of place as a leader of a bunch of rejects that are entrusted to save Private Ryan and in one completely absurd scene, the remaining 15 Americans defeat a battle hardened, superiorly trained SS special unit group with just a few guns. Now, if you know anything about history, then you would know that the SS were not an "easy group" to defeat, they were some of the most fanatical and well-trained soldiers of the German Reich but since Spielberg thinks we all are just a bunch of idiots, he'll continue to manufacture such inconsistent story lines.

This is only a tear jerker movie and it does nothing else, I would suggest watching "Hell Is for Heroes" (1962) with Steve McQueen, because it is a lot better and we don't have to be forced to carry an American flag at the end.
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People should know the facts.
deatman824 August 2001
Especially that Joe guy below. There is a big difference between an ordinary German soldier and a Nazi. Ordinary soldiers fought for their country, just like the Americans. They thought it and their lives were in danger, just like the Americans. Many Americans found out their enemy was just like them.

Now, people the belonged to the Nazi party, and their own personal military, the SS, were the ones who killed the countless number of Jews.

Anyway, this movie was much overrated. It really does demonize the Germans. I mean, my father was one of those men and they suffered as well. All he wanted was for Hitler to die and for the war to end.
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I have some things to say here.
Julian Reischl11 October 1998
Before I saw the film, I have read the comments. Many of You liked Spielberg's new movie. But some of You, mostly from the U.S., write things like "proud to be an American" or "part of American History" or "every American should see this movie".

First of all, I want to say that this war must have been pure terror. National Socialism was an indescribably evil disgrace to humanity. Many of You have grandparents who fought proudly against the Germans in World War II, but I (as a 25-year old German) and others have Grandparents who were bombed out of their homes at night and could not get a whole night's sleep ever since. My parents were born during the war, their first baby-impressions were gunshots and explosions - for years! Nowadays, in Germany it still is common to find old, still explodable bombs when building a new house.

Second, this is not American history, it is not German history, it is World history - Our history. It is the blackest spot ever to be found in the history of the human race.

Third: I don't mean to be rude, but I think that many people have lost the connection to reality. In the first place, making a war movie has two major aspects: Making money (bad) and Reviving History for educational purposes (respectable). But then, feeling history is completely different. In my very neighbourhood, there was a Concentration Camp, only some 53 years ago. I have been to that beach in France, and let me tell You: Just seeing the sea, the sand, the dunes really scared me rigid. Talking with my grandma (she led a baby nursing home in that time), that's history. Just sitting in a movie theatre, listening to SDDS and watching Tom Hanks cry is a different experience.

What I want to state here is that there is quite a difference between a movie (may it be as realistic as possible) and real history. This really happened! Millions of people were slaughtered in the most cruel ways! By other people! When I go to my University building, I see the holes in the wall which have been there since the war. They have never been repaired in order to give people something to think about. From exactly that building, Sophie Scholl and her friends threw Anit-Nazi papers into the crowd and got executed only a short time later.

I think the film is quite accurate, actually. It is not the most impressive war film I have ever seen (that's "The Bridge" from 1959), but it shows how the war was like. In all aspects. Anyway, how can war films be "good" or "best"? "Saving Private Ryan" is an exceptional educational masterpiece, it should be recommended together with "Schindler's List", but it is only a movie. It cannot replace reality.

So, I recommend this: Watch the movie, everyone! But also think about the real people of any nation that were cruelly murdered in those years, and think about those who lived through it. Even think of those who were with the regime and still walk the earth. Then, book a ticket for Europe, see the Normandie for yourself, see Berlin, see Dresden, see Munich, see the wounds of history. And see that being German is not the same as being a Nazi. After You get home to wherever You come from, I promise, You then will have a different view of reality.
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Pretty bad history
the_bike1 September 2003
Warning: Spoilers
I was hoping for an accurate war film for a change (take a look at the Battle of the Bulge for a really bad example). What Spielberg shows us in his Omaha Beach scenes makes me wonder

which Omaha Beach assault he is trying to portray. Those who know little about the battle (that's almost everyone who's in the theater) probably now have the idea that every other soldier who landed on the beach before noon was either blown to smithereens or badly wounded.

Believe me, the 1st and 29th Divisions would have been annihilated if it

were as bad as it's portrayed and would never have been able to scale the cliffs and rout the enemy by early afternoon, which they did. I wonder, for example, how wide most viewers think Omaha beach actually was. In the film it looks about a couple hundred yards. It was, in actuality, almost ten miles wide. The timing was also inaccurate - Hanks goes up the cliffs at what appears to be 8AM. Nobody made it before 11AM. Another historical error is the implication that the events at Omaha were similar to those on the other four assualt beaches (Juno, Sword, Gold and Utah). That's totally incorrect. Utah Beach, for example, the other US assault beach, took about a dozen casualties - many of those due to accidents during the landing rather than from enemy action. But the worst part of the movie was the completely idiotic script. Here we have the US Army sending a squad(a squad!!!) to march straight thru the entire German 7th Army (something two Divisions, with total air superiority couldn't do for weeks), waltz around an area of 300 square miles, and expect to find a guy named Ryan. If they wanted to do any of this nonsense, the Army would have sent them in on the gliders that flew into the area the very next morning. "Gliders, what gliders"? said Spielberg. That's what happens when you have a scriptwriter who doesn't know very much about his subject. A stupid, stupid film. What a waste of $100M or so.
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WAR, huh, what is it good for?
stew020320 March 2001
This is one of the single worst films I have ever seen. Spielberg was, once again, intoxicated by his own sense of patriotic splendour. The first major flaw in this film struck me the first time I saw it. I was in the theater and began to ask myself, "How could Ryan remember the D-Day invasion when in fact he was never there?"

Now, honestly, how did Spielberg expect to get away with that one? It was never explained or followed up in any way. Secondly, how did he expect to get away with portraying the Germans as mindless, blood-thirsty grunts? "Well they were, weren't they?" says the blindly patriotic american. This aspect of the film is a disgrace to Germans and more importantly to the brain-washed americans. Finally, I would just like to point out the fact that this was not a war to rescue individual men in order to preserve their family line. This film makes a mockery of WWII by completely misrepresenting it. The only aspect that was accurately portrayed was the violence, which sadly enough drew many people to the film. Two thumbs down!
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PrinceGonzo2 September 2006
When I saw this movie in 1998 (in England), it was a big disappointment for me in many ways. As not mentioned here for the first time, the first 20 min of the film are technically impressive. What follows then, is just stupid, one-sided and is - at least from the viewpoint of a German - invidious. I cannot understand that a man with over 50 years of life experience (Steven Spielberg) can make such a stupid film about second world war in 1998, or my explanation is that this man has no character. The second disappointment, perhaps the bigger one, were the reports that in the United States this movie was received with overwhelming applause and ecstatic feelings of patriotism. This is only a film, but it also tells you something about what people really think. Before that, I had thought the Americans were (at least since 50 years) our friends. After this film and especially the reception of the film by the broader audience in the USA (as I had read about it in newspapers and magazines), I thought: they may be our collaborators in many ways, but they are not our friends.
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Big Movie, Little Mind.
Sovrien30 December 1998

I thought that this Movie was going to be a masterpiece. Topping those great Anti-War films of "Apocalypse Now" "The Boat" and "All quiet on the Western Front"

But alas! What am I to expect from America? The Truth? NEVER!

Yet another great, expensive war film, where the Germans fight like Italians, TOTALLY arrogant to anyone else. I mean HONESTLY an American flag at the start and at the end. Showing the American and French flags. The ENGLISH and CANADIANS DID land on Normandy too. The only reference to anyone else is an insulting comment about Monty.

The Germans may have suffered a bit more on the eastern front than the Americans in France, but that doesn't matter because they were on the wicked side.

This is the kind of film simply made to win another Oscar for Speilbergs already crowded shelf. Not a ground breacker, not a truthful film. NOT even historically correct!!

1. Radar was a TOTAL secret. No American privates or captains would have ANY idea of what Radar was.

2. Germans, especially those of the SS, would NEVER be stupid enough to attack a ruined village with Tanks first. It was common military knowledge for both sides.

3. The P-51 D mustang, which blows up the Tiger Tanks on the bridge, were NEVER tank destroyers, they were only used as long range bomber escorts during the invasion. The only Tank destroyers being employed at that time were BRITISH. NOT AMERICAN. So of course the Americans would take out this imperfect feature.

Frankly, if you're American, you can go get your gun an' feel patriotic once again, as you have done with "The dirty Dozen" "Where Eagles Dare".

If you're not American, avoid this, and stick to "The Boat" for your WWII viewing.
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