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510 reviews in total 
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King Kong (1933)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Monumental, influential and still entertaining after all these years, 23 August 2014

In 1933 King Kong was a sensation and it is easy to see why. To the jaded modern eye the film may appear quite ordinary. But it was a marvel of its time, a massive achievement, a film which changed films forever. And dated though it may be it still has the capacity to entertain all these years later. Yes, the dialogue may be hokey. The acting may be hammy. And the visual effects, so revolutionary for their time, seem laughably primitive in this age of computerized effects wizardry. But the film still works. It has old-school charm, a simple story which grabs you and a truly legendary monster. Better effects don't necessarily make for a better movie as Michael Bay proves on a regular basis. You need a story, you need that hook, you need something actually worth caring about. This movie has those things. And that is why King Kong still fascinates us today.

The very simple, but engaging, story follows Carl Denham, a filmmaker who leads a party sailing from New York to film...something. Somewhere. He won't tell anyone where they're going or why. This secrecy understandably makes it difficult to secure a leading lady for his film. Denham plucks young, beautiful Ann Darrow off the street. Starving, unemployed, with nothing to lose Ann agrees to go off on this mysterious voyage. Her presence aboard the ship annoys first mate Jack Driscoll who believes a ship is no place for a dame. But Jack inevitably falls in love with her, maybe because she's beautiful, probably because the plot requires him to. There needs to be a hero to rush in and save Ann when she's a damsel in distress. And boy will there ever be distress.

So after much stilted dialogue and, from Robert Armstrong playing Denham in particular, some seriously hammy acting the voyage reaches its destination. It's a mysterious island somewhere around Indonesia inhabited by a small tribe of primitive natives. But Denham's not here for them. He's here for the island's other inhabitant. Kong. The giant, prehistoric ape is no mythical creature. He's all too real as Ann will find out when she manages to get herself captured by the natives and offered up as a gift to the great beast. But a funny thing happens. The beast loves the beauty. And will do anything to protect her. And protect her he must because Kong is not the only giant, prehistoric creature on this island. Kong battles one giant monster after another. All the while Driscoll is racing through the jungle trying to reach and rescue the woman he loves. After some more monster battles and a Kong rampage through the poor native village we find ourselves back in New York. Yes, rather sudden and jarring it is. Snap your fingers and Kong is on Broadway, setting up one of the most famous endings in film history.

There are certainly things you can quibble with in King Kong. The dialogue, even allowing for the time the film was made, is impossibly corny. Armstrong's hamming it up grows tiresome very quickly. And there is the sense that once we meet Kong the story somewhat gets lost. From there it's all about visual effects, the monsters take over the movie. When Kong battles the T-Rex it's thrilling. But then he has to battle another monster. And another one. And it gets rather repetitive. The effects team did such a great job bringing Kong to life I suppose you can't blame the filmmakers for wanting to show off a bit. But as Kong rampages throughout the last half of the film you can't help but think maybe the humans in this story could've had a little more to do. Fay Wray more than earns her scream queen designation here as she plays Ann. But she probably was capable of doing more than looking pretty and screaming her lungs out. Maybe the love affair between Ann and Driscoll could have been explored further, maybe during the long journey back to New York which we never got to see. But of course Kong was always going to be the star of this movie. They don't call him King for no reason. And he is quite the movie monster. But a monster with heart. And the filmmakers make you believe in him. You believe this giant monster really exists. And you also believe he really loves Ann. When the monster's heart breaks your heart breaks for him. The technological wizardry that brings Kong to life is astounding. In 1933 nobody had ever seen anything quite like it. Decades later the effects may seem mundane. But in its time producing this film was a magnificent achievement. You can nitpick and say that King Kong, while certainly a good film, is for this reason or that maybe not a truly great film. But there is no denying that is an absolutely monumental, iconic film. Some great films come and go and end up largely forgotten. Icons live forever. Kong remains King.

Bride Wars (2009)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
The chick flick from hell, 21 August 2014

Bride Wars is an unabashed chick flick. You know going in that if you're a guy you're probably not going to enjoy this one. But after sitting through it it's hard to see how anyone could possibly enjoy this quite wretched movie. If you're making a chick flick shouldn't you produce something chicks might enjoy? Nobody is getting any enjoyment out of this tripe.

Emma and Liv, played by Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson respectively, are lifelong best friends who both share a dream. Since childhood they've been obsessed with having June weddings at New York's famed Plaza hotel. Now they're all grown up, their respective fiancées have both proposed and their dreams are about to come true. But an unfortunate clerical error sees both their weddings scheduled on the same day. And the two women dig in their heels, each refusing to move her date. War is declared, Emma and Liv each go to outrageous extremes in attempts to sabotage the other's wedding. Sadly none of this is at all funny. In this supposed comedy nothing genuinely funny ever happens. Hathaway and Hudson give it game efforts but they really have nothing to work with, the script is just dreadful. And the two stars are burdened with carrying the whole movie themselves as the men just stand idly by and watch the women go nuts. The movie tries to toss in some character development. The passive, people-pleasing Emma needs to become more confident. The headstrong, controlling Liv needs to let go. This theme is painfully obvious and is belabored to the point of sheer tedium. The two main characters never end up being relatable, embraceable or particularly likable. And if you don't like Emma and Liv there's no way you'll like the movie. There's nothing else there for you to grab onto. It's not funny, it's not charming, it's not interesting. It's less a movie and more a 90-minute Vera Wang commercial. And who wants to watch that?

Alien³ (1992)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
What a mess, 13 August 2014

In addition to being a quite terrible movie Alien³ also manages to completely undercut the legacy of the previous films in the series. If you liked Aliens, and were happy with the way that film ended, you certainly won't want to watch Alien³. The very first thing this movie does is completely ruin the ending of Aliens. Whose bright idea was that? Heaven only knows whose idea that really was as there were so many people who had a hand in producing this awful film. With so much studio interference director David Fincher never had a chance. This film was always going to be a mess. No wonder Fincher would ultimately disown the film. It's not his film. It's nobody's film. It's just a bunch of disparate ideas, most of them terrible, slapped together to produce two hours of misery.

Since I was not particularly a fan of the first two Alien films I don't find this one as much of an insult as I imagine fans of the series would. You don't really have to take in the whole scope of the Alien series to understand just how awful this movie really is though. Taken on its own merits...well, actually it has no merits. There is really nothing good to say about this movie. Maybe if you're being generous you could say it provides a decent resolution to Ripley's story arc. But what a painful slog it is in getting to that resolution. No excitement, no drama. The story is weak, the dialogue is laughably bad, the performances are by and large terrible. Sigourney Weaver again has some nice presence to her as she reprises the famous role of Ripley. But everything which surrounds her disappoints. The flimsy story sees Ripley land on a penal colony inhabited by all-male inmates with a history of extreme physical and sexual violence. Not a great place for a woman then. But wait, these prisoners have been redeemed! Sort of. They're following some kooky, made-up quasi-religion. One inmate, Dillon, is more or less the leader. His preaching keeps the guys in line but that preaching comes across as much more corny than powerful. Anyhow, turns out Ripley brought an Alien with her because of course she did. Chaos ensues, we get a bunch of largely incoherent action sequences with a bunch of bald guys we can't tell apart running around willy-nilly. And eventually the movie ends. There's really not much more to it than that. The whole thing has more than a touch of incoherence to it. It's really quite a mess. But when you understand the behind the scenes shenanigans that were going on you realize there was never any way it was going to be anything but a mess. With the weak material he had Fincher was never going to be able to fashion a good movie here. But left to his own devices he surely could have come up with something at least marginally better than this. As it is Alien³ is just an awful, awful movie.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A script is an important thing, 7 August 2014

Dancing at the Blue Iguana is a movie which comes out of an improvisation workshop. Director Michael Radford allowed the members of his cast to develop their own characters, their own story lines and dialogue. Then Radford tied all that together into some semblance of a script and started shooting. Well, he tried to tie it together anyway. But unsurprisingly the end product is pretty much a complete mess. We follow the stories of a handful of strippers. They dance at the Blue Iguana but what is going on in their lives when they're not writhing around on stage having dollar bills tossed in their general direction? All the clichéd roles are here. We get to know the smart stripper. And the dumb stripper. And the underage stripper. And the pregnant stripper. And the stripper who's in an incestuous relationship with her brother. OK, maybe that last one isn't much of a cliché. Happily we spend very little time exploring that particular storyline because that would surely make for rather uncomfortable viewing. Does anything in the movie make for entertaining viewing? Not really. None of the various story lines are particularly compelling on their own and when you add them all up the pieces never fit. It never comes together, the whole movie is so unfocused. There's a bizarre subplot about a Russian assassin thrown in for no particular reason. No, his presence does not make any sense whatsoever. Nothing much in the film does. If there is any star, so to speak, in this ensemble piece it is Daryl Hannah. She plays the dumb one. Her story resolves around her attempts to become a foster mother. Suffice to say she's not really cut out for that gig. Sandra Oh makes a bit of an impression playing the smart one, a stripper poet. The rest of the cast, and the rest of the characters, are quite forgettable. This was an interesting experiment in movie making. But ultimately not an interesting movie.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
God is a funny guy, 6 August 2014

Jim Carrey plays Bruce Nolan, a down-on-his-luck Buffalo TV reporter for whom things just never seem to go right. Soon after we meet him Bruce is passed over for the big promotion to the anchor desk. He reacts...poorly. And gets himself fired. Who does Bruce blame for this latest misfortune? God. Well, God isn't going to take that lying down. God summons Bruce to an empty warehouse. Hey, if you're God where else would you rather hang out than an empty warehouse in Buffalo? Anyhow Bruce doesn't particularly believe the strange man he meets in the warehouse is God. But God has his ways of convincing Bruce. Turns out God is a bit of a showoff when it comes to using his powers. And now he is going to give those powers to Bruce. If Bruce thought God was doing a bad job well here's his chance to prove he can do it better.

So being given all of God's powers seems like a pretty good deal. And Bruce wastes no time putting those powers to good use. He is able to impress his girlfriend in all sorts of ways. He's able to sabotage his rival and get that anchor job he so coveted. He's even able to get his dog to stop peeing on the furniture. All well and good but all these things he's doing are just for his own personal benefit. When you're God you have to look out for everyone. There are a lot of prayers out there waiting to be answered. Bruce is more than a tad overwhelmed and inevitably he makes a mess of things. And that mess extends to his personal life. Issues with the girlfriend arise. Well that's easy to solve when you're God, just snap your fingers and make her love you again right? Nope, not even God can mess with free will. Turns out being God is no fun if you've lost the love of your life.

As with any Jim Carrey comedy there are plenty of antics from the star. Nothing over-the-top though. And, it must be said, nothing that's really outrageously funny either. This is an amusing movie but not a hilarious one. But what it may lack in huge laughs it makes up for with charm. Carrey is very endearing. Jennifer Aniston does well with the role of Bruce's girlfriend, Grace. Aniston doesn't get many chances to showcase her comedy chops, those moments are pretty much reserved for Carrey. But she's so charming, eminently lovable. And Morgan Freeman is the perfect God. Sly, witty, but with the sense of authority required of someone who is, you know, God. Maybe Bruce Almighty could have been just a touch funnier. Maybe the movie lays it on a bit thick with its efforts to show that Bruce has really learned something. Most people aren't looking for life lessons with their comedy. But the movie does have significant charms. Bruce Nolan is a guy worth rooting for. The love he has with Grace is worth fighting for. And his attempts to play God are worth enough laughs to enable this movie to succeed.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Incoherent, depressing mess, 25 July 2014

Past film adaptations of Bret Easton Ellis novels have been well received. So, with Ellis on board as screenwriter, you could see where stars like Billy Bob Thornton, Kim Basinger, Mickey Rourke and Winona Ryder would have been attracted to The Informers. Unfortunately for all involved, including Ellis who would pretty much disown the movie after its release, the script was handed to director Gregor Jordan. And Jordan made a complete mess of it. He wanted to take things in a darker direction. Well, he succeeded in making it dark. He didn't succeed in anything else. He ended up making a truly awful movie.

The film unfolds in early 1980s Los Angeles. It's a sex, drugs and rock and roll story. For brevity's sake, let's just say that everyone is sleeping with everyone else. That's pretty much accurate. It's an ensemble piece with a whole bunch of characters, none of whom you actually end up caring about. All these characters have their own stories which are in some cases loosely intertwined, in some cases not intertwined at all and thus ultimately pointless. Thornton and Basinger just mail in their performances, they're totally lifeless. Rourke's character is a waste of time, he's only in one of those completely pointless subplots. Ryder really has only a bit part. These older stars may draw the attention but the film's story focuses more on the younger generation. Nobody in this younger crowd stands out as being particularly interesting, none of the performances rise above the mundane. They have some sex, then we cut back to one of the other story lines, then we come back to them again and they have more sex. If nothing else at least Amber Heard, playing a young woman who gets passed around like a used handkerchief, looks spectacular. So there's that.

The only character who comes across as truly sympathetic is a young doorman, Jack, played by Brad Renfro. If any performer comes away from this film with any credit at all it's Renfro, playing a guy struggling to deal with the shady doings of his uncle, the Rourke character. Unfortunately Renfro's performance largely goes for naught as this story really doesn't tie into the main plot at all. Honestly though saying this film has a main plot is probably giving it too much credit. There is no real story tying this thing together. Too much time is wasted on characters who serve no purpose. There's a drugged-out rock singer who likes to sleep with young girls. There's a guy on the world's most awkward vacation in Hawaii with his dad. What do these characters have to do with anything? Nothing. Nothing at all. The film is just a jumbled, largely incoherent, mess. And then it just ends. No resolution. All these stories, no endings. On the one hand you're grateful it's over because you certainly don't want to watch this film any longer. On the other hand you're left feeling insulted that you wasted any time at all watching this pointless film which was ultimately going nowhere.

Titanic (1997)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Tragic tale, triumphant film, 17 July 2014

Titanic is now a film which people go out of their way to dismiss. Being contemptuous towards the film is the fashionable thing to do. Admitting you like the film marks you as being desperately uncool. Yes, the Titanic-mania of 1997-98 was a bit much. The box office records, the 11 some point people said enough was enough. But this is a film not so easily dismissed. Perhaps it was not worthy of the unprecedented frenzy which surrounded it. But it certainly does not deserve the derision it has received. It is a very solid film. A compelling story, beautiful visuals, stellar performances...this film has much to recommend it. James Cameron risked a lot to bring his vision of Titanic to the screen. The risks paid off. Titanic is great entertainment, truly captivating, at times legitimately thrilling. It's not a perfect movie, maybe it falls a touch short of true greatness but only by the thinnest of margins. All the hype, and all the eventual backlash, can't obscure the fact that this is indeed a very good movie.

Of course this film is ultimately destined to turn tragic. But the film is not so much about the sinking of a ship. It is a love story. A very unique, heartwarming love story. A story about a young woman who found the love of her life. And found herself. All in the span of a few days aboard the ill-fated Titanic. Part of the film's charm is that this woman, Rose, tells us her story herself. 101 years old when we meet her Rose takes us back to the Titanic. And with her words she brings the great ship, and its passengers, back to life. One of those passengers is Cal, an arrogant man to whom, much to her chagrin, Rose is engaged. Her family needs Cal's money. Rose does not love him but family, and society, dictate she must marry this rather reprehensible man. But then things take a turn. Rose, in unusual and potentially embarrassing circumstances, meets Jack Dawson. While Rose enjoys first-class splendor Jack is a man from another world. A third-class passenger, no money to his name, no standing in society. Jack has no place in Rose's world. But, rather inevitably, Rose decides she wants a place in Jack's world. Yes, it is one of those scarcely believable stories in which a woman falls madly in love with a man she just met. But in her heart Rose knows. Jack is the one. She must follow her heart. She will throw away her privileged life to be with the man she loves. Unfortunately Cal is not going to give her up easily. But before this conflict can play itself out an iceberg intervenes.

The love story of Rose and Jack is easy to embrace, especially when you contrast Jack, so good-hearted, with the vile Cal. Leonardo DiCaprio performs the role of Jack very well, making you believe there is so much more to this guy than is readily apparent. Jack is no ordinary third-class nobody and DiCaprio captures this unique individual wonderfully. But for as good as DiCaprio is it is Kate Winslet who is the real star here. Rose goes on an incredible journey of personal growth and Winslet nails it every step of the way. Rose is radiant, smart, witty and ultimately heroic. Winslet brings all those characteristics to the screen perfectly. Rose finds she is stronger, in so many ways, than she ever imagined. It takes a great actress to evolve along with such a character. And Winslet is clearly a great actress. For as good as DiCaprio and Winslet are in the two key roles the performance of Billy Zane as Cal, the main antagonist, leaves much to be desired. Zane takes Cal's villainy to cartoonish levels, by the end it's impossible to take the character seriously. Spitting his lines rather than speaking them Zane seems absolutely desperate for attention. Unfortunately the attention he brings upon himself is that of sticking out like a sore thumb in an otherwise stellar cast. Cal had to be evil to make the film's story work. But Zane overplays it so badly you half expect to find out that it was Cal who steered the ship into the iceberg and that he did it on purpose.

Zane aside the rest of the supporting cast is excellent. While the lead characters are fictional there are many true-life figures aboard the ship. Some, such as ship builder Thomas Andrews, come across very well. Others, such as White Star Line managing director J. Bruce Ismay, do not. Whether those they portray are ultimately heroic, or quite the opposite, the cast by and large do an excellent job bringing these historical figures to life. And Cameron, with a great visual sense, beautiful sets, and state of the art effects, brings the ship to life. Titanic sails again. For the film to really work you had to believe you were really aboard a ship steaming across the Atlantic. Cameron makes it happen. We're right on board, right there with the passengers as they embrace the ship's majesty. And right there with them as the ship sinks to the bottom of the ocean. It is the love story which is at the heart of the film's success. But the sinking of the ship is spectacular, both haunting and thrilling. Perhaps the most fun sequence in the film comes when Rose wanders down to third-class where a raucous party is in full swing. We know that nearly all of those passengers are doomed. But Rose ensures they will not be forgotten. In telling us her story she tells us theirs as well. Through her Cameron has given a voice to all who were lost on that tragic night. Titanic is a film not without its flaws. But it is a film journey well worth taking. Three hours fly by as we follow the first, and last, journey of the great ship.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
New kind of hero, new kind of movie, 14 July 2014

A mysterious stranger, The Man With No Name, wanders into a little Mexican border town. It's a nothing town really, virtually deserted. It's certainly not a town worth fighting over. But fight over it the two leading families in town do, the Rojos and the Baxters contesting a blood feud for control of the town. The Man With No Name quickly inserts himself into the middle of this conflict. Why take sides when you can play both sides against each other and make some serious money while you're at it? Of course playing both sides is a dangerous game. But it is a game this hero is very well equipped to play. The Man With No Name is not a man to be messed with.

Clint Eastwood does so well in his portrayal of The Man With No Name, a new kind of hero. Maybe he's not really a hero at all. Does a hero kill men who did nothing more than insult his mule? Of course The Man With No Name is very much the hero when contrasted with the real villains of the story. The Baxters certainly aren't saints but it's the unspeakably evil Rojos who are the really bad guys here. Our hero must deal with them but all in good time. He can use them for his own benefit first. The story lurches from one shootout to the next. The town's coffin maker is doing a very brisk business. As the bodies pile up The Man With No Name stands in the middle. He's not your typical hero who's set out to save the world. But what, if anything other than money, is he ultimately playing at? And how many will die before the mystery man wanders out of town?

There really is not very much to the story, it's exceptionally simple. The Man With No Name lights the fuse on the simmering Baxter-Rojo feud and carnage ensues. Eastwood's performance is fantastic, bringing to life this mysterious character. It's hard to judge the other performers as they're mostly left to the mercy of the film's dubbing which ranges from being at times passable to sadly often being laughably terrible. There is also the sense that the Rojos are maybe a little too evil for the film's good, unbelievably cartoonish at times. Listening to them laughing hysterically as they murder innocent, defenseless people in cold blood becomes tough to take after a while. So many shootouts in the film, it does become a tad repetitive. Some of these scenes are undeniably dramatic. Others, notably one scene which takes place in a cemetery, come across as a little silly. Director Sergio Leone has some interesting pieces here but he did not quite manage to put those pieces together into an ultimately satisfying whole. Visually the film looks very good, certainly no quibbles with the work Leone did there. But the film is let down a bit by its story. It has a fascinating character at its heart but not everything which surrounds that one great character works. But there is enough here to intrigue you, to make you wonder where The Man With No Name may go next. Leone created a different kind of Western. Maybe he didn't get it perfectly right the first time out. But this was only the beginning, there would be so much more to come.

The Swan (1956)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Grace Kelly, the perfect swan, 10 July 2014

Swans are beautiful, elegant creatures. So who better to portray the human embodiment of a swan than the beautiful, elegant Grace Kelly? Our story unfolds in 1910 with Kelly playing young Princess Alexandra, a minor royal in some fictional European nation. Her family's fortune has faded and her mother desperately desires for Alexandra to marry the heir to the throne, Prince Albert, and thus restore her family to the throne they lost. Prince Albert is Alexandra's cousin but don't mind that because marrying your cousin was quite the royal thing to do at the time. As it turns out Albert is a bit of an odd duck. He has rejected many potential brides and now he has come to call on Alexandra to see if perhaps she is the one. But the prince's social awkwardness sinks this romance before it ever starts. Alexandra isn't exactly warm and loving either, a bit of an ice princess. As the would-be romance founders Alexandra's desperate mother hatches a plot.

The mother urges her daughter to show an interest in Nicholas, who tutors Alexandra's younger brothers. Nicholas is a nice enough guy, but a commoner, certainly not a real romantic possibility for a princess. He is just to be used to hopefully make Prince Albert jealous. But Nicholas doesn't know this. He's been carrying a torch for Alexandra all along and now he thinks he's got his big chance. Complications ensue, suffice to say things don't really go according to plan for anyone involved. At least here the drama picks up a bit, prior to this the film had been a little bit flat and mundane. While there are some decent comedic moments sprinkled throughout there aren't nearly enough laughs to make the film work as a comedy. So for the film to succeed the story has to really grab you. The drama has to be compelling and for much of the film it is really not. Kelly is terrific in a role which suits her perfectly. And Alec Guinness is reliably excellent in playing Prince Albert. But just as the romance between their two characters never sparks to life so too does the movie lack a certain energy. A reasonably engaging, enjoyable film but it leaves you wanting more. The film's somewhat surprising conclusion is a bit of a letdown as well. At least that ending provides an explanation for why Alexandra is thought of as a swan. The comparison between the beautiful bird and the beautiful woman works well. The movie as a whole does not work nearly as perfectly. A great vehicle for the lovely Kelly, with some good work from Guinness and Louis Jourdan, playing the tutor, as well. But the excellent performers could have done so much more had they had a more engrossing story to work with. Kelly is so good, and so radiant, that it is worth seeing the film for her alone. You're just left wishing the film had a little bit more to offer.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Real heroes in the real hell of war, 6 July 2014

If it is possible to make a majestic film about a hellish war Steven Spielberg has done so. With Saving Private Ryan Spielberg beautifully blends the arts of filmmaking and storytelling. With such an accomplished director at the helm it is no surprise that this is such a technically proficient film, that it looks so spectacular, so real. But this film is so much more than the stunning, often horrifying, visuals. This is a film with a magnificent, inspiring story. And Spielberg tells that story so well, taking you through the emotional wringer. Tom Hanks leads an outstanding cast, Janusz Kaminski's cinematography is breathtaking, John Williams provides a powerful and at times haunting score. And credit must also go to screenwriter Robert Rodat whose story is so incredibly compelling. So many people contributing so brilliantly to an absolutely fascinating film. Everyone did their part and Spielberg put all the pieces together perfectly.

The film begins on D-Day with the Normandy invasion which of course could be an entire film in and of itself. This sequence is unrelenting, Spielberg sparing nothing in his depiction of the inconceivable violence on Omaha Beach. Never has any film so brutally illustrated that war is indeed hell. Thousands of men bravely face what for so many must seem to be a certain death. As the bodies fall and blood turns the sea red Captain John Miller continues to push his company forward. They make a critical breakthrough but at such cost. Miller, and we, look down at the carnage below on the beach. So many men lay there, having made the ultimate sacrifice. The camera focuses in on one of the dead, on his backpack we see the name: S. Ryan. And we know that this film, even as it tells the tale of a conflict which engulfed the whole world, is going to tell a very personal story.

The Ryan we see lying on the beach is one of three Ryan brothers killed in action. A fourth Ryan brother, James, is missing in action having parachuted behind German lines. From Washington comes a very unusual, but very clear order. Captain John Miller is to find James Ryan. And send him home. Miller assembles a small unit from his company. Eight men will go out into the French countryside, still occupied by Germans mind you, to find and save Private Ryan. Eight men will risk their lives to save one. Suffice to say not all of the eight are particularly happy with this assignment. But orders are orders and off the men go, into the great unknown. No simple mission this. Danger lurks at every turn. Spielberg ratchets up the tension, keeping you on the edge of your seat. You care so much about these men because Spielberg, certainly with a great assist from screenwriter Rodat, has done such a fine job of allowing you to know them. These characters come fully formed. You feel you know them, really understand them, almost from the moment you first meet them. So many different personalities in the group. Credit of course must go to the actors portraying the squad, the performers bring these soldiers brilliantly to life. Hanks is the star, the leader, and he is excellent. But the other actors match him stride for stride. Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Barry Pepper, Adam Goldberg, Vin Diesel, Giovanni Ribisi and Jeremy Davies...none put a foot wrong. An amazing cast which does justice to an amazing story.

It is the story which really sets this film apart. It is a film about war but really it is a film about one man. But maybe that one man is not Private Ryan. Ryan plays his part but is this story really about Captain Miller? An ordinary man thrust into an extraordinary situation. A leader of men, doing his duty. Doing whatever is necessary to get his men, and himself, home. Hanks does such a terrific job portraying this man who remains an enigma even to his own men. Sometimes you get the sense he is an enigma to himself. He has lost the sense of who he is, or at least who he used to be. War will do that to you. The worldwide conflict is ultimately fought by individual men. And Spielberg allows you to get to know some of these men. Ryan and Miller. And Horvath, Reiben, Jackson, Mellish, Caparzo, Wade and Upham. Each has his own story to tell. And seeing each of their stories play out takes us back to the film's opening, to Omaha Beach. So many men died there. No film can tell every one of their stories. But with this film Spielberg has honored them all. A film of staggering scope and awesome power but with a personal touch. That Saving Private Ryan did not win the Best Picture Oscar is sad, quite frankly absurd. But honoring the film is not really important. Honoring the men who died so that we may be free is what really matters. And this film does just that.

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