Reviewed by: Jeff James
War in the Bible
What is the Biblical perspective on war? Answer
Armies in the Bible
FEAR, Anxiety and Worry… What does the Bible say? Answer
Death in the Bible
Burial in the Bible
PRAYER—Tips for new and growing Christians
Why aren’t my prayers answered? Answer
Prayer in the Bible
Why does God allow innocent people to suffer? Answer
What about the issue of suffering? Doesn’t this prove that there is no God and that we are on our own? Answer
Does God feel our pain? Answer
ORIGIN OF BAD—How did bad things come about? Answer
Tom Hanks … Captain Miller
Tom Sizemore … Sergeant Horvath
Edward Burns … Private Reiben
Vin Diesel … Private Caparzo
Giovanni Ribisi … T-4 Medic Wade
Matt Damon … Private Ryan
Ted Danson … Captain Hamill
Paul Giamatti … Sergeant Hill
Bryan Cranston … War Department Colonel
Barry Pepper … Private Jackson
Adam Goldberg … Private Mellish
Jeremy Davies … Corporal Upham
Dennis Farina … Lieutenant Colonel Anderson
Nathan Fillion … Minnesota Ryan
See all »
|Producer||Amblin Entertainment, DreamWorks SKG, Mark Gordon Productions, Mutual Film Company, Paramount Pictures, Steven Spielberg, See all »|
“In the last great invasion of the last great war, the greatest danger for eight men was saving… one.”
Everything you’ve heard about this film is true. It’s devastating, moving, scary. No other movie has moved me to such a point of reflection as “Saving Private Ryan”. Steven Spielberg has created a bookend to his masterpiece, “Schindler’s List”, both films set in World War 2, posing the question, “How valuable is human life?” In this movie, it’s “one life.” As we sit and listen to our grandfathers' stories of what it was like in the second world war, we try our hardest to picture young boys huddled in trenches, holding their weapon tightly, wishing to God they would make it through the day without getting wounded. When we think of Normandy, and the old news footage comes to mind—thousands of troops, ships, zeplins, and armored vehicles rolling onto the beach and ultimately deep into France. To aid in our attempt at realizing war for ourselves, we turn to movies which, and veterans would easily agree, have been sanitized for the public. No one would dare show what it was really like. It’s just too much.
They said this about the Holocaust. It was too overwhelming to show to the public. But the greatest filmmaker of our time shrugged it off and set out to unleash a poetic and disturbing film. He picked up an Academy Award for his candor.
Folks, I openly say he’s done it again only this time, we see the reverse of the coin. Spielberg and his team have produced a movie that is beyond veracity, beyond frankness, beyond candor. They brilliantly pull the viewer into the screen and onto the beaches of Normandy, and the only way out is to get up and physically leave the theater. You WILL be there. The visual and aural accuracy is so real, your other senses will kick in. you’ll smell the fire hot metal of mortar and bullets as they whiz past your head. you’ll tense up as explosions rattle your chair and shake your inards. you’re throat will tighten as characters you’ve learned to identify with are mercilessly killed.
There is no movie that can compare, no other feeling on Earth that will shock you as this movie does. That is, unless you actually fought in the war. It is disturbing, it is ferocious, it is unyielding, it is absolute hell on Earth. And, in your mind, you’ll swear up and down that it’s real.
Two-time Oscar-Winner, Tom Hanks, plays Captain Miller—a real human being. He’s a leader and a poet, and he’s about as nervous and scared as everyone else. Brilliant performance. Tom Sizemore (who I think deserves a Best-Supporting Oscar) is Miller’s number one; a tough guy, but not as cliché as you’d expect. Matt Damon is the title character, Private Ryan. We don’t see him until the last hour of the movie. The plot is simple: Miller must find Private Ryan somewhere behind enemy-lines and get him out of there so the boy can go home to see his mother. Why should these eight men risk their lives so one can catch a free ride home? Easy: his three brothers were killed within days of each other and the top brass has to tell Mrs. Ryan her boys are dead. But one may still be alive. That’s why Miller must lead his troops and find Ryan at all cost. Not so easy.
The movie begins with the Normandy Invasion on Omaha Beach—D-Day. It lasts for a tense, arm-chair-grabbing, averting-the-eyes, thirty minutes. It is perhaps THE greatest portrayal of modern warfare captured on film. After the push, Miller is assigned to find Ryan and we are allowed to meet and identify with the eight men of the platoon. Along the way, there are some cameos of famous actors, i.e. Dennis Farena (“Get Shorty”) and Ted Danson (“Cheers”). But it’s one battle scene after another, dotted with short “breathers” of dialogue and characterization. The final battle is the closest you will ever get to fighting a war. You feel like taking shelter behind the chair in front of you.
John Williams conducted the Boston Pops Orchestra for the scoring of the film (which is strategically sparse; there is no music during battle scenes). During a session, a man playing the trombone broke down in tears and had to leave because the images on the screen above him were so haunting. Another story: before the film’s main release, the studio screened it before a group of WW2 veterans to see their reaction and to question them on its realism. A quarter of the men left the theater ten minutes into it, and the projectionist had to stop the film a number of times to let the men compose themselves for another dose.
Every ounce of energy you have will be used up as you take this movie into your being. You will leave exhausted. It is gory, but it’s not dwelt upon. It’s there, in the background: wounded men lying around, the water stained with blood, a soldier carrying his detached arm, another soldier pushing his intestines back into his body, rows of men mowed down by machine guns on high, bodies exploding, bullets piercing helmets like clay, sand flying everywhere, rock and debris showering down on advancing troops, smoke and carnage everywhere. In one scene, a dying man calls for his mother far away, like a little child. In another scene, a German soldier pushes a knife painfully and excruciatingly slow into an American soldier’s heart and then whispers into his ear as he pushes it in farther. you’ll cringe, you’ll cry, you’ll hold your hand over your mouth to hold your breath.
Some may say that the violence is too much, and they’re right. It is. But you know what, it’s WAR. It’s a film about WAR, got it? No children under fifteen should see this movie, BUT, I firmly believe, even though I am a devout Christian and abhor wanton violence, that everyone else should see this movie. It’s too important to miss.
Why? Well, okay, it’s rated-R for obvious violence and a fair amount of language. But this is more than a movie, it’s more a statement of the reality of war. Teenagers are desensitized to violence thanks to Nintendo and Sega; adults are callous to violence thanks to the nightly news. We talk about war in such a way that we should be ashamed of ourselves. We have no concept of what those boys went through. No wonder the old veterans of World War Two despise our dodge-drafting President. They had to stick it out while misguided “wimps” (in their eyes), stayed at home and “wined” about the war. Street violence is beyond the limits of control, frustrated children are killing their classmates in schools across the nation. They haven’t a clue.
War is hell. Those three words sum it up. This movie is a war movie in every right and in every sense of the word. I have to say that if you are tame at heart, steer clear of this one, but if you really want to see it, take someone with you that can somewhat handle it. Even the toughest movie goer will lose it somewhere in the movie.
The cast was superb, but the real talent was Spielberg and his team. The sound is an Oscar for sure. I could almost picture the people behind me getting sprayed with the bullets that whizzed by my head. The cinematography was unparalleled; low contrast, pale flesh tone, blue-gray skies, spotted, low-speed film for battle scenes. Fantastic. It looked like you, the viewer, were storming the beach, dunking under the water, diving for the sand banks. The editing—tight, fast, and furious. And the direction—the best I have ever seen to date. Really. The best I’ve ever seen.
This movie is a perfect 5 (four star) on the basis of film quality. It is a classic and will earn awards of a “Titanic” nature. However, I give it a 2½ on the Christian scale. From a Christian perspective, violence should not be tolerated and this movie carries a near NC-17 amount of it and it has a lot of language. Some Christians are very strict and this would not be a movie for them. But, you know, it’s like a “Braveheart” in that it just HAS to be seen! This is one film that you have to see because it will forever fry-out your senses about modern warfare. You will never look at war on a positive note. You cannot betray the images you allowed yourself to take hold of and approve of it. Yes, there is a time for war (and a time for peace), and yes, war is in the Bible, and yes, I firmly believe that what we did in WW2 was right—but I don’t like it. This film will set everyone against war and will earn Spielberg a place in history as the only director yet to capture the brutal, in-your-face realism of warfare captured on film. Kudos to “Saving Private Ryan”.
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.