Saving Private Ryan

30  OCT
The mission is a man.

Directed by  Steven Spielberg
Written by  Robert Rodat, Frank Darabont
Starring:  Tom Hanks (Captain Miller)
Matt Damon (Private Ryan)
Tom Sizemore (Sergeant Horvath)
Edward Burns (Private Reiben)
Barry Pepper (Private Jackson)
Adam Goldberg (Private Mellish)
Vin Diesel (Private Caparzo)
Giovanni Ribisi (Medic Wade)
Jeremy Davies (Corporal Upham)
Runtime: 170 minutes

Devastating. This is the first word that I associate with this movie and is the best one I can think of to describe the effect the first half hour on the audience. However, it is impossible to describe with simple words the crude realism that Spielberg managed to put into the scene of the landing of thousands of soldiers on the strongly fortified coast of Omaha Beach.

This battle is set during the Second World War and specifically during the D-Day invasion of Normandy. This is just the beginning of the plot, that actually extends beyond the successful invasion when a few men are sent behind the enemy lines for a special mission: they have to find a man (Private James Ryan) and bring him back to the US because he is the only survivor of four brothers, the other three being killed in action. Their mission is very hard both on the 'practical' side and on the psychological side: is the life of a single man worth risking their own life?

This question is the base of the movie and while the search for Private Ryan succeeds, the search for the answer doesn't come to a proper conclusion. Every man assigned to the mission has a different personality, a different background and a different attitude towards the mission. The whole central part of the movie is dedicated to these characters, there aren't any other major battle scenes until the very end. This doesn't mean that the movie becomes 'flat' or dull since all the actors are able to sustain their roles and give credibility and 'thickness' to every single moment.

Saving Private Ryan is not Schindler's List as it hasn't the same deep emotional impact. However, Steven Spielberg has managed once again to direct a great movie. Every aspect of the film-making obviously received a lot of attentions and the final result is that the overall product is nearly perfect: the story goes on in a very fluid way, the visual side is always flawless and the special effects are never too intrusive, the actors are all very good, especially Tom Hanks who gives one of his best performances ever.

I already praised the first part of the movie, that scenes are hard to forget or ignore, the filming is perfect and includes a touching moment where the noises of the war are silenced as Captain Miller looks around and see death everywhere. The movie would be worth seeing only for this. But there's more, the quest, the success, the failure, the new mission, the unanswered issue...

Rating: 8.0  ****

Links:  Saving Private Ryan Website




© Copyright Sergio Monesi, 1997-1999.
Last updated: 25 Jun 1999