I took a lot of flack earlier this week after writing about ‘Lone Survivor’ and letting it be known that as of that time I had yet to ever watch ‘Saving Private Ryan’. This was done as a personal decision as I felt to give the latter film the atmosphere it warranted was to wait until I had a full sound system in our home.
Well, that day is here and while home sick with a touch of the flu yesterday, I sat down and finally watched the World War II masterpiece from director Steven Spielberg. Spielberg has directed some of the best films of the past thirty years. and ‘Saving Private Ryan’, while not his best film, definitely deserves to be amongst that list.
‘Saving Private Ryan’ is basically made on the opening half hour or so of the film. Showing a near 100% accurate recollection of landing on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944, the film serves to highlight the high price paid in the liberation of Europe in World War II.
Featuring many actors you will recognize, even in smaller roles, the acting is top notch in this film. Starring a still-in-his-prime Tom Hanks as the Captain of the team sent to find the titular character in France, ‘Saving Private Ryan’ is just another example of how Tom Hanks may be one of the three best actors of the past thirty years.
The visuals in this film are extremely gut-wrenching, as we see what full-scale war can do to normally beautiful lands and scenery. From the beaches of Normandy to the destroyed villages on the interior of France, Spielberg managed to turn parts of England and Ireland into mesmerizing locales to highlight the loss of architecture that war takes from us all.
The end of the film, which features the desperation of war not only in the attempted defending of a key bridge but also the hand-to-hand brutality that exists in war, was a jarring bookend to the opening of the film and a great way to segue back to the present day where the titular Ryan is seen at one of the cemeteries in Europe to pay his respects to the man that led the mission to bring him home.
At the end of ‘Saving Private Ryan’ the only thought that popped into my head is just how The Academy voters could have passed this over in 1998 for Best Picture and gave that Oscar to ‘Shakespeare in Love’? This has to be one of the gravest travesties in the history of The Academy.
While not 100% sold that this is the best war film of all-time, what it does do is force me to find a copy of ‘We Were Soldiers’ to re-watch to compare the two and see which one comes out at the top of my list.
As always, for all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer. Cheers.