Movie Review: Private Ryan

Just got back from 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.

Hasn't society been numbed a bit w/ the violence that surrounds innocent Americans with shootings on the streets, in the schools, and even in the Nation's capitol?

The movie has that trademark Speilberg style--the structure is all tied up & 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 & periods of silence to disorient you (like Shindler), suspense techniques learned from Hitch... It's a movie that stays with you for a period afterward, unlike Amistad, which I found totally forgettable since you never really get inside any of the characters. The same would be true of Ryan, were it not for the Tom Hanks character.

Hanks will be the early front runner for Oscar after this flick--Academy members like him AND it IS his best acting job ever (Forrest Gump? fergit about it) 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 (his MAJOR shortcoming in Amistad), 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.

© copyright, 1998, John Nesbit
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