Monday, May 16, 2016

926. Saving Private Ryan

Saving Private Ryan
Directed by Steven Spielberg

I remember watching this in my high school history class, which seems rather inappropriate considering all the other arbitrary rules.  We can watch people get their limbs blown off but girls weren't allowed to wear spaghetti straps.  In any case, I am quite glad I saw it; it made the experience of visiting Omaha myself much more powerful.

Following the Normandy invasion, Mrs. Ryan is informed that three of her four sons have been killed in action.  General George Marshall orders that her fourth son be immediately brought back from the front.  Captain John Miller is charged with leading a squad of seven men to find the last Ryan son and ensure that he makes it home safely.

By now I am kind of sick of war movies, as they always seem to have the same messages and themes: war is bad, loss of innocence, no glory in battle, etc.  I believe in these motifs, but I kind of get bored watching them play out over and over again in 2 hour+ productions.  While this film certainly had its share of cliches, I was actually quite pleased with some of its original elements.

For one thing, the movie is shocking in its realism.  I know Vietnam War films are supposed to be the grittiest war movies, but usually the senseless violence depicted isn't based on true events (I am thinking Deer Hunter and Apocalypse Now).  To actually watch a brutal battle play out much like it did in real life was both horrifying and emotional.

I also liked the story, as simple as it was.  It was at least better than the usual "young soldier goes to war, it's worse than he expected" plot.  Ryan's character was put in such an interesting predicament.  Here all these men are dying for him, trying to save him and bring him home to his mother.  It must have been quite an emasculating experience.  I loved seeing what Ryan represented to the other characters and what, in their eyes, made him worth protecting.

So overly simplistic in some areas, but richly complex in others.  One of the better war movies I have seen.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

The Omaha Beach scene cost $11 million to make.

All of the main actors, except Matt Damon, underwent a week of army training before filming.  Damon was spared so the other actors would resent him as they did in the film.

The Omaha scene was shot in Ireland.

George W. Bush's favorite movie.  Yikes.

Body count of 225.


  1. I thought the realism was fascinating. Not really into war movies, but liked that the story was a little different.

  2. I thought this started out amazing and gradually trailed off bit by bit as the film went on. But even at the end it had still only reached average, it was never bad.

    A guy I met in a bar (so this must be true) told me that he worked as a set dresser on the beach scene. With the whole area all laid out with props and ready to go, the last thing they did a few minutes before starting rolling the cameras was going down the beach applying the liquid blood everywhere. Suddenly - disaster! - they accidentally dropped one of the big barrels of fake blood turning the sea red and ruining all the careful preparation. Spielberg apparently took one look at this and declared it perfect and started filming immediately before it could drift away.

    1. Maybe he was trying to pick you up. Agreed. But with such a shocking and action packed start, it kind of couldn't go anywhere but down.