Thursday, December 18, 2014

Saving Private Ryan

Directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Robert Rodat, Saving Private Ryan is the story of an Army captain and his squad who trek through World War II-era France to find a lost paratrooper as he is the last-surviving brother of a group of servicemen. The film is a World War II story where a man and his team trek through treacherous battlefields and events to get a young man back home during a very tense moment during the war. Starring Tom Hanks, Edward Burns, Tom Sizemore, Vin Diesel, Jeremy Davies, Giovanni Ribisi, Barry Pepper, Adam Goldberg, and Matt Damon as Private James Ryan. Saving Private Ryan is a thrilling yet visceral film from Steven Spielberg.

The film is a simple story set in World War II in France in the aftermath of D-Day where an Army captain is assigned to retrieve a young private whose brothers had already been killed as he is to return home. Joined by his squad, Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) treks through war-torn France to find Private James Ryan as they travel by foot. During this treacherous journey, the men endure many chilling events as well as false discoveries where they would eventually find Private Ryan who is bewildered into why he has to go home and not everyone else. Robert Rodat’s screenplay definitely plays into the scary themes of war and the sacrifices men make as Captain Miller and his men are just normal men that also want to go home but know they have a duty to their country. Even as not everyone is on board to sacrifice their lives to bring one man home as does Captain Miller but knows he has a duty to get Private Ryan home.

The film’s screenplay doesn’t start off with the actual story but opens with a present-day scene of an old man (Harrison Young) in modern-day France as he looks into the Normandy American Cemetery Memorial as it would then shift to the actual battle that Captain Miller and his squad were fighting in. The main story comes in when Captain Miller is asked by his superior in Lt. Col. Anderson (Dennis Farina) to retrieve Pvt. Ryan after three of his older brothers had been killed in different parts of the war as the orders are from General George C. Marshall (Harve Presnell). Though it’s a big deal, Captain Miller takes the mission with his small squad as it would include a newcomer in Corporal Upham (Jeremy Davies) who is an accomplished interpreter but lacks combat experience as he is treated with some disdain by the squad he joins in because of his inexperience. Still, they all have to work together as they would encounter some horrible moments in battle as they would fight Germans through dark parts of France where not everyone is able to cope with.

Steven Spielberg’s direction is definitely intense in terms of his depiction of the battles and war scenes. Though it does start off in a somber manner, it then shifts into what is truly one of the most visceral sequences ever that is the battle at Omaha Beach in Normandy where Captain Miller and various soldiers go into battle. It’s 23 minutes that is definitely uneasy to watch as it is war at its most horrific as Spielberg definitely makes no qualms into how gruesome it is in terms of the impact of its violence. One of the aspects of the film that is interesting is how he is able to shift tones into one sequence into another yet maintain a balance as he does shoot many scenes in very different ways. The scenes of war and engagement are shot with hand-held cameras and frenetic cuts to play into its sense of terror and uncertainty. Spielberg’s usage of close-ups and wide shots into that sequence and other moments of battles with some slanted camera angles definitely add something that feels real where it does imply that war is indeed hell. While much of the film is shot partially in Normandy, much of the battle scenes including the Omaha Beach sequence were shot in Ireland yet Spielberg does manage to make it feel like it’s the actual battle.

While it is a war film, Spielberg does balance that aspect of war’s horror with elements of sentimentality as it plays to what is at stake in Captain Miller’s mission. Notably as Spielberg isn’t afraid to create something intimate whether it’s scenes set in the U.S. involving Private Ryan and his family to the moments where Captain Miller and his squad are walking through France. Spielberg’s approach to close-ups, medium shots, and wide shots definitely add to this feeling that it’s a film about brothers but men who are willing to put their lives for one another. Even as that bond becomes intense in its third act where the men eventually find Private Ryan who is also trying to do his own duty in this band of brothers as he and Captain Miller would have to work together to fight against the German in a climatic battle. Overall, Spielberg creates a very exhilarating yet rapturous film about war and a man trying to fight for his life to bring a young man back home.

Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski does incredible work with the film‘s cinematography as Kaminski brings a desaturated look to its colors from its very harrowing Omaha Beach sequence to some striking lighting for some nighttime interior scenes where the men rest during their journey to find Private Ryan. Editor Michael Kahn does phenomenal work with the film‘s editing with its frenetic approach to cutting for some of the battle scenes including the Omaha sequence as well as some more methodical and straightforward cuts for the dramatic moments including a montage which plays into the decision to bring Private Ryan home. Production designer Thomas E. Sanders, with set decorator Lisa Dean and supervising art director Daniel Dorrance, does brilliant work with the look of destroyed buildings in France as well as the battle trenches for the Omaha Beach sequence. Costume designer Joanna Johnston does excellent work with the costumes from the design of the uniforms as well as the officer uniforms for the scenes in the U.S.

Makeup work by Lois Burwell, Conor O’Sullivan, and Daniel C. Striepeke do amazing work with the look of war in terms of its chaos where soldiers would lose limbs or have major wounds to play into its horror. Visual effects supervisors Stefen Fangmeier and Roger Guyett do fantastic work with some of the film‘s minimal visual effects in terms of the battle sequences including the very gruesome look of the Omaha Beach sequence. Sound designer Gary Rydstrom and sound editor Richard Hymns do spectacular work with the film‘s sound to create that horrific atmosphere of war from the sound of gunfire, cannons, and grenades to play into its chaos while going for more low-key sound effects in the non-battle scenes. The film’s music by John Williams is superb for its triumphant yet melancholic score as it features some lush string arrangements as well as drum cadences to play into the sense of war and duty as it’s one of his finest scores.

The casting by Denise Chamain is wonderful as it features notable small roles from Amanda Boxer as Pvt. Ryan’s mother, Dale Dye and Bryan Cranston as two officers from the war department, Harve Presnell as General George C. Marshall, Joerg Stadler as a German soldier the men would capture whom Cpl. Upham would converse with, Leland Orser as a glider pilot Miller meets during his journey, and Nathan Fillion as a young soldier who also has the same surname in Ryan. Other noteworthy small roles include Dennis Farina as Captain Miller’s superior in Lt. Col. Anderson and Ted Danson as a captain whom Captain Miller meets during a battle as two men who understands the severity of what Captain Miller has to endure, Max Martini is terrific as a corporal in Ramelle that Pvt. Ryan fights with while Paul Giamatti in a funny performance as a staff sergeant who also fights in a battle as he complains about his feet. Harrison Young is excellent as the old man in the beginning of the film and Kathleen Byron is radiant as that old man’s wife.

Giovanni Ribisi is fantastic as the medic Wade who is trying to make sure all of his band of brothers stay alive as he has a great scene involving a mother he meets in a church. Vin Diesel is superb as Pvt. FC Carpazo as an Italian-American rifleman who looks tough and is quite funny but also display some sensitivity as he is someone that is loyal to his squad. Adam Goldberg is amazing as Jewish rifleman Private Mellish who takes Corporal Upham under his wing to show him what to do in battle as he also has some very big reasons to keep on fighting. Barry Pepper is brilliant as the sharpshooter Private Jackson who is a man of faith as he always prays before he shoots as he’s a skilled marksman that does whatever it takes to protect his band of brothers. Edward Burns is great as the cynical Pvt FC Reiben as he is a BAR gunner that isn’t happy about taking on the mission as he definitely gets the ire of Captain Miller yet does have some valid reasons into why they shouldn’t do the mission.

Tom Sizemore is incredible as Sergeant Horvath as Captain Miller’s second-in-command as someone who had been through all sorts of battle with a massive collection of dirt as he is seen by the squad as the older brother. Jeremy Davies is phenomenal as Cpl. Upham as an interpreter/cartographer who may outrank most of the squad but his inexperience in combat showcases someone who is scared of fighting as he copes with the horrors of being in the battlefield as it’s a really chilling performance of someone who displays the sense of fear in war. Matt Damon is marvelous as Private James Ryan as the young man Captain Miller and his squad had to retrieve as Damon displays some charm as well as a stubbornness as someone that wants to keep on fighting and do his duty as a soldier. Finally, there’s Tom Hanks in an outstanding performance as Captain Miller as this man who is tasked to bring a young private home as he copes with the severity of his mission and wonders if he will get to go home. Hanks also displays a sense of leadership in his role where he manages to be the big guy but also one that carries respect and cares for those in his squad as it’s one of his most iconic performances.

Saving Private Ryan is a magnificent film from Steven Spielberg. Armed with a great ensemble cast as well as some amazing technical achievements, the film is undoubtedly one of the finest war films ever created in terms of displaying its sense of duty and the fear of being in a war. It’s also a film that displays the concept of brotherhood as soldiers do whatever to fight for each other in a war. In the end, Saving Private Ryan is a triumphantly powerful and riveting film from Steven Spielberg.

Steven Spielberg Films: (Duel (1971 film)) - (The Sugarland Express) - (Jaws) - (Close Encounters of the Third Kind) - (1941) - (Raiders of the Lost Ark) - (E.T. the Extraterrestrial) - (Twilight Zone: the Movie-Kick the Can) - (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) - (The Color Purple) - (Empire of the Sun) - (Always) - (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) - (Hook) - (Jurassic Park) - Schindler’s List - (The Lost World: Jurassic Park) - (Amistad) - (A.I. Artificial Intelligence) - (Minority Report) - Catch Me If You Can - (The Terminal) - (War of the Worlds (2005 film)) - (Munich) - (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) - (The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn) - (War Horse) - (Lincoln) - (Bridge of Spies) - (The BFG)

© thevoid99 2014


Luke said...

A fantastic film. Glad you love it!

My favorite scene is the story Pvt. Ryan shares with Capt. Miller. Then he asks about Capt. Miller's story. "No. I'm gonna save this one for me."

Beautiful scene

Chris said...

Been a long time since I saw this in theatres, I'll never forget the opening on the beaches of Normandy, which felt so realistic, like I was right there as a soldier with them. You're right, the film does capture the fear of being in a war.

Anonymous said...

I just don't get this movie. It was so...shallow to me. I know that it has this whole comradery thing going on, and it is beautifully composed (some of those scenes are magnificent) and yet I found the whole script to be so 101 and nothing truly interesting...and when you come out the same year as one of the greatest war movies of all time...and then trample it comes awards time, there is a reckoning!

thevoid99 said...

@Luke-Indeed. I think it's one of the finest war films ever as I love the scenes between Hanks and Damon.

@Chris-That scene in Omaha Beach is terrifying. Definitely redefined the language of war at its most gruesome. It's one of my favorite films by Spielberg and certainly shows that he can be confrontational when he wants to.

@Fisti-While I too also prefer The Thin Red Line. I still think this is a great war film. I don't find it shallow but rather a film that plays into the concept of brotherhood.

Dell said...

Love this movie. In fact, Saving Private Ryan is my favorite war flick of all time.

thevoid99 said...

@Wendell Ottley-I would put this in my unofficial list of the 10-20 greatest war films ever made as it is very powerful.

Kevin Powers said...

The images of war this film leaves with you are unparalleled, especially from the opening D-Day sequence. This is one of the formative movies for me. Saw it in the theater when I was 14 years old. It has never left me.

thevoid99 said...

@Speaks Movie-That sequence is definitely going to be remembered as one of the finest ever filmed as well as one of the most gruesome and nihilistic moments in film. I'm amazed that it still holds up. Thanks for commenting.