Posted on 7/30/09 11:15 PM
Saving Private Ryan has its share of mushy moments, but they do nothing to blunt the incredibly realistic battles and skirmishes. We can all say what we want about how realistic these scenes are, but what's amazing is that as it's unfolding you're forced to feel that what really happened was probably ten times worse, which makes the events of this time so much more significant. After watching this movie I felt a tremendous sense of pride in America and felt extremely thankful that so many people died (horrible, horrible deaths) and fought incredibly bravely for our country (and by extension, against tyrannical rule).
Spielberg does a good job of letting us get attached to a few characters and then unashamedly and unmercifully showing us their demises. It's an unblinking look at how the war would have felt for the people who survived it. Friends and brothers fought such a seemingly futile war and the chances of being snuffed out in any instant was incredibly high. It makes their sacrifices against such odds that much more compelling.
If you watch Saving Private Ryan in that context, I defy even the steeliest people not to be moved at least five times throughout the movie. As a straight up Hollywood movie, it does utilize a lot of cliches, but Spielberg doesn't save everyone and those cliches seem insignificant to the battles that unfold before our eyes. I remember thinking to myself "Tom Hanks, a war hero?" before the first time that I watched Saving Private Ryan, but seeing it a couple times makes the casting seem very smart. Probably a couple other actors could have pulled off the role (Russell Crowe, for one) but Hanks is not in these types of movies, and it kind of goes with the fact that in the actual war people were being sent to their deaths from all walks of life, as Hanks is just an unassuming teacher in America, but a tough, smart military leader in the war who just wants to return to that quiet life. Hanks' unassuming character didn't exactly fit in Road to Perdition (though I liked him in that movie, anyway), but it works very well in Saving Private Ryan.
There are also a number of very strong performances from the supporting cast of actors that I don't usually like in other movies (such as Giovanni Ribisi and Edward Burns), and some good performances by most of the cast of character actors. I was fine with Matt Damon but his telling of the story of his brothers while laughing the whole time was a little grating. It's probably the only part of the movie that I could have done without (or at least done differently).
I think this is a very important movie for Americans to see, if nothing more than to think about the tremendous sacrifices that the soldiers made in order for us all to be able to sit in our comfortable houses and big-screen TVs and watch DVDs of actors playing them in front of a camera. I've never really liked when movies started gratuitously showing the American flag after 9/11 *cough* Spiderman *cough*, but this may be one of the few movies where using the flag to close out the movie works, and works well, and it was before all the uber-patriotism that 9/11 created. It's very poignant and makes me truly proud to be an American and live under that flag.