AFI #71: Saving Private Ryan

I remember not liking Saving Private Ryan when it came out in 1998 and after watching it again today I remember why I didn’t like it — it’s depressing as hell. To me the plot sort of seems like it’s violence for violence’s sake. And it’s really graphic violence. What was the point of losing nearly an entire platoon to save the life of one guy? I get that Private Ryan lost three brothers, but since when is one life worth more than another?

Don’t get me wrong, I like a good war movie. I can think of several off the top of my head that were way better than Saving Private Ryan, including The Deer Hunter, Black Hawk Down and The Hurt Locker just to name a few. This film just doesn’t do it for me. I like so many of the actors in the film, from Tom Hanks to Adam Goldberg to Giovanni Ribisi…but (Spoiler Alert) they all fucking die. Are they heroes, or was this just a fool’s mission?

I will say this much — the first 30 minutes are intense as hell and some of the best war action ever filmed. I don’t know if it was realistic since I didn’t hit Omaha Beach on D-Day, but it sure felt real. And if it really was like that, holy crap! Spielberg probably earned his Best Director Oscar in those first 30 minutes alone. Talk about blood and guts. This film is not for the feint of heart.

Next Up: A Clockwork Orange

One thought on “AFI #71: Saving Private Ryan

  1. ..or even the faint of heart.

    I agree though that SPR is not a great film. It’s an interesting (but not compelling) premise and if it was really about exploring the nature of leadership in a military setting, I’d say it could have a shot at greatness, but that’s merely a by-product of the storytelling here. Hanks seems to have a knack for stories with intriguing premises and movies like The Terminal and Castaways deliver muich more than you would originally expect from “man gets stuck in airport” or “man is marooned on island, befriends volleyball and performs self-extraction of tooth”. But SPR under-delivers.

    I didn’t see the original run and in fact just came to it in the last year. Unlike some movies where I kick myself for not seeing them in their first run, SPR just sits there “OK, seen it. Next”

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