Starring: Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Tom Sizemore
Director: Steven Spielberg
Running Time: 169 mins
Saving Private Ryan is an American film about a troop of eight US soldiers who travel from the beaches of Normandy following the D-Day landings on a mission to find a young soldier whose three brothers have been killed in action.
Well, not only is this simply a great war film, with a fascinating story, brilliant performances, stunning direction and a whole lot of action, but it’s also a real revolution in the World War Two genre.
Basically, when you think of Second World War films, you think of the 1950s-60s British and American ones, which celebrate the glory and the bravery of the valiant men who went off to fight and defeat the Nazis, however this film was one of the first in a now long line of war films which don’t necessarily celebrate bravery, although they do respect it, but demonstrate the horrors of the Second World War in a particularly emotive way.
And that’s not the only thing that separates this film as one of the most original war films ever. Here, it’s not really about fighting for your country, for the USA, or for democracy, but it’s the story of individuals, and their own personal stories within the context of the Second World War; this film could have been set anywhere under the name of any army, but it’s the strength of the main characters that’s the main driving force of the film.
The characters themselves are hugely important in the film. On the one hand, the fact that you’re brought so close to them throughout makes the story feel easy to relate to and therefore even more engaging, while on the other hand that does end up being the main reason that this is so tense and emotional when it gets really serious, because you genuinely fear for the characters individually; no-one is expendable, and everyone is in danger.
That brings us to the genius that is some of the action scenes. There’s the now incredibly famous beach landing scene, which feels like a one-take, up-close documentation of the D-Day landings, and it is absolutely breathtaking to watch and be thrown into, however you’ve also got one of the most exciting and intriguing final battle scenes of all time in a small French village when the troop is at its weakest.
The action is hugely fast-paced and exciting, and that’s a result of the stunning direction by Steven Spielberg and excellent cinematography by Janusz Kamiński, who use shaky cam techniques and amazing close-ups to really throw you into the heart of the battle here.
One final interesting thing about this film is how the story itself is paced. Apart from the two main intense battle sequences, this is actually quite a slow-moving and patient story, hence why it last for nearly three hours, but the fact that it’s got such intriguing characters and a continuously tense atmosphere makes that time fly by, so overall, this gets an 8.5.