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Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Saving Private Ryan Special Edition DVD

The mission is a man

Directed by:

Steven Spielberg

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 170 minutes

UK Certificate: 15

On DVD

Country: United States

If ever there was a gaping opportunity for me to climb onto that high horse I’ve been keeping locked up in my bedroom cupboard, it’s now. ‘Saving Private Ryan’ is a good film. That’s not something I’d ever dispute. But is it a great one? Is it great as in five Oscars (which is what it got) great? Is it great as in watch-this-and-you-won’t-recover-for-months great? The answer, I would have to say, is no. It’s not.

For one thing, there’s absolutely no reason for it to be as long as it is. For another, it overdoses on cheese from as early on as the very first scene. Even the very storyline itself is a bit of an eye-roller. And let’s not forget that painfully over-used melodramatic score by John Williams. Oh, and another thing – Ted Danson’s in it. I mean, seriously – TED DANSON??

It kicks off by showing us a bunch of wrinklies, but don’t worry – it’s nothing like ‘Cocoon’. Before long we’re whisked back in time to the closing stages of World War II. June 6th 1944, to be exact, where US Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) and his troops are having a tough time of it on the beach at Omaha. You know the deal – gunfire, wailing, blood splattering across the camera lens (another thing I have a gripe with, as it instantly makes you conscious of the fact that there’s a camera present and, as it’s not a documentary, none of this is actually real).

After that first battle comes the important stuff – a quest, set by the Government, for Hanks and co. They’ve got to traipse across the countryside risking their lives to look for some bloke called Private Ryan, whose mum is none to happy at already having lost his plethora of brothers to those Nazi swines.

Steven Spielberg gives us what is clearly a painstakingly put-together film, with some impressive set-pieces and a typically masterful performance from his leading man. Clearly it’s made for an American audience, and therefore the sort of people who don’t as a reflex grind their teeth when presented with the image of a billowing stars and stripes. Taken with a bit more cynicism than Spielberg’s track record suggests he’s capable of comprehending, the film can be seen for what it actually is – a good piece of work, but also a slightly cringeworthy one.

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It's Got: Strategically-placed cattle corpses.

It Needs: Someone to explain why the BBFC rate this as a 15, but ‘Scream’ is an 18. Which one, I wonder, shows the most (and the most realistic) scenes of violence?

DVD Extras ‘Into the Breach’ featurette, theatrical trailers, production notes, and cast & crew bios. DVD Extras Rating: 6/10

Alternatives:

Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket, Hamburger Hill, M*A*S*H, Platoon, Tears of the Sun, The Deer Hunter, Windtalkers

Summary

Stonewall proof that Steven Spielberg, while a marvellous film-maker, possesses not a single cynical bone in his body. Which is actually kinda nice, in a Forrest Gumpy sort of way.

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