Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Why I Hate Saving Private Ryan

 

I am a bit of a connoisseur of war movies. I spent a large part of my youth staying up late on Saturday nights watching all the classic World War II movies on broadcast television. Being a fan of war movies, one would think that I was also a fan of Saving Private Ryan. Saving Private Ryan is considered many the gold standard by which all war movies that have come after are to be judged. I, however, disagree and more so as time goes on.

Understand upfront that Saving Private Ryan has many redeeming features. The initial scene of the storming of Normandy beach is a masterpiece of filmmaking. It is one of those scenes that makes Hollywood great and makes you stand in awe of what a genius Steven Spielberg really is.

The acting in the movie is also very good. And much the dialog is well written. Saving Private Ryan in many ways should be the classic that it is considered by many to be. The movie ultimately fails because of fundamental flaws in the plot and overall message of the movie that cannot be overcome by the many virtues of the film’s directing and acting.

Ironically for a film famous for its realism, all of Saving Private Ryan’s flaws relate in some way to realism. Despite all of the realistic filming and action, the movie fails to portray war and armies in a realistic way. Some of the flaws could be forgiven in a movie that made fewer pretensions about realism. They are unforgivable in a film that claims realism to be one of its prime virtues. And Private Ryan’s overall message about the nature of war cannot be forgiven in any movie.

After the initial storming of Normandy beach, which other than involving Tom Hanks really has no connection to the rest of the plot, the movie rests on an absurdly unrealistic premise; that General Marshall, the Chief of Staff of the Army, would take the time to order a special mission to find the last surviving son of a grieving mother. The US was losing around a thousand lives a day in June of 1944. Yes, there was a soul surviving son rule. And yes, being the last surviving son was a ticket home. But no way on earth would a staff officer at the Pentagon much less the Chief of Staff, taken the time to stop everything and send a mission to find such a son. There were lots of such sons and more important things to do than find them immediately, much less use valuable assets like Rangers to do so.

After getting the mission, Hanks and crew are somehow able to saunter off into the hedgerows of Normandy for a good days hike. The US 1st and 29th and the German 352nd Infantry Divisions were in death struggle in front of Omaha Beach in June of 1945. There was a continuous line of contact between Allied and German units. If it were possible could just walk out and link up with the 101st Airborne, they would have done that and the battle would have turned into a mop up operation. Yet, somehow Hanks and company wander about Normandy with impunity.

Then there is the storming of the German bunker. This is, without doubt, one of the most annoyingly unrealistic and contrived scenes in movie history. The entire scene is nothing but a transparent excuse to have the German prisoner scene that follows, which has its own problems which I will get to in a moment. The movie never explains why there would be this lonely German machine gun nest totally isolated from the rest of the German army. The Germans, the people who more or less invented modern warfare, somehow just decided to put a machine gun nest totally isolated for no apparent reason or advantage. And didn’t bother to camouflage it at all. And the men manning it don’t notice Hanks and crew approaching even though Hanks spots them. No, they were just sitting out there with a big “we are here to create a moral dilemma scene and kill off a beloved character” sign.

And of course, Hanks decides to attack it for no apparent reason. The idea that he could report its position and actually accomplish something useful during this mission never occurs to him. No, according to Hanks, his entire team must risk their lives to take out a single, isolated machine gun nest because “someone else my come along and have to do it if we don’t’. Well, sure they will. Someone else with air support and maybe artillery and better ways of doing it than charging over open ground in broad daylight.

Once Hanks decides that the machine gun nest must be eliminated for the greater good, he attacks it in the dumbest way possible. Hanks has this incredible sniper on his team. He knows where the machine gun nest is. It is pretty out in the open. Hey, why not let the 1940s Carlos Hathcock over here take a shot at killing a few of the people manning the bunker before we charge out there? Hey how about we wait until nightfall when we might have a chance of getting close to it before they see us? Nope. Hanks, against the entire collective wisdom and doctrine of modern infantry, decides that the position must be taken in daylight, without any element of surprise, and by frontal assault over open ground. I am going to go out on a limb here and say that Captain Hanks would not have been very beloved by his men. The whole scene is absurd and infuriating, especially when occurring in the “most realistic war movie ever” as Saving Private Ryan is sometimes called.

Then there is the German prisoner scene that follows. This scene is by far the worst of the movie. It is totally contrived and unrealistic. The scene only exists at all because of the ridiculous existence and attack on the German machine gun nest. Moreover, even if those events had occurred, there would have never been any prisoners or moral dilemmas. And that is not because American soldiers made a habit of shooting German prisoners. They didn’t. It would never have occurred because while soldiers do not shoot prisoners they also don’t always go out of their way to allow the enemy the opportunity to surrender or judge other soldiers’ split second decisions in combat. Everyone in Hanks’ team would have known they had no way to take and hold a prisoner. And when they took that bunker, they would have killed everyone inside it before they ever had a chance to surrender or quickly enough they could plausibly say they didn’t realize that before they shot them and that would have been it. Oh, that guy had his hands up? I didn’t see that. What they would never have done was capture some poor guy and then sit around for 30 minutes arguing about whether to shoot him.

And the ensuing argument is some of the worst dialog ever put to film. Why can’t we just take his rifle and leave him behind? Because he might hurt someone. Yeah because one disarmed German private wondering around in the middle of the Battle of Normandy is going to do so much damage. Every time I watch that scene I want to jump through the screen and grab a rifle and shoot the poor German just so the rest of them will shut up and get on with the rest of the movie.

The most unrealistic aspect of Saving Private Ryan and what makes it so irredeemably awful despite the virtues of the direction and acting is how it portrays war in general. The premise of the movie is as I explained above absurd. But an absurd premise doesn’t necessarily mean a movie is bad. The Dirty Dozen is a classic war movie and is based on the absurd premise that the Army would use death row inmates to carry out a vital mission on D-Day. The deeper problem with Saving Private Ryan is that embraces a mawkish and unrealistic view of war in general.

The remarkable thing about the mission in Saving Private Ryan is that it does nothing to help the Allied cause or end the war. The mission and all of that sacrifice is to get some Private back home with his mother. Of course, that is supposed to be a metaphor. The men of D-Day didn’t just save Private Ryan, they saved all of us. Okay, but how? By charging around Normandy trying to send some guy home to his mom? I don’t think so.

The men who fought and died in Normandy did save us from fascism. I have no doubt about that. They didn’t do that by saving people and sending them home to their mothers. They did it by murdering Germans until the Germans had no more will to fight and surrendered. And that is what war is about; killing. It isn’t about saving people or doing good deeds. It is about the grim job of killing people until the other side gets sick of dying and gives up. And that is what I loathe most about Saving Private Ryan; that it enforces the fantasy idea that war is about noble sacrifice and not about killing.

This country suffers from the cult of the wounded warrior. At some point, we stopped understanding what war is about killing and winning and celebrating people who did heroic acts in furtherance of that and started to think war is about dying and sacrifice and started only celebrating those unfortunates who make such sacrifices. This is not to say that the people killed or wounded in war are not making the ultimate sacrifice and worthy of honor. They are. But getting wounded or killed is not what war is about and not what ends wars or more importantly wins wars. What ends wars and wins wars is killing.

And forgetting that is a very bad thing. Thinking war is really about sacrifice and positive actions like saving people cause us to lose sight of the enormous moral gravity of the decision to go to war. We don’t send men and women to war to save Private Ryan. We send them there to kill people. And if we are not comfortable with the full meaning of that, we shouldn’t do it. Ignoring that reality and pretending war is about the positive, causes us to enter into wars far too cavalierly and without a full understanding of the moral consequences of doing so.

Worse still, having a fantasy view that war is about sacrifice and saving people rather than killing, makes us less likely to stay with a war until it is won. Time and again people support going to war in places like Iraq and Afghanistan only to turn against the war once it gets hard or they see full extent of the horror our military necessarily inflicts on its adversaries. If we understood war was about killing, we would be less likely to go to war and more likely to finish and win wars when we did.

The entire point of Saving Private Ryan is as the title says, to save someone not win or even shorten the war. And what a pointless mission it is. Yeah, it’s nice that Matt Damon gets to go home. But thousands of other people were not going home ever. And if you are going to be one of them, you would like to think you died so the war would end sooner not so some guy can go home to mom. I think if the Tom Hanks character were real and you could tell him on June 5th that he was destined to die in Normandy, he would be sad but understand because that was a risk he signed up to take. If you told him he would die not trying to win the war but instead doing some errand for Headquarters trying to ensure that some private got to go home, he probably wouldn’t be too happy about that. Sure, he died after staying on to defend the bridge, but the only reason he was there was to retrieve Ryan. And that had nothing to do with winning the war.

In fact, winning the war is something none of the characters in the movie seem to consider. The entire movie can be summed up as follow. Sure, Mrs. Ryan, I will put down my duties as Chief of Staff of the Army to make sure your son returns. Sure, Mrs. Ryan, we will take a highly trained team of infantry that could be doing other valuable things and send them off on a snipe hunt looking for your son. Why? Because what matters is the individual and doing good deeds. Winning the war as quickly as possible so we can go home and not have any more mothers with dead sons in Europe, well that is just something that will take care of itself. We are all about saving your son Mrs. Ryan.

And that sums up the problems with 21st Century America in many ways. We have stopped facing reality as it is and making the tough choices and sacrifices necessary for our civilization. We pretend that life revolves around us and there are no larger issues at play and that we will always be able to make the noble and easy choice. And that conceit is at the heart of Saving Private Ryan and why I am more convinced it is a lousy movie today than I was the day I first saw it.

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  1. GrannyDude Member

    I really annoyed my date during the part when the released prisoner is killing the Jewish soldier, and the wimpy radio operator (or whatever he was) won’t go help him. I hated that bit.

    My date’s exculpatory argument: “You’re not very understanding. He was afraid.”

    “He was a coward.”

    First date. Last date.

    • #1
    • August 30, 2017, at 3:47 PM PDT
    • 42 likes
  2. Gleeful Warrior Member
    Gleeful WarriorJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Yeah, I’m on board with this critique. These reasons, and others, are why I can’t watch Saving Private Ryan all the way through from beginning to end without getting exasperated, but I have watched Band of Brothers—which has many of the same stylistic virtues and much fewer of the dramatic failures of SPR—multiple times. One is a movie. One is a mini-series, I know. SPR has some pretty egregious flaws that don’t make it a bad war movie, just a disappointing one. It hints at what it could have been with almost every scene and with almost every scene (but not all) falls short.

    • #2
    • August 30, 2017, at 4:07 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  3. Kevin Schulte Member

    Kate Braestrup (View Comment):
    I really annoyed my date during the part when the released prisoner is killing the Jewish soldier, and the wimpy radio operator (or whatever he was) won’t go help him. I hated that bit.

    My date’s exculpatory argument: “You’re not very understanding. He was afraid.”

    “He was a coward.”

    First date. Last date.

    This was the part I wanted to climb thru the screen and Kill that Coward. Now you did it Kate. That was a thought I did not want to entertain again. Yuk

    • #3
    • August 30, 2017, at 4:15 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  4. Kevin Schulte Member

    Thanks for your take on the movie John.

    • #4
    • August 30, 2017, at 4:17 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  5. MLH Inactive

    Are you all looking forward to No Better Place to Die?

    Here’s the link to the fundraiser

    • #5
    • August 30, 2017, at 4:19 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  6. Dorrk Inactive

    My favorite part is at the end, when the war veteran cries. It wasn’t until then that I understood it was sad. Thank God, Spielberg had the artistic courage to include that vital scene; otherwise I would have thought it was a slapstick comedy.

    Seriously, Spielberg did great work with both Schindler’s List and Empire of the Sun, but SPR is simply bad after the beach scene. You put it very well.

    • #6
    • August 30, 2017, at 4:41 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  7. PHCheese Member

    I spent a day and evening with a Captain in the Army Rangers last week . He has deployed to Afghanistan 5 times in 9 years. Hell of a guy. He worries that because of the all voluntary service the public has lost touch with the military as people. He thinks and I agree that not enough of the public are touched by our wars. War is not a movie.

    • #7
    • August 30, 2017, at 5:09 PM PDT
    • 16 likes
  8. billy Inactive

    Gleeful Warrior (View Comment):
    Yeah, I’m on board with this critique. These reasons, and others, are why I can’t watch Saving Private Ryan all the way through from beginning to end without getting exasperated, but I have watched Band of Brothers—which has many of the same stylistic virtues and much fewer of the dramatic failures of SPR—multiple times. One is a movie. One is a mini-series, I know. SPR has some pretty egregious flaws that don’t make it a bad war movie, just a disappointing one. It hints at what it could have been with almost every scene and with almost every scene (but not all) falls short.

    I fully agree with you about Band of Brothers. If you haven’t done so yet, you should check out HBO’s Pacific. It is every bit as good.

    • #8
    • August 30, 2017, at 5:33 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  9. Percival Thatcher
    PercivalJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I could tolerate (not enjoy, but tolerate) the stupidity up until the Germans started pushing the 2cm Flak 30 down the street. The thing has a range of over a mile. Close assault it ain’t.

    ♫♪ Hey Joachim. Where are you goin’ with that gun on them wheels? ♫♪

    • #9
    • August 30, 2017, at 5:39 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  10. cqness Member

    I intensely dislike SPR as well for many reasons and you have given me a good explanation of a lot of things that bothered me that I couldn’t detail half as well.

    Almost from the beginning of the film it is based on a huge “lie” to the viewer. The only purpose for this lie that I can think of is to set up the “twist” at the end that the only survivor is Private Ryan. When the elderly man is in the cemetery in Normandy the camera moves in for an extreme close-up of his eyes and then backs off from the eyes and, voila, it’s Tom Hanks’ character, Captain Miller, in the landing craft just before hitting the beach. This is movie shorthand for the old man and the young one being the same character and we are cued in that Captain Miller is going to survive to old age. But at the end of the film, after Captain Miller’s death, it is revealed that the old man is Private Ryan. Rubbish.

    I don’t even care for the Omaha Beach landing scene. I will admit it is well done in a technical sense but it’s fifteen plus minutes of overly loud sounds (it hurt my ears in the theater) and repetitive close ups of gore for the sole purpose of telling the viewer “war is hell”. Think of a really great war movie like “Sands Of Iwo Jima” where we find the same message with Sergeant Stryker and his squad in a trench listening to a squad mate (or possibly a Japanese soldier’s deception) crying out for help throughout the night and they can do nothing. It’s short, quiet and effective. Or the scene where Sgt Stryker meets the woman in the Honolulu bar and goes to her apartment and finds she has a baby and a Marine husband missing or dead and he sees that war is hell even for civilians and loved ones and stops him from feeling sorry for himself. Or the final scene where Sgt Stryker is killed and his last letter to his estranged wife and son, unmailed and found in his pocket, is read out loud to his men. That’s great movie making.

    • #10
    • August 30, 2017, at 5:48 PM PDT
    • 13 likes
  11. Hoyacon Member

    MLH (View Comment):
    Are you all looking forward to No Better Place to Die?

    Here’s the link to the fundraiser

    Wow. Thanks for the heads up.

    • #11
    • August 30, 2017, at 6:07 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  12. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVeyJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I think the movie is very loosely inspired by the sad story of the five Sullivan brothers, who served on the same ship and died together. The country was then suffering thousands of casualties a week, but the Sullivans had a large, if fleeting negative impact on wartime morale. Spielberg seems to me to be quite aware of the irony that so much effort goes into SPR.

    My criticism of the film is based on something that’s actually praiseworthy–to a point. Other war movies emphasize the cause everyone is fighting for. SPR, like today’s Dunkirk, makes a big point of all but ignoring the big picture in favor of small unit warfare and the idea that these men are fighting for each other, not for some abstract idea of country or democracy. I have spoken to veterans who like that approach. The ones my age (Vietnam era) often, not always, tend to see it that way.

    But older vets, like my Dad (Korea) disliked that message. “We knew damn well what we were there to do and why”, and are insulted that any filmmaker would pose them as ill-informed cannon fodder.

    There’s probably some truth in both approaches. We’ve seen a lot of talky war movies. Spielberg swung the pendulum the other way, maybe too far the other way.

    EDIT: And I forgot to add–good post, Kluge.

    • #12
    • August 30, 2017, at 6:14 PM PDT
    • 17 likes
  13. Matt Bartle Member
    Matt BartleJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    John Kluge: And that is what war is about; killing. It isn’t about saving people or doing good deeds. It is about the grim job of killing people until the other side gets sick of dying and gives up.

    Now that is stark and disturbing. But true. Presidents have to say we’re bringing freedom and hope and a better future, and they shy away from saying what you said. But that’s basically what we’re doing in the Middle East – trying to kill the crazies until the craziest are all dead. Trump actually came close to saying that when he talked about Afghanistan the other day.

    • #13
    • August 30, 2017, at 6:37 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  14. JosePluma Thatcher

    Excellent post.

    I aways thought that SPR was off, and your post clarified it for me.

    However, you missed the biggest point of the attack on the machine gun nest: It endangered the mission. Hanks’ character was ordered to go to a location, retrieve a soldier, and come back. Any engagement with the enemy puts the mission at risk. A deliberate and unnecessary attack on an enemy position is an implicit (and probably explicit) violation of his orders. If he had not died, he probably have been courtmartialed.

    • #14
    • August 30, 2017, at 7:07 PM PDT
    • 9 likes
  15. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White MaleJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    billy (View Comment):
    I fully agree with you about Band of Brothers. If you haven’t done so yet, you should check out HBO’s Pacific. It is every bit as good.

    Not it isn’t. The Pacific is OK/Good, but doesn’t come close to measuring up to Band Of Brothers.

    If Band Of Brothers is a 10 (and it is), then Pacific is about a 7. Some of it is just the difference in the story-telling capability – BOB follows one unit throughout the war, whereas The Pacific has to jump around to a couple different characters in separate units.

    The later parts of The Pacific are much better. The first couple episodes are just muddled. Honestly, if I hadn’t purchased the entire set, I probably would have given up after the second episode.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I stuck with it and watched to the end , and was inspired by it to read a couple of the books that form the core story, Helmet for my Pillow, and With the Old Breed.

    Pacific is worth watching, and I’ll probably watch it again one day, but I’ve watched BOB in full at least three times and will be doing so again soon.

    • #15
    • August 30, 2017, at 7:56 PM PDT
    • 12 likes
  16. EDISONPARKS Member
    EDISONPARKSJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I did not love Saving Private Ryan either.

    However I believe that Stephen Spielberg, Tom Hanks and others involved in making the movie Saving Private Ryan also produced and made my all time favorite war movie/series: Band of Brothers …. awesome movie/series and book.

    • #16
    • August 30, 2017, at 8:05 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  17. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSulJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    John Kluge: After getting the mission, Hanks and crew are somehow able to saunter off into the hedgerows of Normandy for a good days hike. The US 1st and 29th and the German 352nd Infantry Divisions were in death struggle in front of Omaha Beach in June of 1945. There was a continuous line of contact between Allied and German units. If it were possible could just walk out and link up with the 101st Airborne, they would have done that and the battle would have turned into a mop up operation. Yet, somehow Hanks and company wander about Normandy with impunity.

    Bit of nitpicking here. There were gaps in both lines. The major units may have been in constant contact, but patrols, scouts, and skirmishers did get through gaps, sometimes by accident. The following is a story told to me by a Normandy veteran (I’m telling it from memory so some of the details may be a bit fuzzy, but major points did happen).

    We had advanced some but were still fighting through the hedgerows. My unit was motorpool, so we were ferrying fuel, ammo, and supplies from the beachheads up to the lines. I had to drive a fuel tanker to deliver gas to an armored unit. Directions were a bit hazy, I had no escort, and I was tired as hell, so I got lost. I’m driving for a while, no idea where I’m at, and a bunch of Frenchies pop out onto the road in front of me. One of ’em spoke English. Asks me where I’m headed, and tells me that I’m actually behind German lines. They help me turn around and get me going back the right way. The guy asks if I want a souvenier, then hands me a Luger. Says they’re Resistance and they had jumped a German squad.

    So now I’m heading back towards the fight, only now I have to pass back through the German lines. Somehow I missed ’em going out, but coming back some of ’em spotted me and started shooting. One of ’em had a machine gun. Don’t know how I wasn’t hit, but I’m smelling gas real bad and the truck was pretty shot up. I just kept going like hell till I met up with some of our boys. The tank was shot up full of holes and spilling gas everywhere, so there wasn’t much left when I finally got where I was supposed to go. I was shaking pretty bad too.

    • #17
    • August 30, 2017, at 8:39 PM PDT
    • 10 likes
  18. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSulJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Gary McVey (View Comment):
    There’s probably some truth in both approaches. We’ve seen a lot of talky war movies. Spielberg swung the pendulum the other way, maybe too far the other way.

    Have you seen Band of Brothers? After SPR, Hanks himself was inspired to go out and film a real story and spent a lot of time trying to get the details right.

    • #18
    • August 30, 2017, at 8:42 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  19. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVeyJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    To give credit where credit is due, this film, plus Tom Brokaw’s The Greatest Generation, caused an amazingly fast and large shift in the culture. Suddenly those old WWII guys, the Archie Bunker generation who backed Nixon to the end and were the sworn enemies of acid, amnesty and abortion, were recognized as heroes. It caused some bitter irony and envy among conservative writers and filmmakers who’d been trying to get WWII pictures with “Ryan”-level impact for younger generations off the ground forever. And, again, to give due credit, these works appeared just after the 50th anniversary of D Day, at the last possible point when most of the old guys were still around, was a rare historical blessing.

    Do I wish it had been one of us, like Lionel Chetwynd, Hollywood’s finest conservative screenwriter? Of course. But you take a culture changer where you can find it.

    • #19
    • August 30, 2017, at 9:10 PM PDT
    • 16 likes
  20. Little My Member

    I agree this was a fine review. I also grew up on World War II movies, and especially loved the one about the Sullivan brothers.

    Re authenticity: I worked with Holocaust historians, and in the 1990s, I edited several Holocaust memoirs. Many “last chance to tell my story” memoirs were being published then — to the point that a Jewish creep referred to the “Holocaust industry” and even if he had a point, he all-too-quickly was practically adopted by Holocaust deniers. Anyway, having read a lot of memoirs and World War II history, I noticed that the closer to the events in time the memoir was written, the more authentic it felt. Alexander Werth’s book Russia at War (1964) was remarkable, based on his own wartime reporting; it made me skeptical of buying Catherine Merridale’s Ivan’s War (2005), and I was happily surprised to find the latter, based on extensive interviews with Red Army veterans, quite detailed and informative. But memories are tainted by the natural processes of time and the brain’s sanity-saving processing of memory; but worse, by changes in public attitudes as veterans die off and active memories of a war fade away as history marches onward. What veterans are willing to talk about in general may be quite different from what they feel okay saying amongst fellow veterans, and even then, I suspect a great reticence operates. My father-in-law told us funny stories about his army service in Alaska, but when I discovered the film about the Aleutians on Netflix, I realized that “Alaska” might well have been a hellish place for him — the Japanese were not all that far away, even if it wasn’t the hot and humid southern Pacific of With the Old Breed. Cold and wet and windy is just another variant of misery for a dogface.

    I am not sure anyone can make a good World War II film any more that would use the vocabulary and cultural references that were common during the actual war years. Something would always feel a bit out of kilter. The historian Yehuda Bauer wrote to Steven Spielberg after seeing Schindler’s List and made a number of points about the authenticity of the film. Two things Bauer wrote in this letter struck me: that Schindler (an SS officer) would never, ever, have put his feet on his desk; and it is very unlikely that he would have used the F-word, because the derogatory terms used at the time were more likely to be from the barnyard. Jewish women were routinely called “sows,” for example. (Note: I know about this letter because I worked with Prof. Bauer at the time.)

    Such are the reasons that the movies of the 1940s and even into the 1950s feel more authentic, even if veterans could easily spot the flaws.

    • #20
    • August 31, 2017, at 2:29 AM PDT
    • 9 likes
  21. Skyler Coolidge

    John Kluge: We have stopped facing reality as it is and making the tough choices and sacrifices necessary for our civilization. We pretend that life revolves around us and there are no larger issues at play and that we will always be able to make the noble and easy choice. And that conceit is at the heart of Saving Private Ryan and why I am more convinced it is a lousy movie today than I was the day I first saw it.

    Amen.

    Thank you for your post. It sums up my sentiments of the movie perfectly.

    • #21
    • August 31, 2017, at 7:33 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  22. Skyler Coolidge

    Kevin Schulte (View Comment):

    Kate Braestrup (View Comment):
    I really annoyed my date during the part when the released prisoner is killing the Jewish soldier, and the wimpy radio operator (or whatever he was) won’t go help him. I hated that bit.

    My date’s exculpatory argument: “You’re not very understanding. He was afraid.”

    “He was a coward.”

    First date. Last date.

    This was the part I wanted to climb thru the screen and Kill that Coward. Now you did it Kate. That was a thought I did not want to entertain again. Yuk

    I remember listening to that moron, Roger Ebert, review the movie. He told us that we all identify with the sniveling linguist. I think that says more about Ebert than he would like to admit.

    • #22
    • August 31, 2017, at 7:37 AM PDT
    • 13 likes
  23. Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. Coolidge

    Saving Private Ryan reminds me of some of Kubrick’s films, most notably Full Metal Jacket, in that it’s really two movies spliced together. If you judge the two pieces separately, you get a fairer assessment.

    Full Metal Jacket is a gripping movie about boot camp, followed by some forgettable stuff set in Vietnam. I have many times watched the first half of that movie and then stopped. I’m not saying the second half of the movie is bad; I honestly don’t know, because I’ve only seen it once or twice. But the boot camp sequence is why you watch that film.

    When I think of Ryan, I think of the D-Day sequence. The rest of the film is just some other stuff that happened afterward, even if it makes up the bulk of the running time. It’s worth judging the landing sequence on its own: it was widely praised at the time of release, by actual Normandy vets, as being the most realistic portrayal they’d ever seen of what the invasion was actually like. That’s good enough for me. The rest of the film I can happily skip. (I wish Spielberg had been content to make an entire movie about the invasion, rather than needing a high-concept plot gimmick to hang it on.)

    I grew up on Spielberg and consider myself a fan, but he does have an unfortunate tendency to overdo it. Even his best film, Schindler’s List, is marred by a mawkish and overly literal ending. He needs a good editor, someone who can tell him “This is mostly great, but lose that part.”

    • #23
    • August 31, 2017, at 7:43 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  24. ToryWarWriter Thatcher

    Also the Airborne was under orders to not take prisoners during the D-Day operation. This is shown in the D-Day movie by John Waynes order to send anyone ‘straight to hell’.

    I don’t think even the first twenty minutes of the film are very realistic.

    I watched Allied a couple weeks ago, and screamed at the movie half way through. The movie is as badly contrived and stupid as anything recently made.

    For realistic movies I like The Siege of Firebase Gloria. I wouldn’t mind a list of ‘realistic movies’.

    • #24
    • August 31, 2017, at 7:50 AM PDT
    • Like
  25. The Glaswegian Inactive
    The GlaswegianJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    ‘Saving Private Ryan’ is not a war movie. It is a story set during wartime. It is a remake of ‘The Seven Samaurai’/’The Magnificent Seven’.

    • #25
    • August 31, 2017, at 8:07 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  26. ChefSly - Bad Hausmann Member

    I only remember one scene from the movie.

    A secretary, working at her desk, notices a couple names, thinks “this looks familiar” and goes to someone else’s desk and then goes talk to the boss.

    My thought was “I want that secretary”

    • #26
    • August 31, 2017, at 8:15 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  27. Spin Inactive
    SpinJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    John, can I ask: did you serve in the military in any capacity?

    • #27
    • August 31, 2017, at 8:28 AM PDT
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  28. Pugshot Member
    PugshotJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Terrific review. I’ve always felt that Saving Private Ryan was two films. The first 20 minutes was overwhelming – probably the closest anyone could ever get to transmitting what it was like to be in the first wave hitting the beaches on D-Day. After that it was a standard Hollywood war picture – and, as @johnkluge points out, a fairly flawed and unrealistic Hollywood war picture. A far better war movie – as many comments have noted – is Band of Brothers. When compared to standard Hollywood war movies, SPR doesn’t hold up as well as The Great Escape or The Enemy Below. Or for a movie that set the standard for realism – told from the German point of view – Das Boot. And for the poignant moment at the end of the film, SPR is outdone by (as noted by @cqnessThe Sands of Iwo Jima. And I would add that, even though it’s largely a comedy, a more poignant ending is found in Mr. Roberts when William Powell reads Henry Fonda’s last letter to his former shipmates, and then follows by reading the telegram announcing Fonda’s death.

    • #28
    • August 31, 2017, at 8:30 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  29. dittoheadadt Inactive

    Gleeful Warrior (View Comment):
    but I have watched Band of Brothers

    It just so happens that I started watching BoB last night. Good to know the opinions I value give it such high marks.

    And now that I’ve just proved John’s point about “We pretend that life revolves around us…”, I’ll stop here.

    • #29
    • August 31, 2017, at 9:46 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  30. Spin Inactive
    SpinJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    dittoheadadt (View Comment):

    Gleeful Warrior (View Comment):
    but I have watched Band of Brothers

    It just so happens that I started watching BoB last night. Good to know the opinions I value give it such high marks.

    And now that I’ve just proved John’s point about “We pretend that life revolves around us…”, I’ll stop here.

    I do not understand why it has taken you this long to watch BoB. Have you read the book by Ambrose? What about Beyond Band of Brothers by Winters? What about Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends?

    My son and I watch Band of Brothers together once a year without fail.

    • #30
    • August 31, 2017, at 9:52 AM PDT
    • 2 likes

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