Everyone loves "Saving Private Ryan." What's not to love? It's a Sielberg film. It's got a John Williams score. It features veteran actors like Tom Hanks and Tom Sizemore, Hollywood favorites like Matt Damon and Ed Burns (director of "The Brothers McMullen" and "She's the One"). Somehow, however, there's this sinking feeling in my heart that SPR might receive a grade worse than "Armageddon" had. Go ahead, people, cry foul. This is due to two reasons: One is that my grading system is, well, warped. I noticed this a while ago when I found out that I gave both "Scream 2" and "Contact" an A-. Taken in the strictest sense, the grade can only be viewed as an "initial satisfaction quotient," or "how happy I was when I walked out of the theatre." I haven't had any formal education in film yet, so the scores don't actually represent how good the movies are technically. Things might change after I think a little. The second reason is I've gotten equally as much out of both movies, and was equally as satisfied, though the two movies are of different genres and reputations, and I was affected more by "Armaggedon," however popcorn-ish it may be.
Yeah, I did like the movie. I haven't seen "Schindler's List" at this time (I've heard it's a lot better); but if Spielberg did anything revolutionary in this film, it's in the World War II battle scenes, not in the screenplay, the dialogue, or the acting. I have not seen anything like this before, neither have people I know who were born 50 years ago. Especially horrifying was the D-Day invasion of Normandy, when we saw the cruelness of war through Tom Hanks's Captain John Miller. When he at times was plunged into the ocean, like him we could not hear anything but we could only see the massacres continuing even in the waters. Like Miller, we became dazed by our surroundings. It was the horrors of impersonal war, up close and personal.
These scenes, like many others in this movie, bring into question controversies pondered over as the decades passed, debates about the value of one human life and the value of entire wars. The tale was effective, if not stunning; the performances gripping, if not powerful. Why the movie failed to touch me like I thought it would, I cannot explain. Nor can I explain why I feel there is something missing. These subtleties are better left to film professors. I was satisfied, but I couldn't escape the overwhelming feeling that it could have been better. The cemetery scenes with elder Ryan could have been better. The major dialogues in the movie could have used a little touching up.
No doubt there are powerful scenes and powerful performances in this movie that will remain in my mind forever. But one year from now, when I remember SPR, I will remember only these things and part of its message that I already knew, in part, myself.
Rating: B (First viewing, 8/31/98)