Saving Private Ryan (DVD)

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Saving Private Ryan (DVD)

Director Steven Spielberg's World War II tour de force chronicles the journey of a GI squad on a dangerous mission behind enemy lines. Led by Captain ...

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Review of "Saving Private Ryan (DVD)"

published 07/07/2006 | christianfilmcritic
Member since : 21/01/2006
Reviews : 263
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Pro A very poignant movie
Cons The plot is a bit thin
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Story
Characters / Performances
Special Effects
Soundtrack

"Saving more than just Ryan"

Captain Miller

Captain Miller

Synopsis
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Having lead and survived one of the assaults on Omaha beach during the D-day landings, Captain John Miller and his team of 8 soldiers are selected for a special mission to enter into German occupied France to try and rescue a soldier by the name of James Francis Ryan. Having come to the attention of General George C. Marshall, that Ryan's 3 brothers had all been killed in action and that his mother was to receive all 3 letters informing her of their deaths on the same day, that to spare her anymore misery, they should do their up most to bring the remaining Ryan back alive.

Although opposed to putting their own lives at risk in the hope of saving just one man, the group of 8 men enter occupied France in the hope of finding and rescuing Private Ryan. Finally finding Ryan after several battles with German troops, and the loss of 2 of their soldiers whilst in battle, they find themselves torn between killing the Germans that they were trained to do or taking Ryan back to safety.


Opinion
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With Steven Spielberg at the directional helm you would be right to expect an impressive movie of epic proportions, and "Saving Private Ryan" doesn't really fail. The action is impressive, the acting is solid, the direction is first class, the special effects are brilliant and the cinematography is award wining, what is surprising is the actual story and the characters are pretty weak. For a film which is just short of 3 hours long, you would expect it to require quite a heavy plot and in-depth characters to keep you entertained, but with "Saving Private Ryan" there are so many more elements to the film that it is not until you finish the film and think about what you watched do you realise that although you have been truly entertained and in some ways educated, the premise for the film is pretty thin and in doing so you also realise that the characters were extremely thin as well.

● The Story

Although the main premise for the story is that of saving private Ryan, the film has in fact four clear sections which work brilliantly to build up the story of the actual rescue mission but also attempts to educate you on what life was like for the soldiers in the war.

The initial thread, and probably one of the most memorable scenes in cinematic history, is the initial assault on Omaha beach during the D-day landings. This scene, although not relevant to the overall story of saving Ryan, sets the scene for the period and also shows how brutal the D-day landings were, as waves of young men were shot as they left the boats to get onto the beach. Although I cannot judge on how realistic this scene is, I cannot honestly say it is eye opening as to the brutality of it all, as two armies which basically could not see each others faces just blasted the living daylights out of each other. What this part of the film clearly demonstrates is the chaos of the war, as amongst all the explosions, flying bullets, blood and vomit you see young men confused under the attack. One of the most poignant parts of the opening sequence for me, is watching a young soldier who has lost an arm, walking around dazed and confused, open to being shot and killed, in search of his lost limb.

The second section to the film is where the main story starts and takes us to one of the war offices back in America, where they are typing up the letters which are sent out to the bereaved families of soldiers who have died whilst in action. From here we discover that Mrs. Ryan is about to receive letters informing her of the deaths of 3 out of her 4 sons. This leads us to General George C. Marshall in his Washington office, where he reads a letter that he owns which Abraham Lincoln wrote consoling Mrs. Bixby of Boston, about her sons who died in the Civil War. This leads to the decision that they must save the final Ryan boy for the sake of his mother, even though his advisors are opposed to risking a group of soldiers for the life of one man. Now me being sceptical me, would say that this comes across as more of a publicity stunt, where the retrieval of a soldier would be great publicity in the face of the thousands which were killed during the landings. Whether this is the case or not, this section of the film clearly starts the main story and goes somewhat to show the difference between the clean cut war which was thought in the offices and the messy war which was being thought on the frontline. It also starts you thinking along the lines of whether it was right to try and save Ryan with the risk of loosing lives in the process.

The third section of the film is the search for Ryan as Captain John Miller leads his troops into war stricken France. What is very good during this section of the film is that his men high light their opposition to the mission as they were there to kill Germans and not to rescue soldiers. This is demonstrated in a scene where they come across a German radar centre and instead of avoiding it and going on there way in search of Ryan; they rebel against their mission and launch a successful assault on it. What is annoying is that this section of the film takes up the biggest percentage of the movie and in reality is the weakest part, not that it is not important, but by the time they move onto the final section of the movie, it does start to feel like it has dragged a bit. Although it does drag, there are some very important parts to it, which not only demonstrate what war was like but for me, educated me to some things I never knew, such as the soldiers carrying letters written home in case of their deaths, and the basic medical treatment they received whilst in action.

The fourth and final section of the movie revolves around the events which occur once they find Private Ryan and I must say, although highly entertaining, I feel that this is where the films falls out of being realistic and panders to the audience's need for an epic finale which would match the opening sequence. Without spoiling the ending to the movie, they discover Private Ryan camped with a small band of men defending a position in a town, refusing to leave his comrades until proper back up arrives, Captain Miller and his men aid the small band of men in defending their position in a huge bloody battle. As I have already said, this is highly entertaining and packed full of special effects, but if falls into the realms of machismo as men carry on fighting once they have been shot, in true hero style.

● Characters and Cast

I have already mentioned that the character depth seems pretty weak, as we hardly learn any history on any of the main characters, although there is a diverse range of characters. The only time this changes is when after months of people betting on what Captain John Miller did before entering service, he tells them that he was a school teacher. Now for me, I find this very annoying as I found it very hard to associate myself with any of the characters, but then you could look at it as Spielberg demonstrating that the war was in fact full of people that you never really got to know, they were just names and faces.

What is pretty impressive is even though the main stars of the film were Tom Hanks, Tom Sizemore and to a certain extent Matt Damon, although he only appears in the final section of the film, not once did it feel like I was watching a Tom Hanks movie or a Sizemore movie. Gone were all the traits which you can usually pick up in their movies, and although the characters were weak, they were different to those which they usually play. On top of this, the film has a plethora of other well known stars such as Vin Diesel, Ted Danson, Edward Burns and Dennis Farina, all of which have minor roles all of which put in solid performances. I also found myself sitting their watching the film and thinking I recognize that actor, but couldn't name them, as "Saving Private Ryan" has several roles which feature many non main stream actors who are just breaking into film but are recognizable from TV appearances and other minor roles.

● Direction

This very rare for me, but I cannot criticise the direction of "Saving Private Ryan" at all, not because it is Steven Spielberg, but because in my opinion it is perfect. Right from the opening sequence on Omaha beach, where at times it may feel like it is blurry and all over the place, it just goes to show the chaos which was happening all around. Through to a scene where tension between Captain Miller's troops reached fever pitch as guns get pointed at each other for dissent, where he not only manages to demonstrate the tension but also the softer side of things when Miller sorts out the mess.

Even though I felt that the third section dragged on, this was not down to poor direction, but down to the story and in hind sight, the gaps in between action may not seem to achieve much, they gave you time to divulge the significance of the scene you have just watched.

● Sound track

Although there are a few songs in the movie, most notably "Tu Es Partout" and "C'Était Une Histoire D'Amour" featuring Edith Piaf , and several very enchanting musical compositions by Composer John Williams, I felt the emphasis of the sound came through the sound effects, and these were truly magnificent. I cannot comment on how realistic the sound of a gun going off is, but the fact the way the sound pans around makes you feel like you are in the midst of the action.


DVD - Bonus Features and quality
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● Bonus Features

- Exclusive Message - this is a short piece by Steven Spielberg which discusses why he chose to make "Saving Private Ryan" but also promotes the National D-day museum, this appears at the end of the credits as well as through the special features menu, and although interesting is not really full of detailed information.

- Into the Breach - is a 25 minute behind the scenes featurette which although has plenty of behind the scenes footage, it also has some very enlightening interviews with veterans of D-day as well as discusses Spielberg's interest in the war. Personally I found this far more interesting than the usual stuff which litters behind the scenes features.

- Biographies - although as someone who watches an enormous amount of movies, I find these quite boring, I have to admit that in this case they surprised me. There were 21 biographies in total, 11 for actors and 10 for crew, all of which were very well detailed.

- Production Notes - These appear both on the DVD as well as on the enclosed booklet and although quite brief are very interesting reading, and high lights some facts of the production that I never knew.

- Trailers - there are 2 trailers for "Saving Private Ryan" on the DVD and although nice are pretty pointless.

● Picture Quality

Although the picture does look a little grainy at times, this is exactly how it is meant to come across, so that you get a feel for the period, which a clean crisp image would not achieve. For some people they may find this annoying but personally I like it, and as this is how it was designed to be like, I cannot complain.

● Sound Quality

The audio quality is truly exceptional, the use of sounds through all speakers in a pro-logic set up is amazing, but also on a standard stereo set up is still very good. I have already mentioned how the special effects makes you feel like you are in the midst of the action, but in a living room, with the sound pumped up, it is even more so. The transfer of sound is top class and is incredibly crisp through out the entire movie.


Summary
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Even though I feel that the premise for the film and lack of real character depth is a negative point, it still remains a fact that the film is not only very entertaining and educational, but also hugely successful. Probably its greatest achievement is that it manages to highlight how brutal the D-day landings were whilst still managing to entertain you with both solid performances and plenty of action. Although the premise of saving Private Ryan may feel a bit thin, in hind sight a much more detailed and heavy story may have detracted from the overall enjoyment and effectiveness of the movie.

Although the special features on the DVD are not as extensive as some DVDs, they are of a decent quality that adds to the overall enjoyment of the film, rather than a cheap attempt to persuade us to spend a few extra pennies. On top of this, the transfer to DVD is of such a high quality that it also adds to the overall enjoyment, especially the brilliant special effects.

For a film which went on to win 5 Oscars and nominated for a further 6, it would be hard to really criticise and other than the gripes I have over the plot and characters I have to say the film and also the DVD package is of exceptional quality and one that I would recommend to everyone, whether fans of war movies or not.


Price & Availability
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Amazon.co.uk: £4.97
Play.com: £6.49


Technical Details
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Certificate: 15
Duration: 162 mins
Year of Release: 1998
DVD Release: 2000
Genre: Action, Drama, War

Language: English
Subtitles: English
Format: Anamorphic, PAL, Widescreen
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Region: 2

Director(s): Steven Spielberg
Producer(s): Steven Spielberg, Ian Bryce, Mark Gordon, Gary Levinsohn
Writer(s): Robert Rodat

Cast: Tom Hanks, Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Vin Diesel, Giovanni Ribisi,Barry Pepper, Adam Goldberg, Matt Damon, Ted Danson, Ryan Hurst, Jeremy Davies

© Christianfilmcritic July 2006


Community evaluation

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Comments on this review

  • Stunt101 published 20/05/2007
    Really enjoyed reading this, have an E
  • sigmatech published 25/11/2006
    Excellent review of probably the best war film of the past 20 years, well worth an E
  • britum2000 published 03/10/2006
    Hi, enjoyed your review of this great movie. Your comments about the thinness of the characters does not, however reflect such moments as the scene in the church where characters reveal a lot about themselves. The average GI was a citizen soldier as portrayed in later works such as Brothers in Arms. What more do we need to know other than yesterday they were civilian workers, now they are soldiers. This is an important part of the message of the film (see DVD extras). These were ordinary guys fighting for democracy. How can you watch the anguished death of the medic Irwin Wade, who has already told you about his nurse mother and his childhood, and still think of him as thin? Not forgetting Timothy Upham and conversations on patrol and in the church. And what more would you want to know about John Miller? The plot required his undisclosed civilian life and the incongruity of profession then and now. SPR is one of those rare movies almost beyond criticism. Bri
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Product Information : Saving Private Ryan (DVD)

Manufacturer's product description

Director Steven Spielberg's World War II tour de force chronicles the journey of a GI squad on a dangerous mission behind enemy lines. Led by Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks), the unit is under orders to track down a soldier, Private Ryan (Matt Damon), so he might return home to his mother in America, where she is grieving the unimaginable loss of her three other sons to the war. The first unforgettable 20 minutes of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN realistically and horrifically depicts the Normandy invasion as Miller. his second-in-command, Sergeant Horvath (Tom Sizemore), and the others in the unit land at Omaha Beach. Before the film began shooting, Hanks and the actors in his squad went through a one-week boot camp in the woods. All the actors, except Hanks, wanted to quit, but Hanks rallied their spirits by reminding them of the incredible tribulations endured by the real veterans of World War II. Production designer Tom Sanders found a beach in Ireland that perfectly matched the landscape of Normandy's. Spielberg gave great credit to the Irish army who helped re-create the Omaha Beach scenes.

Product Details

Video Category: Feature Film

Production Year: 1998

Plot: A war epic which tells the story of four brothers from the same family who are all fighting in the Second World War. On Washington's orders Captain Miller is sent behind enemy lines to bring back the sole surviving brother, Private Ryan. Winner of five Academy Awards.

Country Of Origin: United States of America

Classification: 15 years and over

Genre: War

Colour: Colour

Director(s): Steven Spielberg, Steven Spielberg

Actor(s): Tom Hanks, Tom Sizemore, Matt Damon, Vin Diesel, Barry Pepper, Giovanni Ribisi, Edward Burns, Ted Danson, Dennis Farina, Adam Goldberg, Jeremy Davies, Tom Hanks, Paul Giamatti, Tom Sizemore, Matt Damon, Vin Diesel, Barry Pepper, Giovanni Ribisi, Edward Burns, Ted Danson, Dennis Farina, Adam Goldberg, Jeremy Davies, Paul Giamatti

Release Details

DVD Region: DVD

Studio(s): PARAMOUNT HOME ENTERTAINMENT; TECHNICOLOR DISTRIBUTION SERVICES, PARAMOUNT HOME ENTERTAINMENT; TECHNICOLOR DIST. SERVICES

Catalogue No: PHE 8600, PHE 8362, PHE 8040

Barcode: 5014437860033, 5014437836236, 5014437804037

No of Discs: 2, 1

Release date: 01/11/2004, 01/09/2003, 06/11/2000

Executive Producer: Gary Levinsohn, Steven Spielberg

Featured: Steven Spielberg

Editor: Michael Kahn, Michael Kahn

Screenwriter: Robert Rodat, Steven Spielberg, Robert Rodat

Producer: Mark Gordon, Ian Bryce, Gary Levinsohn, Steven Spielberg, Mark Gordon, Ian Bryce, Gary Levinsohn, Steven Spielberg

Production Designer: Thomas Sanders, Thomas Sanders

Director of Photography: Janusz Kaminski, Janusz Kaminski

Composer: John Williams, John Williams, John Williams

Special Effects: Neil Corbould, Stefen Fangmeier, Roger Guyett

Languages

Main Language: English

Subtitle Language: English

Hearing Impaired Language: English

Technical Information

Dubbing Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1<br>Dolby Digital Surround<br>DTS, DTS, Dolby Digital 5.1 English

Special Features: An Inside Look With The Filmmakers, Looking Into The Past The research The Screenplay And The Vision, The Making Of A Platoon, Boot Camp For The Cast, Recreating DDay Omaha Beach

Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital Surround, DTS

Aspect Ratio: 1.78 Anamorphic Wide Screen, 16:9 Anamorphic Wide Screen

Award Information

OSCAR: Best Director 1999 (Steven Spielberg, Steven Spielberg)

BAFTA: Best Achievement In Special Effects 1998 (Stefen Fangmeier, Roger Guyett, Neil Corbould)

Professional Reviews

Review: Ranked #3 in Entertainment Weekly's "10 Favorite Films of the '90s" -- "...[A] masterpiece....One soul-shattering experience..." (Entertainment Weekly, 2000-04-01)<br><br>Ranked #3 in Entertainment Weekly's "10 Favorite Films of the '90s" -- "...[A] masterpiece....One soul-shattering experience..." (Entertainment Weekly, pp.159-60, 01/04/2000)<br><br>...Unprecedented immediacy [in] the battle scenes....Uniformly superb performances... (Movieline, 1999-06-01)<br><br>"...Unprecedented immediacy [in] the battle scenes....Uniformly superb performances..." (Movieline, p.91, 01/06/1999)<br><br>...Soberly magnificent....It is the ultimate devastating letter home... (New York Times, 1998-07-24)<br><br>"...Soberly magnificent....It is the ultimate devastating letter home..." (New York Times, p.E14, 24/07/1998)<br><br>...Sheer gut-wrenching immediacy....[Spielberg] has come of age as an artist... (Sight and Sound, 1998-09-01)<br><br>"...Sheer gut-wrenching immediacy....[Spielberg] has come of age as an artist..." (Sight and Sound, p.34-52, 01/09/1998)<br><br>

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