Movie Review By Heather Clisby
"Saving Private Ryan," the latest epic from Steven Spielberg, is a World War II film that is everything you'd expect from Hollywood's Golden Boys. Starring Tom Hanks, Matt Damon and Edward Burns, it's three hours of brutal carnage and exhausted emotions. The message is clear: War is bad for your health.
Hanks is Captain Miller, a stoic enigma to his men, who receive some unusual orders from the top. He and his company are to rescue Private James Ryan, who has yet to learn that his three only brothers have all been recently killed in action. He is to be found and brought home alive to his grieving mother.
As the men make their way through treacherous enemy territory, risking life and limb, the inevitable question arises: Is one man worth it? Furthermore, don't we all have mothers who will grieve?
Though this is a man's movie on the surface, the presence of women is strong, even through we rarely see them and never do they speak. When the men die, which they do often, it is their mother they cry out for with their last breath. The entire mission, thus, is undertaken to spare one woman the further pain of reading another unwelcome telegram.
Congratulations are due to Mr. Spielberg (a man quite close to his mother, I might add) because he so obviously has the right occupation. War films are always difficult, what with explosions, gunfire, blood, dirt and legions of extras all dressed the same but the director really pulls off some a amazingly long action sequences with nary a slice of editing. Hand-held cameras are used for low-angle shots, providing authentic footage, once you get past the jitters.
Hanks does a terrific acting job, naturally, and he may even (God forbid) pick up a third Oscar. But the most moving performance came from Jeremy Davies as Corporal Upham, a reluctant translator who has never seen combat. Because he is the least hardened of the men, his eyes are still wide open; his sensitivity and conscience are still functioning and his fear is the most tangible.
Also, Edward Burns really delivers as Private Reiben, the most outspoken and suspicious of the men. Tom Sizemore, as Sergeant Horvath, brings some needed warmth and light humor to a heavy, heavy film.
If you can survive the opening sequence - a brutal reenactment of landing at Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944 - then get ready for more pain, loss, blood and tears, which in wartime, flows ceaselessly.
© 1998 - Heather Clisby - Air Date: 7/22/98
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