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Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Saving Private Ryan is a 1998 American epic war film set during the invasion of Normandy in World War II. It was directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Robert Rodat. Noted for its graphic and realistic portrayal of war, the film is especially notable for the intensity of its opening 27 minutes, which depicts the Omaha Beach assault of June 6, 1944. Afterwards, it follows Tom Hanks as United States Army Rangers Captain John H. Miller and seven other soldiers (Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Barry Pepper, Vin Diesel, Giovanni Ribisi, Adam Goldberg, and Jeremy Davies) as they search for a paratrooper, Private First Class James Francis Ryan (Matt Damon), who is the last-surviving brother of four servicemen. Rodat conceived the film's story in 1994 when he saw a monument dedicated to eight siblings killed in the American Civil War. Rodat imagined a similar sibling narrative set in World War II. The script was submitted to producer Mark Gordon, who handed it to Hanks. It was finally given to Spielberg, who decided to direct. The film's premise is loosely based on the real-life case of the Niland brothers.
Undoubtedly this year's hype leader among 'quality' pictures, Ryan hasn't garnered a word of bad buzz aside from the stern and dire warnings about its overwhelming violence content. It's no lie: Ryan may be one of the goriest films ever made - it will certainly be the goriest to ever win an Oscar (which will come in droves: I predict seven).
An excellent companion piece to Schindler's List, Spielberg has obviously poured his heart into this movie. The well-known story of a small group's search for James Ryan (Damon), whose three brothers were killed nearly simultaneously, is as simple and as powerful as they come.
The battle scenes, which encompass probably 100 minutes of the circa 160-minute running time, are epic in proportion. The idle moments in between are also worth your attention, although, in the end and in retrospect, they can seem a bit pithy on occasion, especially the bookend scenes of the elderly Ryan returning to Normandy to pay his respects. For Speilberg, there's no such thing as going too far to get you to cry.
Still, Ryan's easily a top contender for best film of the year, thanks to the gut-wrenching realism that pervades every scene of the picture. I only hope Spielberg can come to grips with the remnants of Jurassic Park that still must linger in his blood, making him take the easy-cheesy way out (eg. the planes from above that save the day) when working through the actual story gets a bit too hairy.
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