Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Harrowing Salute to "Private Ryan" Heartfelt War Tale from Spielberg Is Powerfully Candid

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Harrowing Salute to "Private Ryan" Heartfelt War Tale from Spielberg Is Powerfully Candid

Article excerpt

A soldier walks upright through the bullets that deluge Omaha

Beach, engulfing it, smothering it with death. Then, with the

hand he has remaining, he reaches down for something on the

ground. It's his severed arm, which he picks up and takes with

him, as if he could reattach it himself.

Around him, bullets pierce helmets with a neat pop. Men's

insides lie next to them on the sand in great disorderly piles.

And the English Channel turns red.

Saving Private Ryan's re-creation of the D-Day invasion is

simply one of the most staggering sequences ever set to film.

Without the balm of a movie score, without the distancing

brought by ersatz drama or phony heroism, it dunks you directly

into the hell that was that beach on that day. And it holds you


It's the centerpiece of another extraordinary movie from Steven

Spielberg, moviemaking's most technically proficient director,

who's once again working with his most effective weapon -- his


Saving Private Ryan is not the masterpiece Schindler's List

was, not near it.

Yet most other movies wither in comparison, especially those

that trifle with violence for laughs or mere thrills.

The rest of Saving Private Ryan cannot match the opening

scenes on the beach. What could? What follows is a far more

conventional war story, with a quickly sketched group of

soldiers led on a noble but perhaps foolhardy mission by a

captain played by the formidable Tom Hanks. The mission is to

find and send home a young soldier named Ryan whose brothers

have all been killed in action.

Still it remains harrowing and masterfully told. Spielberg

shows the rage that could lead ordinary men to commit what many

would call atrocities. He also shows unredeemed cowardice,

extraordinary bravery and unrelieved terror, aided greatly by

his frequent cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, who uses trembling

hand-held cameras and bleached-out, uncompromising lighting to

show the quagmire of war.

Saving Private Ryan is without the overly dramatic flourishes

that marred Spielberg's last movie, Amistad. He finds no

grandeur in these battles. …

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