Saving Private Ryan (1998)

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Starring: Tom Hanks, Edward Burns, Tom Sizemore, Matt Damon, Harrison Young, Barry Pepper, Adam Goldberg, Vin Diesel, Giovanni Ribisi, Jeremy Davies, Paul Giamatti, Ted Danson, Bryan Cranston, Nathan Fillion

Director: Steven Spielberg

Summary: Following D-Day, a group of U.S. soldiers go behind enemy lines to retrieve a paratrooper whose brothers were killed in action

Other Nominations: Director*, Actor (Hanks), Original Screenplay, Original Dramatic Score, Sound Editing*, Sound*, Art Direction, Cinematography*, Makeup, Film Editing*

In spite of a few imperfections, this is exceptional filmmaking. The two big action set pieces that we get at the beginning and end are truly incredible in scope and execution (especially the Omaha Beach opening)-the cinematography, direction, editing and sound design all put us right in the middle of it, making us feel how jarring and chaotic it was in unflinching and graphic detail. At least for these scenes, it feels real and gives you a true appreciation for what a soldier has to go through in combat, or at least as much as can be for a civilian like myself. Besides just the action, many of the other elements work: the muted color palette of greens and browns fit perfectly, setting the tone for basically every color WWII combat movie after it and Hanks’ character has weight to it, or at least more than the characters he tends to play.

The biggest issue I have is that it sometimes becomes overly-sentimental. I know it’s Spielberg and that almost always comes with the territory, but the ending really went over the edge for me and hurt the film. In general, the story/script is the weakest major aspect relative to others along with the score which was not one of John Williams’ more memorable efforts. Still, the film is a marvel on a technical and action-directing level and deserves its place as one of the great WWII movies.

Rating: A-

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