Friday, 20 January 2012

Saving Private Ryan

Smell the Movies
Smell the TV


Country of origin:USA
Director:Steven Spielberg
Genre:Epically dull WW2 drama
Starring:Tom Hanks, Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Barry Pepper, Adam Goldberg, Vin Diesel, Matt Damon
IMDB link:
Tagline:In the Last Great Invasion of the Last Great War, The Greatest Danger for Eight Men was Saving... One.
Favourite line:"We're not here to do the decent thing, we're here to follow fucking orders!"

Spielberg's World War 2 epic is a study in technical excellence and achievement over gripping narrative or believable characters.

I'm sure you know it, but here's the plot:
When the American army find out that three brothers have been killed in action, a small troop of soldiers is sent to the front line to try to find the only surviving sibling.

That's it.
In a movie near three hours in duration, that is the plot in its entirety.
But this isn't about the storyline, this is about the human struggle for survival against incredible odds, right?
If you say so.
As a concept, I was just about able to buy into the fact that the army may have been compassionate enough to approve such a mission - just about, mind - and, inevitably, the staging of the initial invasion sequences were enough to draw me into the movie. Spielberg's 'in the battle' direction is breathless stuff, bullets spraying, mines exploding, limbs flying left and right, made all the more pertinent by the fact that the events portrayed are not based entirely on fiction, but are the director's representation of actual events and it genuinely brings a lump to the throat at times as you imagine yourself in the same situation, sprinting up the beach, those around you dying, knowing that at any moment a bullet could catch you full in the skull and that would be the end of it or, worse, a mine could detonate nearby, removing a leg or two, or spilling your intestines but leaving you alive to die a slow, painful death.
Half an hour or so in, the combat is done, at least for a long, loooong while and the whole thing just grinds to a halt as our heroes spend the next hour and a half wandering around rural France hunting for Ryan and, when they find him, things only get worse as Spielberg can't help but delve into that blatant sentimentality that has almost become a trademark, plucking at the heartstrings with a barbed wire plektrum, intending to invoke sympathy and empathy and, perhaps, tears, though invoking in myself instead a raging desire to vomit up blood specked flecked phlegm. Call me a monster, but my cold, black heart was unmoved by The (Matt) Daemon when he finally showed his wide, flat face.
I will concede that the last twenty minutes or so was pretty gripping as the survivors struggled to hold a strategically important bridge meaning that the movie is interesting for the opening and closing battle sequences, but little else, an hour and three quarters of saccharine filler in the middle that actually seemed far longer.
But this is reality, I hear you cry, how can you not be more emotionally involved? Don't you realise how important D-Day was?
Well, yes of course I do, and I've read broadly around the subject. But this isn't reality. This is a fictionalised version of reality. This is Hollywood attemting to rewrite history. Just where were the British and Canadian soldiers? Not to mention the Australian and New Zealanders, the Dutch and the Norwegians? In fact, if you were of a mind to, you could actually be quite offended by this version of reality that Spielberg dished up. Whilst not offended, I simply found the lack of realism on this score detracted mightily from my ability to fully immerse.
Next up, Munich.....

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