Sunday, December 16, 2007

Brad's All-Time Fave Films: #7

Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a bit of a nut when it comes to History and historical films(I get it from my dad), so it should come as no surprise that a film like "Saving Private Ryan" would make the top 10. Also, fittingly enough, it was my dad that first took me to see this one in the theaters, along with Mike Failor when we were still in high school.

It would be impossible to discuss the plaudits of this particular movie, however, without stopping to discuss the film's realism, which may just be its strongest point. Other than minor issues like 'real US soldiers didn't have rank insignias on their helmets' or 'phone cords were straight in 1944, not coiled', this movie incredibly captures life (and death) on the front lines. In fact, I recall reading at the time the movie was released that a number of veterans had to leave the theaters as the images were so lifelike, it stirred memories of being back on the battlefield. Particular credit goes to Spielberg and his cinematographer, Janusz Kaminski, for draining the colors and using hand-held cameras to capture life as it was in Normandy in June, 1944.

Realism aside, I also found the story and characters to be quite engaging. Much has been made of the group of soldiers that go out in search of Private Ryan, considering there's a religious Southern sniper, a rough-and-tumble Italian, a loud-mouthed New Yorker and a teacher leading them all. However, looking back on the war itself, these are the types of people that really did do the fighting. It was an entire cross-section of our country, young and old, that saw a common evil that needed to be defeated and rose to meet the challenge. Of course, it helps that these characters are all extremely well played by their respective actors (and yes, I even include Vin Diesel in this).

For those who say that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it, I give them this film as proof of their argument. For surely if this is the case, when history is presented this clearly, it is impossible to ignore.