Film Review: Saving Private Ryan – 9/10

“Is that what I’m supposed to tell your mother when she gets another folded American flag…’

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Sometimes I watch a film and just think who am I to even attempt to review that film? It doesn’t happen often due to my astounding arrogance but Saving Private Ryan is one such example…

I have a tendency to kick against Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg just because they are so popular and mainstream. If that makes me sound like an awful elitist, it is probably because I am. Sometimes you just have to hold  your hands up and admit you are wrong. Saving Private Ryan is an astonishing film. Even almost twenty years later it is one of the greatest visual spectacles ever produced. Unlike say Avatar however, there is much more that just aesthetics at play here. The script is funny and touching and truly beautiful in places. The acting is top notch with Tom Hanks giving possibly his best ever performance. Spielberg’s attention to detail is poetic in its celebration of the mundane, those reminders that these soldiers were all just people like you or me. The score is perfect. The sheer scope and ambition of the whole picture is staggering. Saving Private Ryan is quite simply the best war film ever made, but more than that, it is one of the best films ever made.

I know that children spend a lot of time studying war poetry in schools and that is a good, necessary thing. But it should also be supplemented by films like Saving Private Ryan. There is as much to learn here, as much artistic merit, as anything produced by Wilfred Owen or Siegfried Sassoon (different wars I know but the point still stands).

In this age of hyperbole and hysterical overreaction, it is common to see a film defined as being a classic or era defining or one of the best ever. Saving Private Ryan is all those things and much more. It could definitely be argued that it isn’t Spielberg’s best film, but it is definitely his most important. If for some unfathomable reason you haven’t seen it, correct that situation immediately.


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