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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Saving Private Ryan: The real blood and gore of a war

A lot of movies nowadays start in flashback, and so does this movie. It takes a World War 2 veteran, visiting the 'American Cemetary and Memorial' in Normandy; he collapses due to extreme emotion in front of a grave, and that is where the story begins. 'Saving Private Ryan', in addition to being an unusual quest for a soldier in the middle of a raging and fierce war, was also very famous for its portrayal of the battle scenes of the landing of the Omaha beach in Normandy as part of Operation Overlord, the all-out allied effort to re-enter the European battle zone in order to defeat Germany. The battles were bloody, with a great loss of life. Most movies that depict these landings shy away from depicting the horrors of war; something that Saving Private Ryan depicts with a great amount of clarity.

Saving Private Ryan: The real blood and gore of a war

Saving Private Ryan is a film with 2 mega-stars; starring Tom Hanks as the soldier in charge of the mission of finding Private Ryan, and Steve Spielberg as the Director. The movie garnered immense positive publicity and acclaim, ignited a burst of interest in the Second World War, and earned a large amount of money. The movie won a total of $480 million worldwide on a budget of $70 million.
Saving Private Ryan got nominated for a total of 11 Oscars, and won the following: Best Cinematography, Best Sound, Best Sound Editing, Best Editing and Best Director. However, Saving Private Ryan did not win the Best Picture award (and there are not too many movies that have won the Best Direction award and not won the Best Picture Award).
The movie is supposed to be loosely based on the story of the Niland Brothers in World War 2, where it was believed that only one out of the 4 brothers survived, and the surviving brother was sent back to the United States. The concept is very simple; a senior American General realized that for the Ryan family where all 4 brothers were serving in the allied army, 3 of them had died withing a few days of each other, and the one brother not confirmed dead was missing. And their mother would get the 3 notices of death on the same day. General George C Mashall orders that the remaining brother be found and sent back to the United States to the grieving mother.
The task of finding the Private Ryan (Matt Damon) falls on Captain John T Miller (Tom Hanks) who has managed to survive the landing at Normandy. He receives the order to find Private Ryan and assembles a 8 member team (comprising of the following: Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Barry Pepper, Vin Diesel, Giovanni Ribisi, Jeremy Davies, and Adam Goldberg) for this mission. Nobody really knows where Private Ryan is, so they move from place to place, city to city trying to find out. They eventually manage to find a friend of Ryan who tells them about his current location: trying to save a strategic bridge over the Merderet River in the town of Ramelle.
By the team they arrive at this location, they have lost 2 members of the team already; they take part in a small battle and defeat a German advance force. They als end up meeting Private Ryan and inform him about his brothers deaths and that they have come to take him back to the US. He refuses to leave his unit, and intends to stay to defend the bridge against a German counter-attack. Captain Miller eventually agrees, and tells his men to join the battle.
The Germans arrive in force and push the Americans back slowly using more men and firepower; just in the nick of time, American reinforcements come and defeat the Germans, but at the cost of Captain Miller. And then the scene shifts back to the present where the man in front of the grave is Private Ryan and the grave is of Captain Miller.
The movie won immense praise for the scenes of the Normandy invasion, showing the losses and horror of the fierce battles. These battle scenes have been portrayed as very accurate, and among the best battle scenes in war movies. The violence depicted is pretty detailed, and this has come in for some criticism. But overall, the movie, showing a post-Normandy mission, has some great scenes and pretty good acting. Easily worth watching.

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