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Saving Private Ryan
cast: Tom Hanks, Tom Sizemore, Matt Damon, Edward Burns, and Barry Pepper

director: Steven Spielberg

169 mins (R) 1998
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Universal DVD Region 1 retail

RATING: 9/10
reviewed by Octavio Ramos Jr
Winner of five US Academy Awards and countless other honours, Saving Private Ryan is the latest of filmmaker Steven Spielberg's big pictures, examples of which include the little-remembered Empire Of The Sun (1987), and recent acknowledged works such as Schindler's List and Amistad. Although Spielberg has received many accolades for making such excellent and well-crafted films, the credit must be shared out to include the writers, producers, actors, and craftsmen that Spielberg brings under him for these epics. For example, consider the many technical and story flaws found in Jurassic Park (in which a hunter uses a shotgun to hunt the equivalent of a tiger) and the flawless work of Saving Private Ryan, down to the loading of ammunition and the savagery of hand to hand combat. As demonstrated in this example alone, Spielberg is oblivious to such technical details, relying on others to ensure the authenticity of the story and its elements.
   Saving Private Ryan opens with World War II's historic D-Day invasion, in which Allied troops storm the Omaha Beach coastline and establish a beachhead. During the brutal struggle to move off the beach and into French territory, Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) and his men use every weapon and strategy available to them to overcome superior German forces. Once the beachhead is established, Miller is given another mission. He is to take eight men into German territory to retrieve Private James Ryan (Matt Damon), whose three brothers have been killed in action, leaving him as the only Ryan left.
   After numerous encounters with German forces, including a sniper attack and an assault on a machinegun nest, Miller and his men at last find Private Ryan. When Ryan hears of the death of his brothers, he elects to remain with his company, which has been ordered to hold a bridge at any cost. Miller and his men agree to help the company, and what follows is a searing finale in which German armour meets sticky bombs, sharpshooter skill, raw guts, and the cowardice of one man.
   Saving Private Ryan is an intense and exciting film filled with true-to-life characters with deep-rooted flaws and courage. The story is engaging and Spielberg's direction is solid, although it ventures into the patriotic at awkward times. This is a film about men and their complex relationships; when Spielberg attempts to make it more, he fails. The acting overall is excellent, with Hanks and Tom Sizemore delivering introspective performances. Also worth mentioning is the performance of Barry Pepper, who plays a religious sharpshooter who most critics have credited as a sniper (there's a difference).
   The special edition of this DVD includes a featurette titled Into The Breach, theatrical trailers, production notes, and biographies of the cast and filmmakers.

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