Following the Normandy Landings, a group of U.S. soldiers go behind enemy lines to retrieve a paratrooper whose brothers have been killed in action.
I cry no less than six times while watching this film. I counted this time. From the first battle scene as the men land on Omaha Beach on, what came to be known as, D-Day to the final battle scene at the bridge, this film is filled with beautiful cinematography, fantastic sound editing, marvelous acting, and one hell of a score from John Williams.
Steven Spielberg sure as hell knows how to build a team of professionals who are top notch in their field. Looking at the people who worked on this film, he has worked with nearly every one of them before. He knows talent when he sees it, clearly. Saving Private Ryan had been nominated for 11 Academy Awards in 1999, winning 5 of them (Honestly, as much as I love the movie Shakespeare in Love, I still don’t see how it won Best Picture over this film). Spielberg won for Best Director, Kaminski had won for Best Cinematography, Kuhn won for Best Editing, the entire sound editing team won for Best Sound, Sound Effects Editing, and the sound team won for Best Sound. These all also happen to be the things that stand out most in this film, I think.
The opening D-Day scene. This scene is incredibly violent. It’s also incredibly emotional with very little dialogue ever actually taking place. In fact, that continuously happens throughout the film. Great amounts of emotion are portrayed with absolutely no words. Spielberg has a way of yanking magnificent performances out of his actors, and this film is no different.
Speaking of actors, the amount of talent that is in this film is unbelievable. First and foremost, we have Tom Hanks, America’s Favorite Uncle. I don’t think I’ve ever really been disappointed with a performance from Tom Hanks. Also in this film you have Edward Burns, Adam Goldberg, Vin Diesel, Jeremy Davies, Matt Damon, Giovanni Ribisi, Ted Danson, Nathan Fillion, and Paul Giamatti. That’s one hell of a line up. All of them give such heart wrenching performances that you forget that you’re watching actors.
John Williams is one of my top three favorite film composers. His music has a way of adding to a scene without overpowering for it, unless the story calls for it (like in any Indiana Jones film or Star Wars film). His score for this film is beautifully crafted. It intertwines with the visuals to pull more emotions out of us than we knew that we even had. It subtly comes in and subtly fades out. It’s one of those things that, if not fully paying attention, you may not even notice completely.
Every aspect of this film is thought out. In particular, the actual battle scenes. I feel like you could rewatch these battle scenes fifty times and find something new and heartbreaking every time (although, why would you necessarily want to? Once is enough for me.) I’m just constantly amazed at the emotion that is shown by all of the extras in the film. Every person in that opening scene deserves some kind of award.
Having the camera ingrained in these battle scenes greatly helped to connect the viewer to the characters. In the opening, the camera, several times, is looking head on into the fighting. It bobs in and out of the water. It makes the audience one with these men who are all running towards certain death.
The final bridge battle scene, I feel, is one of the most composed moments of the film (not that the whole film isn’t well composed). You can tell that everything was thought out: the camera angles, the close ups, the lighting, all of it. Of course, I don’t expect anything less from Steven Spielberg.
Again, I will forever be baffled as to why this film didn’t win the Academy Award for Best Picture in the year 1999. Because it sure as hell deserved it.