Saving Private Ryan (1998)


When a soldier’s three brothers are all killed in action during the Second World War, the US army sends a team into France to locate him…

Seen before? Yes, at the flicks in 1998.

Best performance: What struck me most about the cast was just how many faces there are that I recognise from other things. As well as Tom Hanks, Matt Damon and Ted Danson, there’s Tom Sizemore (Heat, True Romance), Barry Pepper (Enemy of the State), Adam Goldberg (Chandler’s bonkers flatmate in Friends and also recently Fargo), Vin Diesel (The Fast and the Furious), Giovanni Ribisi (Phoebe’s brother in Friends), Jeremy Davies (Lost), Paul Giamatti (Downton Abbey), Dennis Farina (Out of Sight), Corey Johnson (Doctor Who), Nathan Fillion (Firefly), Leland Orser (Seven), Bryan Cranston (Seinfeld)…

Best scene/moment/sequence: The final battle to defend the bridge. It’s 26 minutes of sustained action, tension and horror.

Review: When Saving Private Ryan was released, I was just starting my degree in Film and Television Studies – so, given my mindset at the time, perhaps I’ll always view it in terms of its cinematic techniques. And I think they are the film’s biggest success. There are numerous long, handheld takes; shutter speeds and lens sizes are cleverly varied to help sell the reality/immediacy of war; and – if you’ll allow me to use a pretentious analytical phrase – the mise-en-scène is *constantly* interesting, inventive and illuminating. The storytelling is stunningly, winningly precise. It does get rather sentimental at times – Captain Miller’s stories about his life back in America are twee, for example – but it’s also not afraid to show dubious behaviour on both sides of the war.

Eight FUBARs out of 10.

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