Saving Private Ryan: Hollywood Has Never Done Better
by Martin Blumenson
Author of The Battle of the Generals: The Untold Story of the Falaise Pocket (Morrow, 1993)
A policy of war, resulting from a decision at the highest level of government, triggers all sorts of activities on lower echelons until, at the very bottom, on the battlefield, the essential execution, the ultimate confrontation occurs. That is where, with two exceptions, the opening scene, which establishes the rest as flashback, and General Marshall's wish, which drives the movie after the D-day assault, Saving Private Ryan takes place.
The actual experience of combat envelops and affects all the senses, including the feel and the smell of the earth, the taste of sweat and fear. All too often pain and hurt are present. Yet the sights and sounds on the screen come remarkably close to conveying the real thing. Hollywood has never done better. The action here is riveting, exciting, frightening. The tension is almost palpable.
The representation is accurate. This is how it was in World War II. There are no bloopers.
The film treats the military with great respect. It shows the devotion of soldiers to duty. The chain of command works. Behind the unfolding behavior depicted, as firm as rock yet unsaid and undefined, is an awareness on both sides of the issues, those beyond the immediate points of individual life and death, at stake in the fighting.
It's a great movie. Go see it.