Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Stevie Spielberg's latest as war porn?  Maybe.  The superbly staged 
combat sequences are easily the most effective elements in this ex-
citing-but-kinda-empty World War II epic.  In particular, the har-
rowing, hyper-real opener-- a grunt's-eye view of the Normandy in-
vasion-- crouches head and shoulders above subsequent scenes.  (The 
rubble-strewn finale, though less-focused, rates a reasonably close 
second.)  When the hail of bullets dies down, however, the film is, 
by turns, tedious, talky, too broad, too bland, occasionally confu-
sing, sometimes stupefying (oy, that present-day coda!), and, by 
the end, not nearly as emotionally affecting as the subject matter 
suggests.  (With a Gore Quotient that might make Paul Verhoven 
blush, the "R"-rated film is indeed *physically* affecting.  Even 
Yours Truly felt a flash of the queasies...)  In fact, the whole 
thing has the not-fully-satisfying feel of a fable, albeit one with 
a dose of jaw-dropping realism.  (Between this and THERE'S SOME-
THING ABOUT MARY, talk about a summer of shocking sights!  Dying 
soldiers... lost semen...)  The obvious message is "war is war" and 
maybe the best way to serve such bitter medicine is by wrapping it 
in something sweeter and that we've tasted before.  With it's stock 
characters, freshly scrubbed stars, and only occasionally intrusive 
John Williams score, you might think you've fought this particular 
battle before.  Starring Tom Hanks, with Tom Sizemore, Ed Burns, 
Jeremy Davies, Vin Diesel, Adam Goldberg, and about, oh, 45 minutes 
worth of Matt Damon.  (Rated "R"/170 min.)

Grade: B

Copyright 1998 Michael J. Legeros
Movie Hell is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros

Originally posted to triangle.movies as MOVIE HELL: July 26, 1998

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