Rewind Reviews – Saving Private Ryan

Posted on 24 October 2018
By Andrew Siddall
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Whenever Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg appear in the credits of a movie, you know you’re in for something special. This Rewind Review is no exception, with Spielberg’s 1998 wartime masterpiece Saving Private Ryan.

Taking place during World War 2, Saving Private Ryan follows a group of 8 soldiers who are tasked with finding Private James Ryan, the youngest and soul surviving brother of four, who’s located behind enemy lines, and send him home to his family.

This being an ensemble movie, it features some of the biggest names from the 90’s, with none other than Tom Hanks taking the lead as Captain John Miller. It’s no surprise that Tom Hanks knocks it out of the park, with a shaking hand and a look that’s able to convey so much with no words. This is someone who has seen too much and it has taken its toll.

Matt Damon stars as the Ryan of the title, the youngest of four brothers who are all killed in action. He isn’t in the movie as much as the other characters, instead only coming into the movie towards the third act, but he is able to show a likable and relatable side that lets you warm to him very quickly.

There’s too many other characters to talk about individually, but it’s great to see so many fleshed out characters that interact in a believable way. You can really feel the brotherly bond between them during some great exchanges.

While this is only partly based on a true story, it does dip in and out of the real war, starting with an epic opening battle on Omaha Beach that paints a graphic image of what the war was like.

Nothing is left out of this sequence, with bodies and limbs flying, and soldiers being mowed down by never ending machine guns. It’s a harrowing scene that’s only heightened by the camera work and sound design.

The hand-held camera moves in and around the men, as though looking through the eyes of a soldier, dropping you right in the middle of the action. It works brilliantly for the film and separates it from many other war movies.

The sound design is fantastic, providing a visceral and immersive experience that sets you on edge as the bullets rain down and the distant echoes of other battles raging on as the characters proceed with their mission.

This doesn’t just focus on the battles and stay with the soldiers, this shows each side to the war, with a few scenes focusing on the generals and a brief look at home life. It helps establish the stakes and make the characters fit in with the times.

Adding to the scope of the movie, ILM provide the incredible effects that really help bring the world to life. The effects are used sparingly but effectively, such as a wide shot over Omaha Beach with the zeppelins and boats in the distance.

The legendary John Williams (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) provides the score. This sounds different to a lot of his other work, but it still has a glimmer of hope. It very patriotic and it really tugs at the heart strings, but it doesn’t overshadow the action, holding back during the battle scenes, making those sequences even more tense.

Overall, this is one of Spielberg’s finest movies with some of the best performances from the main cast. This truly is an emotional experience and gives a brilliant insight into the Second World War.

Purple Revolver rating: 5/5. Another Spielberg masterpiece.