Friday, November 26, 2010

Why should I care if they save Private Ryan?

I'm a little confused. I just saw SPR for the first time and what a disappointment. Maybe it's because I've seen a lot of combat films but it really was pretty ordinary. Historically, it seems like a load of nonsense. Yes, I know it was 'based' on a true story, but they found that brother in a recreation room in England, not really a 'behind enemy lines' mission is it? Something like that just never would have happened. The opening minutes are realistic - yep, lots of gore. But does it, as Spielberg claims, recreate actual war footage? Not quite. Still, it would be quite an effective opening - if it related in any way to the story that follows. After that it's pretty much a standard war film, sticking very closely to the genre conventions (the word cliche springs to mind). It's almost as if Spielberg's trying to remake a movie from the forties, one from his childhood. With one big difference: this film lacks a moral core. I can't quite see what the point of it is. Was the mission worth it? Absolutely not. Do I care that they saved Private Ryan? Not in the least. Then what exactly is this film for? Unlike the films of the war years here's no sense of what the whole point of the war was. And this was a very strong sense of the times, soldiers knew what they were fighting for. This is a crucial gap in the film. You need the tension between a morally just war and what it actually makes people do. There's no ambiguity here. Everything is black and white. What is Spielberg trying to say? That war is hell? Got that in the first five minutes thanks. The war was ghastly but this film also makes it pointless. And this certainly isn't an anti war film by any means. It's an action movie with a war setting. Not the greatest war movie by a long shot. It's not as though I'm an expert on the war, or if I know much about cinema. But I have watched a lot of war films and this is one that left me unmoved.

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2 comments:

donnasoowho said...

Funny you should say that - even though I enjoyed the movie at the time (although I've never been able to view it in the same way since Ray insists on calling it 'Shaving Ryan's Privates'). I didn't care that they saved Private Ryan at all and thought it seemed like a bit of a waste of resources....

Sailor Lily said...

I think you are becoming expert actually! Your analysis of what makes a good war movie, in terms of it having a moral discourse too, is really interesting. I've never seen SPR andn ow I have no interest at all!