Saving Private Ryan

I remember the first time I saw Saving Private Ryan. In 1998, when the movie was released, I still lived in Colorado. World War II was my specialty in grad school, yet I was hesitant to see the film. I had heard the first 27 minutes were intense and I’m not one who likes that type of intensity. Then a friend asked if I wanted to go to the drive-in theater. I agreed. That’s how I saw this film. On a massive drive-in screen. It was an uncomfortable experience and for the most part I was too traumatized to enjoy the rest of the film.

When I saw that movie was on the AFI top 100 I wasn’t thrilled. Well, folks I watched it again. This time, though, it was on a much smaller screen thank goodness. It’s still an intense movie, especially the opening scenes. However, I knew what I was in for so I was able to concentrate on the story and not just the carnage. War is hell, and Spielberg made sure that was clear in this film.

After the invasion of Omaha Beach, Captain John H. Miller (Tom Hanks) and his squad are sent on a mission to save the last surviving brother of four servicemen, Private James Francis Ryan (Matt Damon). Robert Rodat, the writer, conceived this story after seeing a monument dedicated to eight siblings who died in the American Civil War. He set his story in World War II.

The film received numerous awards and audiences flocked to the theater to see it. It was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won 5, including Best Director. Actually, it would take an entire post to list all of the awards it won. Let’s just say, a lot.

Did I change my opinion of the movie? Yes, a little.The violence in the film still made me uncomfortable, but I think that was the intention. Was I traumatized all over again? Yes. But I did enjoy the story more and I can see what all the fuss was about in 1998. What I appreciate most is that this movie doesn’t glorify war. It shows the brutality, the suffering, and the illogical effects it has on people. After re-watching this film it made me understand even more why my grandfather never talked about the war.

I will say that I won’t rush to watch this film again, if ever. It’s a great war flick and if you haven’t seen it yet, I do recommend it. Just know that it’s not easy to watch. Funny enough, while I was in Malaysia, we came back from a river cruise and the staff at the lodge was watching this flick on the telly. I sat down and watched a few minutes, and then I went and got a beer and joined some new friends at a different table keeping my eyes averted from the screen.

Up next is a film I’m dreading even more: A Clockwork Orange.

About TBM

TB Markinson is an American living in England. When she isn’t writing, she’s traveling the world, watching sports on the telly, visiting pubs, or reading. Not necessarily in that order.
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77 Responses to Saving Private Ryan

  1. jmgoyder says:

    I remember this.

  2. Vishy says:

    Nice review, TBM. I agree with you that the first few minutes of the movie, probably the first half an hour is difficult to watch. I couldn’t watch the movie when I tried the first time, and then I watched it again years later. It was a wonderful movie, but the first part was still hard to watch. Made me yearn for the golden age Hollywood war movies where the heroes were handsome, the heroines were beautiful and war was cool.

    Hope you enjoy watching ‘A Clockwork Orange’. I watched it a few years back when I did a Stanley Kubrick festival at home. I read the book first before watching the movie. I liked both of them in a way, but they were disturbing. Have you read the book by Anthony Burgess?

    • TBM says:

      I started the book the other day, but haven’t gotten that far into it. I think that will be my weekend project.

      And yes, the first half hour of Saving Private Ryan is tough to watch. Oh the days when John Wayne always won–my grandfather was a huge fan and I’ve seen many of his films. They were simpler movies that’s for sure.

      • Vishy says:

        Yeah, John Wayne was cool 🙂 Have you seen ‘True Grit’? I saw the recent version of it sometime back when it was nominated for the Oscars a few years back and I liked it very much. Then I discovered that when it was first made into a movie, John Wayne played one of the lead characters, and so I went and watched that too. I liked both of them, but they were very different, though the overall story was the same. I want to read the novel sometime. The main character is the heroine and she is quite fascinating.

        Hope you enjoy reading ‘A Clockwork Orange’. Will look forward to hearing your thoughts on it. Happy reading!

      • TBM says:

        I have seen both True Grits and like them both, but you are right, they are very different. I haven’t read the novel either but I but it’s good. The story is quite intriguing for the time period.

        I read the first 50 pages of Clockwork last night and I’m slowly getting into it. His made-up language takes a little getting used to.

  3. Seen the film several times. (Re-runs on TV). To be honest the 1st time I was expecting something more gruesome after all the hype. Perhaps we’ve all become immunized nowadays. Anyway – loved the film – great performances etc

  4. I have watched Saving Private Ryan many many times and was incredibly moved by it each time. I just love how the movie revolves around such a phenomenal act of kindness towards one family in the midst of such senseless violence and loss of life. The contrast is what makes this movie so emotional! I cry every time I watch it even though I know what is going to happen. Great review!

  5. IsobelandCat says:

    I think Clockwork Orange is a masterpiece, but it is extremely disturbing. I have seen it several times and it never fails to shock. Saving PR is a film I have avoided. There was a lot of dismay this side of the pond at the way events were portrayed, presenting the DDay landings as a US led initiative, and not as a joint Allied one with heroes, sacrifice and commitment across the forces.

    • TBM says:

      I read about some of the controversy about PR and not giving credit where credit was due. If you only watch American films about the war you’d never know that other countries, including Britain and Russia, fought. Especially the films from the 50s and 60s. One of my professors used to joke that John Wayne won the war by himself.

  6. Frank says:

    A power, classic movie.

  7. nrlymrtl says:

    We had to watch this film in a college history class. You are right about the opening scenes. I haven’t watched it since either. It made me think of the movie Glory about the US civil War. We had to watch it in highschool and we called it ‘gory Glory’.

    I have only watched Clockwork Orange once. It was all the rage in college…..and I will be very interested to read your thoughts on it.

    • TBM says:

      Gory Glory–that’s good. I actually have seen Glory many times and the gore doesn’t get to me as much as SPR. I’m curious as to how I’ll like the next movie as well. I’ve avoided watching it for many years now.

  8. Novroz says:

    I love this movie (I need to write my review one of these days) and since I am a horror fan, the violence didn’t bother me at all. Violence only bothered me when it’s a real footage…everything from movie are just made up so it’s fine for me. It’s on my top list of favorite war movie

    Anyway, great review 🙂

    I haven’t seen Clockwork Orange yet.

  9. i have never enjoyed war movies, and i have never seen this one. someone i want to be with is going to have to be watching this one for me to ever see it. that’s usually my younger son where war movies are concerned, and he’s never had this one on.

  10. restlessjo says:

    Just finished a first novel by Alison Jessop called The Mind’s Garden which looks at it all from an entirely different perspective. Some guys holed up on Singapore, and Mum back home. I enjoyed it.
    Easier in a book because you don’t have to register the gore and destruction so graphically.

    • TBM says:

      Thanks for the suggestion. I do find it easier to read about it. My mind doesn’t imagination all of the gore that the makers of this movie saw. I’m sure the real thing was horrendous and I admire the director and producers for showing it how it was. But it is still hard to watch. Very hard.

  11. Caroline says:

    1998 was a good year for war movies. Three of the best ever made came out that year.
    Two are among my Top 10 favourite war movies. However, not Saving Provate ryan. I like The Thin Red Line and When Trumptes Fade better.
    Sure, it’s an important movie but unfortunately the super corny side story spoilt the excellent beginning. It’s one of the rare movies that gives people a taste of what it could have been like.

    • TBM says:

      I haven’t seen The Thin Red Line or When the Trumpets Fade. Are they as gory?

      • Caroline says:

        When Trumpets Fade isn’t as gory but The Thin Red Line certainly is. It would be wrong if it was otherwise. After all they depict infantry combat. They sort of have to be, don’t you think?

      • TBM says:

        Absolutely or they wouldn’t be truthful. I can’t imagine that people actually had to live through such horrific times.

  12. adinparadise says:

    It certainly was a very disturbing movie.

  13. lynnsbooks says:

    I admit I thought it was a very good film. It is disturbing but then war is. Clockwork Orange – I’ve never actually fancied watching the film, I’ve put the book on my list to read but I imagine it will be one of the last books that I pick up.
    Lynn 😀

    • TBM says:

      I wonder what the last books on my 1001 list will be. it might be interesting near the end to see which ones I’m dreading and to see if I have the endurance to get through them.

  14. I didn’t care for Saving Private Ryan, but thought it was well done.
    A Clockwork Orange chilled me to the bone! Watch it with someone in broad daylight. 🙂

  15. bulldog says:

    This was a good movie…

  16. Some really good films affect you like this. They’re brilliant but they’re not comfortable or easy to watch. I guess “entertainment” has many definitions (maybe like art and literature), it doesn’t always have to be fun.

    • TBM says:

      In books I’m usually drawn to the more depressing and moving, but I have a harder time watching it. But I remember these types of films more than the silly ones. Don’t get me wrong, I like some silly movies, but these are more powerful and stay with me longer.

  17. I think Clockwork Orange will be more uncomfortable to watch, but good on you for watching this again!

  18. I have not become brave enough yet to watch Saving Private Ryan or Clockwork Orange. When I watched Schindler’s list, I covered my eyes about 75% of the movie, but the end made it all worth it.

  19. notgiuseppe says:

    I completely understand why this is in the top 100. I can remember the first time I saw the film, I was gripped after the first few minutes. I do agree that Speilberg’s aim was to get across the horrifc nature of war, but every time this movie is on I’m glued to the screen. Each to their own I say.

    • TBM says:

      Absolutely. And if I wasn’t such a wimp I would watch it more. It’s a great film and I admire Speilberg for showing as it was. It really hits home how awful war is.

  20. Fergiemoto says:

    I saw it in the movie theatre when it first came out. I was impressed with the quality of the movie, but it was very difficult for me to watch because it was so intense.

  21. never made it through either. what i saw of clockwork orange gave me nightmares-like Psycho did when i saw that. have you watched any Cassavetes films? A Woman Under the Influence is one of my favorites. the scene where she is waiting for the school bus is epic.

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