Saving Private Ryan (1998)
25th February 2001
During the D-Day landings two members of the Ryan family are killed in action whilst another is killed in the Pacific. Only one brother remains, a paratrooper who has landed somewhere in Normandy. The American commanders decide that for the Ryan family to receive a forth telegram is unacceptable and a rescue mission is launched to locate and bring home Private Ryan, as for him, the war is over.
The D-Day landing scenes must be one of the most accurate and horrific war film scenario ever put to film. It brings home the reality of what our grand parents fought, and died in their thousands, for. The first ten minutes of the film are worth the price of the discs alone, and it should form part of the standard WWII teaching material for the children of our so called allies whose lands are full of thousands of allied war graves. This film goes someway to ensure that their ultimate sacrifice is not forgotten by a new generation eager to snipe at those countries that helped liberate them.
From the safety of their pill boxes, the German machine guns cut down the advancing American troops turning the seas red with their blood and leave the beach piled with the dead and the dying. As they advance up the beach we are presented with blood, flying body parts and gruesome remains. And once the troops finally manage to reach the beachhead and destroy the German positions you'll find yourself screaming at the television and baying for revenge as the American soldiers peruse and kill the fleeing German troops. Harrowing stuff, and not a trauma councillor or lawyer in sight.
The surround speakers are given a severe workout during the film and the picture is cleverly washed out to give it that WWII movie feel. Although both the Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks are breath-taking, the DTS soundtrack with its superior separation is just awesome. However, to compare both soundtracks you'll need to invest in two discs as one contains a Dolby Digital and the other a DTS soundtrack. It could turn out to be an expensive, but worthy, audition. During the assault on the beach, the bullets ping and ricochet around the room, bodies thud with bullets and explosions rattle the walls so realistically you could almost be there. Just thank God that you never were.
If anything, the featurette "Saving Private Ryan - Into The Breach" is more harrowing than the actual film as we hear from some of the actual people who were there on that historic day. The trouble is, do you trade the documentary for the DTS soundtrack and vice-versa? The Dolby Digital soundtrack is just as good as the DTS and by choosing that version you can, and should, watch the documentary.
Unfortunately, once the invasion is complete the film descends to the usual all American flag waving exercise. There are no signs or mention of the British, Canadian and other allied troops and thus gives a generation of children, weaned on a diet of television and cinema, the impression that it was only the Americans that landed in France. Mind you, it is the sort of thing you'd expect from Hollywood, and along with U571, history is being rewritten for the benefit of America. I'm sure there'd be one hell of an outcry if a British or Canadian film company produced a film where they changed American history to the benefit of another country.
We then have to endure nearly 2 hours of each man exploring their own feelings as to why they should be searching for this Ryan soldier. And when the group do eventually find Ryan, we have yet another battle which seems like just another excuse for more blood and gore with plenty of Uncle Sam to go with it. However, putting these historic farces aside, Saving Private Ryan still needs to be a must in every DVD collection.