Director Steven Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan" was an intensely gripping movie for the first 30 minutes - and the last 30 minutes -- specifically the two big battle scenes: D-Day and the Battle at Newville. The middle hour and a half consisted of competent acting by Hanks and one or two others, especially the sniper character and the coward. But the film was hindered by a lagging story that really didn't tug at my heart strings like "Schindler's List" did. I think that was what Spielberg intended; follow the formula that made "Schindler's List" a success, only change it enough to make it different. You can tell that from the sandwich technique beginning and ending, just like "Schindler's List", had, only different.
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I really can't blame Spielberg for trying to capitalize on such a brilliant film as "Schindler", but it is very hard for two gigantic successes on the same format, like lightning striking twice in the same spot!
The basic idea behind the movie, finding the last of four sons of an Iowa mother and returning him to her unharmed, is screwy from the first inkling, and repugnant to any red-blooded American male, smacking as it does of apron strings, meddling, and future accusations and shamed-faced denials. But screwy is what the Army does, often enough, and Private Ryan's response to the idea is what I had hoped: "Take your rescue party and shove it. I'm staying with my buddies."
This decision proves costly to all concerned, as Hanks and companions decide to gut it out with Ryan -- they can't return without him! At least seven of the original eight rescuers, including Hanks, are sacrificed on the altar of German steel for the Pentagon's folly.
Do not get me wrong, it is a good movie. I just do not see it as the greatest of war movies. For that, I would recommend "To Hell and Back", "Hell is for Heroes", "The Great Escape", "Siege of Firebase Gloria", "Zulu", "They Died With Their Boots On", "Son of the Morning Star", "55 Days at Peking, or "Khartoum."
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