Saving Private Ryan by Steven Spielberg Essay

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Write a newspaper film review analysing how Steven Spielberg makes the cinema audience regard the pain of others. In the Omaha Beach sequence at the beginning of Saving Private Ryan.

Saving Private Ryan


Tom Hanks, Tom Sizemore, Matt Damon, Edward Burns, Jeremy Davies, Vin Diesel, Adam Golberg, Barry Pepper and Giovanni Rabisi.

Director Steven Spielberg.

Producers Ian Bryce , Mark Gordon, Gary Levinsohn.

Screenplay Robert Rodat.

Cinematography Janusz Kaminski.

Music John Williams.

U.S Distributor DreamWorks SKG/Paramount Pictures.

Viewer Rating 15.

Internationally acclaimed 1940s war epic Saving Private Ryan directed by Steven Spielberg, this outstanding box office hit picked up five academy awards for:-

Best Director.


Film Editing.

Sound and Sound Effects editing.

Best Picture This award top grossing American Motion Picture of 1998.

Saving Private Ryan opens with a cinematic battle that is, without a doubt, one of the finest, most graphic and realistic half-hours committed to film.

This sequence, a soldiers eye view of the D-Day invasion of Normandy, is brilliant, not only in the terms of technique but in the depth of viewer reactions it generates, such films as Platoon, and the Apocalypse dont come close to the immense scenery Spielberg has portrayed. It is certainly the most violent, gory and realistic depiction of war that I have ever witnessed, the levels of pain put across with splitting sounds and visuals on screen.

Spielberg spares the viewer nothing of the horrors of battle, using unbelievable images to display the utter chaos and senselessness that any soldier will encounter in an engagement with the enemy.

Spielberg presents us with graphic scenes of Omaha Beach, the sequence is random, unstructured and subject to sheer chaos made all the more effective to the emotion on screen.

Spielbergs portrayal of war on camera is outstanding, Spielberg also uses other methods to capture his sense of war, hand held cameras, a slight speeding up of images and also slowing up of images to show complete bewilderment the soldiers have to go through in the heat of battle. Also muted sound is used as to show when a shell or grenade has exploded close by and a soldier has lost their hearing.

The soundtrack at the start of the sequence when soldiers are exiting the landing craft is like you are falling underwater and with a blurred sense of vision and hearing.

Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) goes through a sequence of shell shock where he is witnessing his fellow countrymen die around him, not only death in a clean and typical country and western fashion, but horrific, Spielberg shows the sheer randomness and shocking way that someone can die in the heat of battle

The hand held effect used by Spielberg is used to give you the perspective of what a solider is looking at in the bedlam of battle, bullets piercing everywhere, decapitation and death surrounding everything, truly shocking images being displayed, it doesnt bare thinking about to actually experience being picked off like sitting ducks on a pond, no where to go, no where to hide, knowing that the only way you can survive is to advance towards the enemy!

In the opening sequence we see an American Amphibious landing vehicle approach Omaha Beach, as soon as the door drops on the front of the vessel facing the enemy the scene explodes into intense rapid machine gun fire.

Nine out of ten instantly get pierced-feared dead. This shot has been used wit the German gunner out of view, showing a dark figure with no emotion and no care in the world, which is what the worlds prospective was of the Nazis at this time of sorrow. The camera effect fades right as the gun in the view aims in the direction of a vessel, giving the effect that it is in fact the aim of a Nazi soldiers eyes.

The camera quickly switches to a shot down in the water at the beach where a soldier has been set foot into the water at waist height. As the soldier struggles through the water he sinks under, the soundtrack changes at this point to men shouting and the sound of gunfire, as the soldier is oblivious and concentrating on making it out of the water alive, he is shot through the chest and falls motionless into the water, the camera is shaking at the shells smashing into the beach whilst the camera is on a soldiers eye view, like the solider is witnessing his comrades die. It just makes you think an awful lot about the daunting task that the army had to embark upon that day.

The first really graphic moving image Spielberg introduces to us in is near the start of the sequence, he doesnt hold back the gory images at all, the audience witnesss the pain of others but showing for example a soldier walking up the beach with a determined look on his face, when he suddenly shelled and is left leg is decapitated to the hip, he hits the floor feared dead with bright red blood spurting out onto the grey beach.

Spielberg also shows the power of a shell by re-enacting a blast and following it up with the soldier rather overreact to some peoples point of view, do a cart wheel in mid air, there is also a fellow dead solider lying beside him in this shot. The next shot is where Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) is first introduced into the film and this is done by him crawling up the shell battered beach, clenching his helmet, making his way to shelter behind an ALD (Anti Landing Device) used by the Germans to prevent the amphibious vehicles getting up the beach.

In my opinion, I think the introduction of Tom Hanks distracts the viewer from what really is going on., there is a war going on, but this shot is when a plot begins to emerge. Carrying on the sequence it shows through Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) eyes, view pointing on a squirming solider who is very young trying to save himself from enemy fire. This is showing human emotions and reality of war and what effect it can have on a person. This young soldier has given up on his objective, he is crying and trying to push another solider out of the way so he can get more cover from enemy fire, which gives the impression of every man for himself.

Again Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) is shown in close up, his emotion is dazed. The soundtrack suddenly fades and sounds like he is underwater, gurgling sounds and sounds in the distance. This shot has been used to show how much of what you are looking upon can effect you. Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) looks upon his fellow men dying around him, his face really shows how much he cares but also looking very unaware of where he is and what he is doing.

The following scene (shot) is seen through Captain John Millers (Tom Hanks) eyes, he looks at a soldier approaching the higher tier of the beach, with one solider with a flame thrower on his back being followed by two other infantrymen. The flame pack gets pierced by a bullet and explodes, engulfing him and the other soldiers, this is where colour is properly introduced with the flames and Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) still dazed, the sound is like a brush of wind through trees. This shot gives the sense of how war can backfire on you, its ironic how this American soldier was going to use his unique weapon to kill the enemy but as a result it killed him in an horrific manor, showing countless ways that people can die in wartime.

Moving back to Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) looking through his eyes, he sees a man who has had his arm decapitated and is searching for his lost limb in confusion, after being re united with his mangled arm, he simply walks off down the beach. The scenery behind this injured soldier has been framed behind the Anti Landing Devices to keep the mood of battle and with soldiers crawling around underneath this soldier to show more authenticity and amazement at what the soldier is doing. Once again showing randomness in war, with the man who simply has given up his objective. Still with no dialogue introduced yet.

The following shot in this sequence brings you back to Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) after just seeing three men being engulfed in flames, a wash of blood sprays onto Captain John Millers (Tom Hanks) face and dribbles down, but he just closes his eyes, still dazed and a doesnt seem fazed by this, although looking surprised he is still without proper hearing. This is used to still represent confusion in war.

Spielberg shows the machinery in wartime used in the D-Day landings, he represents them by a landing craft is on fire and American soldiers pouring out on fire. Landing craft called PA30-31 designed to drive up the beach, but unsuccessful and engulfed in flames. The soldiers arent bothered about getting shot, they are just worried about getting the flames off them by diving into the freezing cold water, running around like headless chickens, showing that not everything goes to plan in war, and again the randomness of it all.

Also showing that you cant always die by the bullet. This shot is still looking through the captains eyes, the first scene with a crowd sense. The soundtrack at this moment is still with Captain John Millers (Toms Hanks) hearing disabled slightly and you hear the sound of flames and shouting. Showing the sense of uncertainty and danger the soldiers are in.

The camera is used in a way that helps us to understand Millers confusion. One shot has the camera panning away from Millers eyes as his hearing slowly returns, to the sound of explosions and endless gunfire, illustrating that Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) has suddenly become aware of what is around him and what he has to do to survive. Miller is seen putting his helmet on which is filled with sea water stained red with blood, the camera follows this action closely as the blood runs down his face, again illustrating the stark reality of his situation. This is further emphasised by the introduction of the first real dialogue,

What do we do now sir? Miller is slow to respond and the soldier shouts,

I said what the hell do we do now sir!?

To say that the film starts with a BANG! Is an understatement, Spielberg uses grotesque images of blood, gore, drowning, dismemberment and death to create impact and then shows us by his clever use of camera angles and close ups shots, the mental and physical pain that these men experienced.

This ultimately leaves the viewer shell shocked and in complete empathy with those who experienced the D-Day landings on June 6th 1944.

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