Editors Comment: Spielberg and cinematographer Janusz Kamiński enjoyed creating the fairy tale, Swindler’s List (we previously reviewed here) so much they just had to do it again with Saving Private Ryan. Hailed as an anti-war movie, it was a box office hit despite being restricted by an R rating for:
intense prolonged realistically graphic sequences of war violence, and for language.
Director Oliver Stone commented:
Even in Saving Private Ryan, you saw the worship of World War II as the good war… America loves war, America depends on war, and so does its industry.
It is incredible how the talents of Spielberg and Kamiński combine to create a masterpiece that is both anti-war and worshipful of WWII.Yes really incredible.
Was it an honest portrayal of the good war?
Storyline – IMdB
… two brothers are killed in action. Earlier…a third brother is KIA. Their mother, Mrs. Ryan, is to receive all three of the grave telegrams on the same day…The United States Army Chief of Staff, George C. Marshall, is given an opportunity to alleviate some of her grief when he learns of a fourth brother, Private James Ryan, and decides to send out 8 men (Cpt. Miller and select members from 2nd Rangers) to find him and bring him back home to his mother…
Wears War Movie Review for Saving Private Ryan
Saving Private Ryan is a film directed by Steven Spielberg depicting the invasion of Normandy. The following are some examples of the distortions and biases in this movie:
1) At the time of the mission, American forces from the two American beach areas, Utah and Omaha, had not yet linked up as depicted in the movie. In reality, a Ranger team operating out of the Omaha beach area would have had to move through the heavily enemy-occupied city of Carentan, or swim or boat across the estuary linking Carentan to the channel, or transfer by boat to the Utah landing area. (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saving_Private_Ryan).
2) The Utah beach landings were relatively uncontested, with assault units landing on largely unoccupied beaches and experiencing far less action than the landings at Omaha. (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saving_Private_Ryan).
3) Saving Private Ryan has been praised for its realistic battle scenes. However, the carnage of the original battle scenes is greatly exaggerated in the movie. SS Panzergrenadier Hans Schmidt writes:
All one has to do is look at the real newsreels of D-Day, June 6, 1944, to see how it really was…Here and there one sees GIs fall, and then lie still, obviously they are either dead or badly wounded. But no scene justifies the incessant carnage Spielberg has depicted, where the viewers allegedly see ‘the war as it really was.’
(Source: Schmidt, Hans, Hitler Boys in America: Re-Education Exposed, Pensacola, FL: Hans Schmidt Publications, 2003, pp. 146-147).
4) Spielberg does not show in the film who was manning the German machine gun nests atop the cliffs, and the artillery batteries further to the rear. In most cases it was old German men and young boys. Hans Schmidt states that to the best of his knowledge there was not one first-rate unit guarding the Normandy beaches. (Source: Schmidt, Hans, Hitler Boys in America: Re-Education Exposed, Pensacola, FL: Hans Schmidt Publications, 2003, p. 147).
5) Saving Private Ryan did earn some criticism for ignoring the contributions of several other countries to the D-Day landings in general and at Omaha Beach specifically. The most direct example of the latter is that during the actual landing the 2nd Rangers disembarked from British ships and were taken to Omaha Beach by Royal Navy landing craft. The film incorrectly depicts them as being United States Coast Guard-crewed craft from an American ship. Source: (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saving_Private_Ryan).
Wears War Movie Verdict for Saving Private Ryan:
Saving Private Ryan exaggerates the intensity of the battle scenes during the Normandy invasion. Body parts were never constantly flying around due to heavy enemy action and direct hits as depicted in the movie.
The movie also implies that the American invasion of Normandy was crucial to winning the war. This is not the case. Historian Norman Davies writes:
…the Soviet war effort was so overwhelming that impartial historians in the future are unlikely to rate the British and American contribution to the European theatre as much more than a supporting role. The proportions were not ‘Fifty-fifty’, as many imply when talking of the final onslaught on Nazi Germany from East and West. Sooner or later people will have to adjust to the fact that the Soviet role was enormous and the Western role was respectable but modest.
(Source: Germany’s War, pp. 166-167).