‘Saving Private Ryan’ is an award-winning film directed by Stephen Spielberg. He is particularly remembered for directing films such as ‘Jaws’, ‘Jurassic park’ and ‘Indiana Jones.’ The phenomenal directors’ first film he created himself was a war film, which shows he was fascinated from a young age. The film stars famous actors such as Tom Hanks and Matt Damon; it hit the public by storm in the summer of 1998 and is significantly remembered for its epic and horrific 27 minute opening sequence. This scene is very emotional as we witness countless soldiers being slaughtered. The film was awarded five academy awards, including one for best sound and one for best screenplay to name a few. Stephen also won best director for directing the film. Saving Private Ryan had tremendously satisfying reviews that resulted in comments including ‘Spielberg spares the viewer nothing of the horrors of battle’ and ‘an important film that deconstructs war machines into separate, frightened men as it so likely was.’ Spielberg wanted to show us what war was really like, he wanted ‘to put chaos on the screen’ , which is different to many other war films, for example, ‘Inglourious Basterds’, which focuses on a fictional storyline that does not include non-fictional happenings and does not show the horrors of the war itself. Spielberg wanted his audience to ‘feel like those green recruits’. As a result, the vast majority of the shot were at eye level and he made a great deal of use of handheld cameras throughout the film. The resulting images are shaking and chaotic resulting in an audience feeling like they were there, many audiences even said that while watching the battle scenes they felt queasy. The de-saturated colour emphasised the blood in the second scene which was to depict the fact that a devastating amount of men died in the battle, and it was a particularly scarring experience for them all.
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The first scene of the film starts off with a low-angle close-up shot of a de-saturated coloured American flag flapping in the wind to show respect for those that fought in the war, age and the victory of the outcome. There is non-diagetic sound playing in the background of military drums, so we know right from the beginning this is an active war film. Subsequent to this we see the future Ryan (although we do not know this yet) walking hastily to a grave in a war cemetery, he is cut off from his family, showing he is cut off from the world, because this was his own personal experience, he is limping which shows he was injured in some way or it is just because he is so old, the camera recognises this through a range of medium shots and long shots of Ryan and his family as he walks in front of them. When Ryan gets to a certain grave, we know there is significance as he breaks down and cries, this shows he’s remembering what happened to these men and is emotional about it, the war must have had an impact on him because of the chaos and horrors that occurred during it. The camera then makes an extreme close up into his eyes which then links to his thoughts which is the sound of shooting and fighting, this then fades in as we smoothly progress into the first war scene. As we think the elderly man is thinking this, we believe throughout the film that he is truly Captain Miller, when he is actually not. Overall, this introductory scene gets the audience ready for the shock they will experience later. This is effective from the camera angles and Spielberg chose the quiet and tranquil sounds in the scene to contrast the loud sounds of the scenes to come.
Merged from the scene with the elderly man, in the next scene we see a landing craft with many frightened soldiers waiting to be told to go and fight. We feel like we are there with them on the craft as Spielberg used the camera effect of panning to go around all the soldiers. We see soldiers being sick, soldiers kissing lucky charms and soldiers shivering. The panning then stops and a close up is made at a man drinking from his water bottle. His hands are shaking to show fear of what is about to happen. The man looks up to reveal he is a captain, we later hear he is Captain John Miller, this depicts the fact that everybody was scared, it didn’t matter how high up you were. The use of panning was effective because the viewer feels like they are really there and experiencing what is going on, this helps the viewer to feel empathy for the soldiers in the landing craft. The tension rises as the men continue to look pale and frightened until the landing crafts barrier opens. As soon as the landing craft opens, we are moved to behind the craft, as though we are watching over the men. The chaos starts immediately, this show an obvious contrast to waiting for battle bits of flesh are flying everywhere and the fear erupts at once, screaming occurs. Spielberg also shows chaos through handheld cameras during this scene, we feel as though we are there and the fighting takes over all other emotions, the hand held cameras also show that this film is from the soldiers prospective. There is also a long shot of the men running to their target point from the German’s prospective. It shows us just how much of a slaughter this battle was as the Germans have a clear view of the whole beach, they are bound to kill many. We see hundreds of soldiers already injured and one stands out from the rest as he is screaming for his mum. This distinguishes just how young some of these soldiers were, some were even as young as 15, which is the same age as me, I feel empathy for the boys who died in this scene as if I was there I would feel really sick and terrified, I know this as when I watched the scene I truthfully felt like I was there. Many soldiers try and get away from the chaos by going underwater, underwater it is slow, muffled and quite, which is a contrast to outside which is fast and extremely loud. We then see bullets coming into the water and killed soldiers there and then. This portrays the fact that there is no way of getting away from the chaos of the war, there is always a big chance you will be killed. Miller having entered the water leaves, there are many reverse angle shots to show what he is seeing on the beach. There is a jerky close up of Miller in slow motion when he goes into a state of shock because of a shell going off right next to him. Because of this he takes his helmet off and hears muffled sounds, he goes into a dream. As soon as Miller puts his helmet back on, reality hits him and the shocks and horrors resume.
In the next scene we find many low angled shots of injured men being treated, the true horrors of war a proclaimed by the fact that the Germans are still shooting at the dying men, and the medics trying to save them, the audience sees that the war was not all victory and triumph, but instead ended millions of people’s lives from brutal attacks, like the one in this film. The attacks are so brutal because of the fact that the soldiers on the beach were so vulnerable, there are many low angled shots of the beach to emphasise this. We see Captain Miller on a sandbank with many other soldiers as he finds out he is the last surviving captain of the mission and so he is in charge. As he is being told this a man is shot in the helmet but luckily the helmet saves this, he removes the helmet in amazement and is then shot again and dies. The audience feel for this man as it was so unlucky how he died; it showed how unlucky soldiers were in this battle as so many were slaughtered cold heartedly. This shocks the audience as they get to understand how devastating the war was. In this scene we see Miller with P. Daniel Jackson, Jackson is a Sniper and when the Germans were winning, Miller sent him on a death trail to try and get to a sniper to kill the Germans shooting at where they were. He runs it and I know from many of my classmates as well that we all felt triumph for him. He had risked his life for his fellow soldiers which was an honourable thing to do. When he begins to aim with his sniper, he zones out of everything and the sound becomes muffled, this is because he is concentrating on getting the enemy and has learnt over his training how to do this. The muffled tone makes the scene more realistic and helps the audience to understand his concentration.
In the last few scenes of the fighting sequences we see many happenings; one was when there was a reverse angle close up shot of Miller and two soldiers who had killed two surrendering Germans. At first Miller finds what they are doing wrong, but you can see understanding in his facial expressions as the horrors of the fight they had just witnessed and made their hate for the Germans greater. When I watched this I understood what they felt when they saw opposing soldiers, they were the ones who killed their friends and were out to kill them. After the fighting has stopped and everything is calm, the soldiers have mixed reactions. The Sniper began to pray to God, one man broke down a cried, while other soldiers joked with each other, and this showed they were all different but got through the horrors of battle together. The second in command puts soil into a pot and labels it France, we then see from his bag he’s been to Africa and many other places, this indicates he is very experienced and that’s why he’s been more calm than most of the others. After this we see millers shaking hand shaking while he took a gulp of his water as he did at the start of the fight scene, this indicates the end of the battle. We then see a long shot of the beach; this shows the red sea and all the dead bodies. This had the most impact on me because there was a lot of blood and a lot of bodies, more than I had imagined, the de saturated colour emphasised the blood as it did throughout the battle scene.
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To conclude I found the opening scene equipped me well for the rest of the film as Spielberg had flung me right into the deep end, I knew after this scene that there were more scenes like this and knew the blood and gore that would come from it. I found the whole of the sequence very realistic and shocking, the gore was amazing because it looked so real and the men dying gave me a great insight into what war was like for all the soldiers that fought in great battles. Spielberg certainly did succeed in putting ‘chaos on the screen’ as I definitely found the whole of the war scene chaotic and horrific, the realism contributed to the chaos created on the screen. Spielberg definitely put me off every wanting to go to war as well! Overall I think the film was a great success, it wasn’t all heroic like some of the war films are, Spielberg showed war as it was, and for that he deserves the respect he got for a spectacular film.He ha
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