Saving Private Ryan

Ostensibly about the heroism of soldiers who did their duty in World War II, the film tells theater audiences that the combat of war is hell, battlefield decisions made on the spur of the moment can be brutal, orders from the top can be absurd, and the good die young, physically and mentally. The cause may be just, we are told, but the justification for war is simpler when the aggressors are unjust. Interestingly, the contrast of Steven Spielberg versus Oliver Stone is increasingly imprinted on filmviewers as Saving Private Ryan goes on to its redundant third hour-soldiers fighting for a cause versus without a cause, GI heroes versus GI assholes, ethnic solidarity versus ethnic discord, Europe versus Asia, etc. Yet both agree that war is a sport of commanders with too much power and with too little understanding of human suffering, and they agree that the psychological wounds of war are never quite healed in peacetime. The film is based on the book of the same title by Max Allan Collins. MH

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