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Saving Private Ryan Essay

‘Saving Private Ryan’ was jointly produced by ‘Paramount’ and ‘Dreamwork Pictures’. It also had two release dates one was 24th July 1998 (America) and the other was 11th September 1998 (UK). ‘Saving Private Ryan’ is 162 minutes long and 24 minutes of that was the opening battle. ‘Saving Private Ryan’, directed by Steven Spielberg is all about the D-Day landings and World War 2, on the 6th of June that took place on Omaha Beach. While this is the focus of the opening scenes, the majority deals with a mission to find a man, Private Ryan. The film is about being put into the shoes of one of the soldiers in the battle in 1944. You see it all how the soldiers saw it. During the battle three of four brothers died, however, one of them got lost. So, to save the family from the tragedy of losing all four of them, Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) takes his men behind enemy lines to try and find James Ryan, the lost brother.

The main characters included Tom Hanks (Captain John Miller), Matt Damon (Private James Ryan), Vin Diesel (Private Adrian Caparzo), Tom Sizemore (Sergeant Mike Horvath) and Jeremy Davies (Cpl. Timothy P. Upham). The film had a brilliant director Steven Spielberg, who has had many famous films including ‘Jaws’ (1975), ‘E-T – The Extra Terrestrial’ (1982), ‘Jurassic Park’ (1993) and they are just a few of his great films. This film though is classed as a war epic because it’s historical and it recreates events from the past. The film ‘Saving Private Ryan’ was extremely expensive with a budget of $70 billion; this money was used to pay for the famous actors, authentic army costumes, location of filming and the spectacular settings. This is a very iconic film as it has all of the typical conventions of war in it, such as the war costumes, explosions, guns, trenches, blood etc. However it is very realistic and shocking compared to the 1962 film ‘The Longest Day’; this film was a typical war film. Soldiers would get shot and just fall straight to the floor with no suffering, but in ‘Saving Private Ryan’ you could see them suffering and trying to move.

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The colouring of the film made it even more realistic because Steven Spielberg had reduced the colour saturation by 60%, although the blood remains vivid as it colours the shoreline a deep crimson. The desaturation caused viewers to complain which shows it had the desired effect of being very realistic. The usage of handheld cameras made the film more realistic as well because it made the audience feel a part of the film. Spielberg’s comment on this was, ‘I wanted to hit the sets much like a newsreel cameraman following soldiers into war’.

There are four scenes in the opening battle sequence of ‘Saving Private Ryan’. They are all filled with amazing audio and visual codes which enables the audience to feel part of the action. The first scene called ‘The transition from present-day to past’, is when they introduce the main characters. The scene shows the present-day of an old man visiting graves in Normandy, and then it shows the past of Captain John Miller at war. The scene starts with a close-up of the American flag this shows that it is from an American point of view. Whilst the flag is on-screen a non-diegetic sound is heard, it is slow patriotic music playing. This is a very emotional type of music, but it is also proud as well. A tracking shot is shown of an old man, Private Ryan, walking with his family into a field of white crosses for the soldiers that died in the battle. The audience feels now as if they are part of his family because of the type of camera movement.

This tracking shot then turns into a medium shot of the elderly man crouching down amongst the crosses, this shows the number of white crosses is there. The mans face becomes very emotional with a close-up, as he starts to cry there is an extreme close-up of his eyes which then moves down to his shaking hand as he looks back to the battle. Before the picture was on screen there was the sound of crashing waves in a wild storm. You then see on screen the boat on which they travelled to battle, this is when you get taken back to the battle of ’44. In the background, there is actually stormy weather at sea causing the crashing waves. A medium shot is shown of the soldiers on the boat; they all look nervous, anxious and so scared they are being sick. Captain John Miller is shouting out commands out to them over the sounds of vomiting. One of the commands is ‘thirty seconds’, indicating the amount of time they have left before going into battle. The audience is now starting to panic because in the next half of a minute the soldiers are going to get shot at and killed.

The second scene, ‘The instant chaos’, was filled with more action-filled than the first scene because it shows that as soon as the boats were close enough to the shore of Omaha Beach they were getting shot at by the Germans. The soldiers that were getting shot, most of them had got killed outright before they actually had time to fight against them for their country. Hand-held cameras were used a lot for this scene because the audience can feel more about the film rather than if they used normal cameras on stands etc. Some of the soldiers that were on the boat were jumping into the water thinking that they would have more chance of living by swimming to the shore. I think the explosions were causing them to be thrown into the water. This idea didn’t work because the Germans started to shoot at the men in the water as well as on the boat.

The handheld camera shots were then taken underwater so you could see the soldiers getting shot at again this more affective because you could see the blood colouring the water red. The diegetic sounds of being underwater were very good as well; you could hear the bullets flying through the water and the sound is muffled as the camera bobs in and out of the water. Then you see long shots of the other soldiers who have made it onto the beach even if it’s not for long because they have got shot whilst being on the beach. A two-shot is then shown of a soldier helping another man of their troop that had just got shot and fell to the floor. It is also a mid-shot because it shows how much he is suffering from the shot. The sounds of the scene made it very realistic as well because you could hear explosions, gunshots, men screaming and shouting and command being shouting for things to be done. There was one or two over the shoulder shots from the Germans. This made the Americans look very small with no chance at all.

The third scene, ‘Captain Miller’s confusion, starts off focusing on John Miller before he reaches land. He has actually made up the beach by this point. A medium shot is shown of him sitting in the water watching the battle in shock, even though he has probably gone into war battles many times before he still is shocked at the sights of it. There is no music in the background as he is sitting down because he has become temporarily deaf. A few soldiers are standing in front of him shouting to him asking what they need to do next, but he can’t hear a word they are saying so it is more or less silent apart from the explosions and gunfire, but it sounds very distant because of the muted sound. More point of view shots is shown from the Germans.

After a few minutes, Captain Miller can hear again and his shock subsides, a medium shot is there to prove this. As the handheld cameras are moving you can hear a person breathing, these little effects make the viewers feel more of a part of the film which makes it more and more realistic. There is a two-shot of a man risking his life to save another man that has just got shot. This two-shot then becomes a medium shot when it shows the two men hiding behind a wall from the bullets. In the background, you can hear lots more explosions going off and first aid soldiers shouting out what they need to help some of the men survive.

The fourth and final scene called ‘The end of the battle’ shows Captain Miller taking a rest after the battle and also it shows Omaha Beach after the battle had finished. The sounds of gunshots, explosions and shouting have died down and the slow patriotic music returns. Captain Miller and another man are sat down talking very quietly in shock at what just happened. One of the soldiers that are sitting down has a close up of his face showing how much shock he is in after the battle.

An extreme close up of a soldier’s handshaking, this was shown earlier on in the opening battle sequence, this is Miller’s hand both times. There is then a panning shot of the whole beach showing how many people had died and you also see all of the dead fish there too. The tide is washing back and forth full of blood, so the sea is a red colour instead of blue. The audience now is very emotional because they have just watched all of those soldiers getting killed and then seeing them lying on the beach is awful to watch.

The film to me was extremely realistic and shocking, you feel as if you are there whilst you are watching it. ‘The Longest Day is not as emotional as this film because it is completely different, you don’t see soldiers suffering, you don’t get the effect of bad weather, they are not as scared at going to battle as they are in ‘Saving Private Ryan’. These little effects make a huge difference in a film and that is why they did this in ‘Saving Private Ryan’. Steven Spielberg did put ‘chaos upon the screen’ because it is all just so shocking, you can’t believe that people did actually survive it all. I wouldn’t ever think of watching a film like this because I don’t like this genre much but this film was really good because of the realism in it and how the actors played their parts.

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