From the catch it while you can file: Mark Steyn recently posted an archived review he wrote of Saving Private Ryan in 1998. The Monk felt that Spielberg made a technically brilliant and directorially visionary movie that absolutely sucked from premise to message: how can a Jew, and the man who helmed Schindler's List, make an anti-war movie whose subject is World War II?
Here are some excerpts:
Purporting to be a recreation of the US landings on Omaha Beach, Private Ryan is actually an elite commando raid by Hollywood and the Hamptons to seize the past. After the spectacular D-Day prologue, the film settles down, Tom Hanks and his men are dispatched to rescue Matt Damon (the elusive Private Ryan) and Spielberg finds himself in need of the odd line of dialogue. Endeavouring to justify their mission to his unit, Hanks's sergeant muses that, in years to come when they look back on the war, they'll figure that `maybe saving Private Ryan was the one decent thing we managed to pull out of this whole godawful mess'. Once upon a time, defeating Hitler and his Axis hordes bent on world domination would have been considered `one decent thing'. Even soppy liberals figured that keeping a few million more Jews from going to the gas chambers was `one decent thing'. When fashions in victim groups changed, ending the Nazi persecution of pink-triangled gays was still `one decent thing'. But, for Spielberg, the one decent thing is getting one GI joe back to his picturesque farmhouse in Iowa.
Saving Private Ryan isn't an anti-war film in the sense that, say, principled pictures like All Quiet on the Western Front are. Instead, as usual with Spielberg, it's his take on his own childhood: it's an anti-warfilm film. As far as the real war's concerned, it seems to be too much for him to comprehend. In a few coherent interviews, he's suggested that the war was worth fighting because it produced the babyboomers. But it's flattering him to pretend he has any view on the war one way or another: with his customary lack of imagination, he simply cannot conceive of a world where men are prepared, quietly and without fanfare, to die for their country. Perhaps he has a point: in a narcissistic Clinto-Spielbergian culture, it's hard to see what would now drive the general populace to risk their lives.