Cinematic Advent Calendar #09 – Saving Private Ryan

 Saving Private Ryan

The first twenty minutes or so of Saving Private Ryan
is a raw horrific introduction what “modern” warfare is all about. This is no glorified Hollywood war film, this is what, according to many veterans, war is really like.

That opening sequence was brutal and extremely shocking. it is shocking as the violence is sudden, brutal and non-discriminating. You get to see not just the immediate impact of war, but also the brutal impact it has on individuals.

 Saving Private Ryan

It has to be said that though the rest of the film is not as powerful, not that, that is a bad thing, two hours of intense warfare would not make a good film. As a result there was a fair bit of criticism of the pace of the rest of the film. I actually think that the change in pace adds to the story.

I was very impressed with the way in which Spielberg shot and processed the film, very evocative of the colour films of the era of the movie. The beach sequence is very powerful, but I also think that the final scenes in the French village are also well done. The ruined buildings, which were all purpose built for the film and then “destroyed” to represent bombing and artillery really do look the part. If you look at photographs of the Normandy campaign you will see buildings in a similar destroyed state.

Ruined village in Saving Private Ryan

I remember first seeing Tom Hanks in Big and, apart from his more recent stuff have enjoyed his films. He certainly has played a diverse range of characters, think of Hanks, and you can think of Sleepless in Seattle, Toy Story, Apollo 13. I think he does a great job in Saving Private Ryan. He is well supported by an excellent cast.

Saving Private Ryan

As might be expected from a film that won five academy awards, what followed were many films in a similar vein, I did think that Clint Eastwood’s Flags of our Fathers & Letters from Iwo Jima were good films, not quite as good as Saving Private Ryan, but certainly well worth watching. Spielberg and Hanks of course went to TV with Band of Brothers (and more recently The Pacific). I didn’t get very far when I originally watched Band of Brothers on the TV, I think I saw two episodes. More recently I borrowed the DVD boxed set from a friend and watched the whole series. I did enjoy that though it was very similar in style to Ryan.

Many years ago I was tasked with testing some projectors for work, so I connected it to a VCR and played Saving Private Ryan against a blank wall. I was very impressed watching that opening sequence on my own big screen!

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Cinematic Advent Calendar #08 – Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Indiana Jones on a horse

Indiana Jones is a film series which for many reasons should have failed. It was based on the 1930s adventure serials that were shown in the cinema at that time and into the 1950s. It was a retro adventure film, why would it have appealed to a modern audience? In many ways, despite the story, the quality of the filming and action sequences; I am sure the main reason that initially the film was successful was down to George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford.

George Lucas was well known for Star Wars, and had huge success. Steven Spielberg had made Jaws and Close Encounters and Harrison Ford had been the real star of Star Wars. This combination was going to attract an audience regardless of what the film was about. Raiders of the Lost Ark was a hit in 1981, it was obvious that there would be a sequel and The Temple of Doom followed in 1984. The Last Crusade came five years later in 1989.

This film choice was a bit of a tough one, in many ways the first Indiana Jones film, Raiders of the Lost Ark is a much more significant film, and really in some aspects probably a better film. However out of the first three Indiana Jones’ films, the one I like the most is the third one.

It’s probably for a range of reasons: I like the opening sequence from when Indy was a young lad. It’s nice to gain a better understanding of the motivations of the character and the origins of his trademark hat, whip and fear of snakes. There is Sean Connery playing Jones Senior. I do like films with Sean Connery and the relationship between dad and junior adds a fair bit of humour to the film.

Indiana Jones and Jones Senior

There is a scene in Venice and that is one of my favourite places in the world. It also features Petra and I really quite like that part of the story (no spoilers here).

Like a lot of people I wasn’t too impressed with the recent fourth Indy film, but I certainly didn’t hate it as some did. It’s an enjoyable romp, but is nowhere near the quality of the films from the 1980s.

I wonder with the purchase of Lucasfilms by Disney whether they will take the risk and do something with the franchise. Unlike Star Wars, the real draw these days with Indiana Jones is Harrison Ford, he is getting older and I don’t think he can play the part in the same way he did with the original three films. It will be a risk if they recast, but it could work. What do you think?

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