Private Ryan (1998)
The Germans are even simpler. They are portrayed either as vicious, duplicitous fiends or their faceless minions. In either case, killing them is good. The one character in the film who refuses to slaughter the devils is consistently depicted as cowardly and is only redeemed, and made a decent man, when he has overcome his misguided scruples and sent one of the Teutonic demons back to hell.
The film's production values are excellent, but even its violent combat sequences fail to produce much emotional response because of their manipulativeness. Spielberg uses all the artful techniques he learned from such movies as Raiders of the Lost Ark and Jaws in his attempts to convince the viewer to identify with particular characters portrayed as good and to fear and hate others portrayed as villainous, predatory enemies. Instead of feeling the heroism of the protagonists, however, I was horrified by their cruelty.
Saving Private Ryan is a plodding, sentimental paean to our own decency combined with a vicious tirade against the evil of our foes.
Review by Keith Allen
Allen. All rights reserved.