July 24, 1998 -- I'm at the end of a long day as I write this. It is about midnight and my computer died, so I'm using my laptop and can't hit my usual internet links, but I just can't get over this movie I saw and I need to write about it.
I've seen tons of war movies in my time, most of them about World War II. This one, however, seemed more like the truth than any war movie I can remember. Sure, there have been "realistic" movies about the big one before, like "Bataan" and "The Big Red One," but this makes those seem like, well, just movies.
It isn't about the glory of war and it isn't about heroism or noble causes. It is about the horror of war and the meaninglessness of it, but more than that, it is about what it is like to be thrust into an impossible situation where people have to make impossible moral decisions and how they somehow manage to maintain their humanity and sanity. Simply, this film is about the human condition.
There aren't any lectures. There isn't one moment when you realize "This is what it is about." The realization of what the film is about is a cumulative effect. Each frame of film is like a piece of a puzzle, The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
The battlefield scenes are artfully done. The camera does not cut away from the horror, the blood and guts, but it doesn't dwell on them either. It is a matter-of-fact, cool look at hot battle. Hand-held camera shots, some of them by director Spielberg, gives the battle scenes a true feeling of chaos. Tom Hanks gives a masterful portrayal of Captain John Miller, a reluctant soldier filled with doubts, who remembers every man who died under his command. Tom Sizemore ("The Relic"), Edward Burns, Jeremy Davies, and rest of the cast all give great performances.
Director Steven Spielberg gives us another masterpiece to go with his other World War II epic, "Schindler's List." This is a very emotionally powerful film, but it is also thought-provoking. It isn't just the best film so far this year. It is one of the best war films ever made. You don't just see it, you live through it. You survive it and after it, you feel like you know just a little bit what it is like to be in a war. It rates an A.
Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.