Spielberg’s most explicit exploration of the value human history placed on a life. It is there in Schindler’s List, Amistad, Munich and even AI but here it feels like the lifeblood, the hook, the entire quest. There’s a series of exemplary set pieces – gory, grandiose and gargantuan in scale. That Normandy opener is an overwhelming achievement. Then there’s cast of character actors – compared to the starrier The Thin Red Line which was a cavalcade of A listers in cammo, this finds room for interesting faces like Dennis Farina and Giovanni Ribisi and genuine up-and-comers like Bryan Cranston, Paul Giamatti, Matt Damon and Vin Diesel. I’m not a fan of the bleached out look Janusz Kamiński gives the movie and the script is pretty basic. Away from Hanks, the characters never feel like more than well cast stock roles. For these reasons I remember how much this underwhelmed me on original release and I think this is the first time I’ve rewatched it in its entirety since. I enjoyed and appreciated it far more this time, though that hokiness does hold Saving Private Ryan back. For every wondrous moment of Spielbergian magic big and small, there’s another that undermines the maturity of the endeavour.
Perfect Double Bill: Empire Of the Sun (1987)
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