Was Saving Private Ryan really that revolutionary when it came to battle scenes?

As in was its portrayal of modern-ish battles really that different than any other War movie in fairly recent-ish times with automatic firemarms and war machines like Tanks and Planes?

I was watching Platoon just now and its portrayal of modern-ish battles is just as brutal/realistic if not more so than Saving Private Ryan?

Or mabye its the only WW2 movie that did show how intense the battles were? Were there any WW2 movies prior to Saving Private Ryan that did had that Hard R rated battle scenes like Platoon?

It's a little bit more than just the violence, though Spielberg was more unflinching than most. It's more about how damn well assembled the whole thing is. Consider for example that Spielberg is still pretty old-school in his directing technique. He likes to do his vis effects practical. Those battle scenes are full of stuff. Smoke, squibs, fire, explosives, falling debris, real military vehicles and hardware. How many directors would want to juggle all of that and spend an entire day shooting a single scene so that you could get all of it on screen in one uncut shot?

There's real craftsmanship in this movie. That counts for a lot.

Yes and no. As to no, it was already pointed out that other movies portrayed brutal violence, and Platoon is a good example of that. The yes is much more technical. The entire portion of battle scenes are all shot at eye level, often over exposed, with several frames intentionally removed, giving the viewer a jerky effect. It simulates you being there, and that was very revolutionary. The aspect ratio of 16:9 was chosen to be more in your face as well. When I saw it in the theater there were several WWII veterans, and some left, and some were talking that stayed after the movie saying how that was to closest to the real thing they have seen. The WWII vets in my family did not see it, and we would not ask them questions about it. The cinematography was very specifically chosen that way, and many films have copied that method since then.

BaronVH:
Yes and no. As to no, it was already pointed out that other movies portrayed brutal violence, and Platoon is a good example of that. The yes is much more technical. The entire portion of battle scenes are all shot at eye level, often over exposed, with several frames intentionally removed, giving the viewer a jerky effect. It simulates you being there, and that was very revolutionary. The aspect ratio of 16:9 was chosen to be more in your face as well. When I saw it in the theater there were several WWII veterans, and some left, and some were talking that stayed after the movie saying how that was to closest to the real thing they have seen. The WWII vets in my family did not see it, and we would not ask them questions about it. The cinematography was very specifically chosen that way, and many films have copied that method since then.

Wow, that is actually really interesting. I wonder what they were thinking going in to see the movie. Heck, I wonder what any veteran thinks of war movies in general.

Samtemdo8:
Or mabye its the only WW2 movie that did show how intense the battles were? Were there any WW2 movies prior to Saving Private Ryan that did had that Hard R rated battle scenes like Platoon?

Nope, and there you have it.

The Vietnam war didn't exactly have any glamour to it once it was over, and Hollywood was quick to show how brutal it was. WW2 not so much. That war had always been seen as "the finest hour" of the allied forces, and in particular America. This is why most of the early movies had hardy heroes like Robert Mitchum giving speeches while storming the beach. Maybe there was an air of positivity to it that nobody wanted to tarnish yet.

both films captured their respective wars.. but saving private ryan was something else entirely

Casual Shinji:
Nope, and there you have it.

The Vietnam war didn't exactly have any glamour to it once it was over, and Hollywood was quick to show how brutal it was. WW2 not so much. That war had always been seen as "the finest hour" of the allied forces, and in particular America. This is why most of the early movies had hardy heroes like Robert Mitchum giving speeches while storming the beach. Maybe there was an air of positivity to it that nobody wanted to tarnish yet.

In many ways Saving Private Ryan can be seen as the watershed moment when the Western world stopped talking about WW2 as the Finest Hour and a conflict of brave, noble men versus literal nazis. The battle scenes are famous because they are hectic, confusing and shows just how horrible it is to be stuck in active combat when people start getting wounded. The rest of the film doesn't shrink away from deconstructing the narrative of prior WW2 movies though. Czech conscripts are shot while surrendering because the US soldiers are getting their revenge. The soldiers vehemently disagree with the idea of following the Laws of War and releasing a PoW they can not provide for. The soldiers are seen "playing cards" with dog tags, oblivious to the fact that each dog tag on the table represents a dead paratrooper, all the while wounded paratroopers pass by in silence.

Saving Private Ryan is notable because it tells us that the soldiers that fought in WW2 were just humans like us. The movie shows that they suffered a lot and sacrificed a lot, not because they were morally superior people on a just crusade, but for many different reasons and they coped with their shitty situations in many ways.

SPR redefined how we think and talk about WW2, in particular by making us think about the individuals that fought there and what they had to go through. Today people think of SPR, Band of Brothers and the Pacific when they think of WW2 movies, not of Where Eagles Dare or Kelly's Heroes.

The beach assault is still pretty crazy to this day. I don't know if anyone will top it.

Bob_McMillan:

Wow, that is actually really interesting. I wonder what they were thinking going in to see the movie. Heck, I wonder what any veteran thinks of war movies in general.

Speaking as someone who works with veterans on a daily basis, I can say that many of them, including the combat veterans, enjoy military movies. For a lot of them, it's sort of a nostalgia thing. They can see the day to day depiction of military life, and remember what it was like to be young and in the military. For most of them, even the ones with combat history, and disabilities related to that combat, the time in the military is still looked upon fondly as their "glory days". The things they did (not just in combat), the places they traveled to, the stories and crazy things they got into (being young and stupid like most of us), are all points of nostalgia for a lot of them. Not all, but a lot. Those are the type of veteran, that I think actively seek out and enjoy military style movies as a regular form of their entertainment. They are familiar with the material after all, and they can appreciate when it's done right. As to Saving Private Ryan specifically, yes I can recall when it was in theaters, and how people reacted. I can recall several veterans specifically stating that the beginning of that movie was disturbingly real for them. I think part of it also is that nobody was expecting it. I remember, when the movie first came out, there wasn't a lot of talk about the Normandy scene for at least a week or so (as best as I can recall) after it came out. It took a while for the word of mouth to get out about how the beginning was so intense for vets. So a lot of them went in blind, with no clue they were about to experience a..what, 15 minute long running reenactment of one of the bloodiest assaults in US military history. So a lot of them weren't really prepared for it, and thus had to leave.

I think that's part of the reason why the scene has such a mark in history too. It's not just a "war is hell" scene, it's showing one of the most body count heavy assaults in recent military history. And the nature of the assault too, contributed to the gory horror of it. Soldiers just sent out in droves, literally running into the line of fire of heavily entrenched defenses, dying in waves. Vietnam, as far as I've been able to determine from stories from coworkers, never had any engagements on that scale. Sure they would be horrible events, but it would be a much smaller engagement, with far fewer troops. Normandy however, thousands upon thousands died in that assault.

 

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