English Media Coursework (Saving Private Ryan)

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Analyze the methods used to make the opening battle sequence of ‘Saving Private Ryan' both shocking and realistic, and say how effective you find it as an introduction to the film

Steven Spielberg's master piece Saving Private Ryan earned itself 5 academy awards, including the best director award in 1998. The all star cast starring Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Tom Sizemore and Edward Burns brings to life the horror of war. Seen through the eyes of a squad of American soldiers, the story begins with World War 2's historic D-Day invasion, then moves beyond the beach as the men embark on a dangerous special mission. Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) must take his men behind enemy lines to find Private James Ryan, whose three brothers have been killed in combat. Faced with impossible odds, the men question their orders. Why are eight men risking their lives to save just one? Surrounded by the brutal realities of war, each man searches for his own answer-and the strength to triumph over an uncertain future with honor, decency and courage. Saving Private Ryan earned its awards for bringing back the realism of World War 2 and for portraying what the shocking chances of survival were at the historic battle of Omaha beach on D-Day in June 1944. Omaha beach was only one of the invasion sites of the American, British and Canadian coalition forces. The special reason why Steven Spielberg chose to direct his movie with Omaha beach as its backdrop was due to the fact that out of all the other landing sites, Omaha beach was the bloodiest battle field and it took 15,000 lives of young American soldiers to capture the beach. In the past, war genre films meant hardcore action and a hero waging a one man war against an army, a typical movie would be Rambo 3. Although it is based on a true story, it did not take one American to battle the whole Russian army with a bow and arrow. Saving Private Ryan brings back to life the real heroes that fought in a war, men who were willing to give up their lives just to make a difference, now that ultimate sacrifice is what true heroism is. In a way Saving Private Ryan was finally able to create a difference between action genre films like Rambo 3 and war genre films like Black Hawk Down, and define completely new conventions of war genre films. The realism of the movie is what gave the movie its academy awards. A few explosions cannot bring back World War 2 back to life. Steven Spielberg uses a number of camera skills to really put up the chaotic and live firing effect. When they show American soldiers storming the beach and taking cover from enemy fire, Steven Spielberg uses handheld cameras moving along with the soldiers. Crouching when the soldiers crouch, running when the soldiers run, as if the viewers are watching the battle through a soldiers eye's, creating the documentary type effect, adding to the realism of the movie. Also Steven Spielberg quoted that ‘all the documentaries of the battle in Normandy were in black and white.' Not only had this motivated Spielberg to create his opening battle sequence with desaturated and dark colours, but this also enhanced the battle sequence, if you notice, the faces of the soldiers are glowing white, this creates the feeling of fear and also in one scene especially, when the flame thrower blows up burning everything around him, with raining blood falling upon Tom Hanks, the colour of the blood and the fire radiates in the movie, and the red blood on Tom Hanks's face shocks viewers, enhancing the gory war effect. The contrasting use of the bright colours against the dull background adds to the realistic nature of the battle scenes. The opening scene of the movie first sets the mood when you hear a trumpet playing in the background. The music sounded much disciplined with the precision beats of the drums in the background, instantly any viewer could guess must be related to the military. Then the American flag is shown, signifying all the...
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