Saving Private Ryan

Dom Robinson reviews

Saving Private Ryan
Distributed by



  • Cert:
  • PHE 8040
  • Running time: 163 minutes
  • Year: 1998
  • Pressing: 2000
  • Region(s): 2, PAL
  • Chapters: 20 plus extras
  • Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Languages: English
  • Subtitles: English (and hard of hearing)
  • Widescreen: 1.78:1
  • 16:9-Enhanced: Yes
  • Macrovision: Yes
  • Disc Format: DVD 9
  • Price: £19.99
  • Extras : 2 Trailers, “Into the Breach” featurette,Production Notes, Cast and Crew biogs


      Steven Spielberg

    (1941, Amistad, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Color Purple, Empire of the Sun, E.T.: The Extra-terrestrial, Hook, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Jaws,Jurassic Park, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Saving Private Ryan, Schindler’s List)


    Steven Spielberg, Ian Bryce, Mark Gordon and Gary Levinsohn


    Robert Rodat


    John Williams


    Captain John H. Miller: Tom Hanks
    Sergeant Michael Horvath: Tom Sizemore
    Private Richard Reiben: Edward Burns
    Private Jackson: Barry Pepper
    Private Mellish: Adam Goldberg
    Private Adrian Caparzo: Vin Diesel
    T/4 Medic Irwin Wade: Giovanni Ribisi
    Corporal Timothy E. Upham: Jeremy Davies
    Private James Francis Ryan: Matt Damon
    Captain Fred Hamill: Ted Danson
    Lieutenant Colonel Anderson: Dennis Farina

History was never my strong-point in schooland I’m not one for reading books, so sometimes the closest I’m going to getto a history lesson comes with watching a film and this one begins with theD-Day landings on June 6th, 1944 in the Dog Green Sector of Omaha Beach.

The first half-hour of the film addresses the problem of how do you keep yourhead when all around others are, literally, losing theirs. As soon as theramps are lowered and the soldiers are set to storm the beach, they’re cut downin their prime before they’ve had time to spit out their chewing gum. It’sliterally like shooting fish in a barrel. As for the rest who do make it outof there, for most of them it’s just a matter of time before they’re missingbody parts.

Once that mission is taken care of, eight of the men are assigned one moretask before they’re allowed to go home. Three of Private James Ryan’s (MattDamon) brothers have been killed in action and, with little informationto go on other than that he should be “somewhere in Normandy”, they must findhim and bring him back to base.

Led by Captain John H. Miller (Tom Hanks), the team consists ofSergeant Michael Horvath (Tom Sizemore), Private Richard Reiben(Edward Burns), Private Jackson (Barry Pepper),Private Mellish (Adam Goldberg, Chandler’s flatmate in Friendswhen Joey moved out temporarily), Private Adrian Caparzo (Vin Diesel),T/4 Medic Irwin Wade (Giovanni Ribisi) and new kid on the blockCorporal Timothy E. Upham (Jeremy Davies).

When I first heard of the plot I thought it was a typical American gung-hopiece of nonsense for which everything would turn out perfectly, but no,to find the boy is going to be a potentially-fruitless PR exercise, as theeight men reluctantly search for him and before they even get to meet himthey’ll hate him for what he’s unknowingly put them through. Not every onewill make it, so who will survive?

The cast also includes cameos from Ted Danson as Captain Fred Hamilland Dennis Farina as Lieutenant Colonel Anderson.

The Region 1 DVD was apparently a high quality digital transfer using the”C-Reality” process. It’s not stated whether the same applies her, but itdoes look mostly excellent with the only scenes that suffer from some artifactsare those that top and tail the film from the present day.

The film was show using Panavision Platinum and Panastar WWII era camerasand many of the war scenes were shot at 12 frames-per-second (fps) which givethem a slightly stuttering look that’s intentional.

Presented in anamorphic 1.78:1 (16:9) widecreen,The average bitrate is 5.25b/s, occasionally peaking over 8Mb/s.

Two DVDs were released in the US. One with DTS 5.1 sound and the other withDolby Digital 5.1. We only get the latter and it’s in English only. It’s nothingshort of first-rate with all the battle scenes taking most of the credits asbullets fly past with brilliant use made of the stereo separation. There’san amazing cacophony of sound effects as this happens while planes fly overheadand the tanks roll in.

Extras :

The major extra on this disc is a 25-minute featurette, “Into the Breach”,which provides a fascinating insight into those who fought in the war, withcomments on how realistic they thought the film was and providing footage ofthe actual D-Day invasion. The booklet also includes some history notes aboutD-Day which are replicated here.

Also included are 2 Trailers in non-anamorphic 16:9 widescreen, one forthe film’s original cinema release and the other for when it was re-releasedwith a stack of Oscar nominations in tow, plus a few pages of ProductionNotes and Cast and Crew biogs on many of the major players.

Once again there’s not enough chapters – just 20 over thetwo-and-three-quarter-hour running time, but the menus are mostly animatedwith sound from the film’s haunting score. Both the dialogue and subtitlesare in English only.

Saving Private Ryan is a film worth seeing with many unsurpassablebattle moments, but does have it’s slow areas too. The BBFC’s liking forSpielberg accounts for the reason why scores of gory moments are still allowedwithin a 15-certificate film.


Review copyright © Dominic Robinson, 2000.