. . . Hell is for Heroes

. . .

Movie Comment:

All I have to say about Saving Private Ryan is:

Man, with that helmet on him, don't Tom Hanks look just like Tony Curtis?
If Eric Schlosser hadn't got there first, I'd also have to say that Spielberg remains 4-ever Spielberg: Indiana Jones with blood, Jaws with a tank, it's all one consistently characterless outpouring of finnicky sludge. As Lester Bangs said about Lou Reed (look-down-a-ways link via Metascene), he can't help it; it's like B.O.

... wait, just a sec, come back, uh, OK, one more thing, then that's all. If as a thought experiment (and you'll need one to stay awake through this mess) you try to separate Steven Spielberg's schmaltz and John Williams's schmaltz from what's purportedly happening on screen, you'll note that the screenplay begs to be played as black-to-the-bone satire, a kind of follow-on to Catch-22 or The Americanization of Emily: 25 minutes of first-act slaughter, then cut to some pompous general reciting Lincoln to justify a grotesquely inappropriate publicity stunt that eventually results in the third-act slaughter of pert near everyone except the guy publicly cursed by his survival....

OK, it might not have been a great movie -- none of the other war satires have managed, and Spielberg's right to be humor-shy after 1941 -- but at least it would be a movie that kind of made sense.

From that point of view, Saving Private Ryan expensively muddles the path blazed by Don Siegel's more genuinely harrowing Hell Is for Heroes, whose screenwriter began with a light-hearted romp ("He had, you know, a duck as one of the leading characters") and whose director ended with a zoom into unseeable death "so that there was nothing they could do about it. There wasn't anything else to cut to." (Don Siegel quotes via Peter Bogdanovich)

Bottom line: Great sound design. And the bullets look neat!


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