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 de saturated 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 American soldiers who died in France in World War 2, and you see an old man visiting the graves of all the dead soldiers. This is hen it moves from the trumpet to slow emotional and moving music, immediately the old man stops in front of a grave and breaks down and starts crying. When the camera then takes a close up of his face, the mood of the music changes and creates a very ominous effect.
The music then stops as the camera begins to zoom out, and all you here is the increasing sound of the crashing wave and a soldier surrounded by other soldiers with a very a dull and de saturated background compared to the graveyard where the old man was. This transition from the present to the past marks the beginning of a flashback of the D-Day invasion task force at Omaha Beach. The second scene gives us a still camera shot of Omaha Beach with the waves crashing in on the barricades, one important observation is the colour of the whole seen. It seems depressed, dark and a gloomy hour, adding to the war effect. Back on the Higgins boat we get a more wider view of the boat with many soldiers, some vomiting out of fear, some praying, some patiently looking at the front metal draw ramp of the boat. The captain of the boat then screams, 'Clear the ramp, prepare for landing, 30 seconds,' immediately Captain Miller (Tom Hanks) follows up with a set of instructions for the men on the boat, hinting he is leading them.
The way he speaks also makes the viewer think that they know exactly what they are doing with no hesitations. Slowly we begin to hear shells getting louder and louder exploding near the boats, until one boat actually gets hit and the blood splatters all over other nearby boats. Immediately would start questioning themselves and ask what is actually there on the beach. The boat stops, all we hear are shell and waves and the spinning latch drawing down the ramp. At this point the camera is located between few soldiers at the front of the boat, allowing us to see exactly what the soldiers can see. As soon as the ramp just comes halfway down, you see a raining rapid fire of bullets charging and mowing down soldiers at the front.
This camera angle is very effective because the ramp hasn't hit the ground yet and soldiers have already started dying, others behind them rushing up front only to be greeted by German machine gun fire. This shocks the audience at first, they can see the bullets, they hear the bullets as if it is flying past their ear. This shot alone enhances the scene and constructs a very realistic battle sequence. When the men then try to get off the boat from the sides, the camera follows them under water, and you see horrific images off soldiers trying to get their gear off and suddenly get shot underwater with their blood diffusing in it. Other shots show soldiers drowning because of their weapons and gear. Already men have started ding and they haven't even touched the beach.
This creates the start of the chaotic reality of the battle of Omaha beach. The handheld camera effect in this is very effective as the soldiers try to get out of the water and take cover behind the barricades. All around the handheld camera you see soldiers crying, wounded with guts and their organs flowing out, men getting shot blown up or being thrown into the air by the explosions. People in the cinema would now start shutting their eye's by now. Everyone is confused, bullets are flying in from everywhere, it seems that the Americans do not even stand a chance against the Germans. Now the most horrifying shot shown is when a the back of the head of a German machine gunner shows what he is firing at, they show them wiping out mercilessly a whole platoon of men trying to get of the boat.
The chaotic scene comes to a close after a huge explosion that throws Tom Hanks onto the beach and puts him in a sense of confusion. Scene 3 portrays Capt. Miller as a confused soldier, the over shoulder shot of Capt. Miller shows him questioning himself. Why is he here? What is he doing? Does he really want to die? To enhance the scene, the sound effects of the gunshots and the shells completely stop. Everything focuses on Capt.
Miller, a soldier keeps on asking for orders from Capt. Miller but he cant seem to be able to here him, this adds to the state of confusion. It seems to me that Capt. Miller realizes that they are fighting a lost battle, to stress this point Steven Spielberg shows soldier's dying and crying through Capt. Miller's eye's.
For a while there is no noise no sound, but then gradually as Capt. Miller puts his helmet back on the gunshot noises and the explosion effects return back into the movie. The point when he put his helmet back on, Capt. Miller has decided to do something about Germans firing at them or just wait there and die this idea can also be supported because right after he comes out of the state of confusion, he reacts to the soldiers and says 'Get your men off the beach,' obviously this shows his concern and responsibility over his men... So in a way the state of confusion Capt. Miller was in, it was sort of a do or die moment where Miller was trying to decide in confusion what to do next.
This sort of reaction on the battlefields is indeed very common, hence this too adds to the realism of the movie. In the end scene, the battle comes to a close with the American forces victorious, as the gunshot firing stops, Capt Miller sits down when Tom Sizemore says to him, "That's quite a few," and Miller replies "Yes it is." They were referring to all the dead soldiers on the beach, exactly then the slow emotional music is played again as the camera turns towards the aftermath gives a whole wide picture of the carnage that was left on the beach. Hundreds of bodies lay dead, the music although creates a peaceful effect, the first reaction of a sentimental audience would be tears dripping out of their eye's. The final shot of the scene is the close up on Peter Ryan laying dead on the beach with a bloody tide rushing in. The ending scene was probably the most effective scene of all because it immediately shows the reality and chaos war brings to mankind and what kind of courage it takes people to rise up against it. Overall I think Steven Spielberg has created a masterpiece in re-creating D-Day.
Not only that, the way the whole battle sequence followed and linked each other was remarkable. I mean to say the graveyard, the old veteran crying, the music, really prepared me to expect the next scene to be a battle. But I did not know it was going to be that chaotic and brutal that it literally shocked and surprised me. The accuracy and the, idea of hand held cameras really involved me with the movie and I think that's what I enjoyed the most, the realism of the movie convinced me that, that is how D-Day happened. Saving Private Ryan was definitely worth watching, it has taken the war film genre to a whole new level.