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English IV 6th Period
Saving PrivateRyan and Cultural Criticism inside
Spielberg’sSaving Private Ryan an American war film released in 1998 depictsthe story of the Second World War where American soldiers are sent tosave a paratrooper by the name James Ryan. While the film is aboutacts of compassion for the missing private, the film explores thequestions on how moral war is. This paper argues that the filmcriticizes the culture of war by depicting its devastating effects tothe soldiers.
First,the film shows the devastating effects of the war on the solders assome are killed while others maimed. However, according to ShamimRazavi and Milan Voykoivic in the article Saving Private Ryan, thefilm portrays dying and killing as a righteous act. The two authorseven quote the film’s director Spielberg as claiming that the filmwas to portray the morality in sacrifice but on the other hand, thewar depicted in the film has devastating effects on the soldiers. Forinstance, in one of the war scene, as American soldier struggle toget out of the craft, they encounter heavy gunfire. They areoverpowered and the way they encounter their death is messy. Forinstance, the audience is forced to witness as the explosivesdismember the soldiers, ripping open their bodies while those whosurvive the shooting are maimed.
Second, all the struggles the soldiers go through is depicted as a sign ofstupid patriotism and thus, the film criticizes the culture of warby depicting the soldiers as fighting without thinking. According toJon Biguenet in the article, The Profound Contradiction of SavingPrivate Ryan, Director Spielberg’s depiction of the D-day is anunpatriotic and brutal portrait of the war. In a sense, the soldiers’patriotism is mocked and questioned as their lives are exchanged forthe glory of the country. In the article Spielberg’s SavingPrivate Ryan: Small truths at the expense of big ones, David Washargues that Spielberg views the soldiers as becoming heroes due totheir lack of thinking. Instead, the soldiers are following an orderwhich they do not think is reasonable but, continue with the waranyway. They are not even convinced that they should continuefighting. This is seen in the way some of the soldiers question theact of their superior to order them into the brutal mission while atthe sometime questioning the reasoning behind wars.
Third,the film raises the question of whether one`s life is worthy thelives of many people as many soldiers loss their lives trying to savethat of Private Ryan, the missing paratrooper. According to JohnBodnar, in the article Saving Private Ryan and Post War Memory inAmerica, the film depicts most of the American soldiers as patrioticto their country, humane and not cold-blooded killers and who hopedthat the war would end soon so that they could return to their wivesand children. On this note, Susan Owen in the article Memory, War andAmerican Identity: Saving Private Ryan as Cinematic Jeremiad, arguesthat there is a tendency to by the U.S historical metanarrative tomake right the wrongs as while acts of wars are devastating, thecausalities are glorified as heroes in the name of the Americanidentity (252).This reveals that while the leaders of the opposingallies were more than willing to destroy each other, most of thesoldiers did not enjoy killing their colleagues from the opposingcamp.
Inconclusion, the film criticizes the culture of war as the lives ofthe American soldiers are sacrificed for the glory of the country.Their patriotism is mocked as they are in a mission whose rationalethey do not believe in. lastly, acts of war are seen as righteouswhile at the same time the film question the rationale of losing manylives in the name of saving one.
Biquenet,John. “The Profound Contradiction of Saving Private Ryan.” 2015.Accessed fromhttp://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/06/the-false-patriotism-of-saving-private-ryan/371539/
Bodnar,John. Saving Private Ryan and Postwar Memory in America. The AmericanHistorical Review, 106(3), 2001 805-817
Doherty,Thomas, et al. "Saving Private Ryan." (1998): 68-71.
Owen,Susan. Memory, War, and American Identity: Saving Private Ryan asCinematic Jeremiad. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 19(3),2002:249-282
Voykovic,Milan and Razavi Shamin. “Saving Private Ryan: Review.” 2014. Accessed from http://bahai-library.com/voykovic_saving_private_ryan
Walsh,David. “Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan: Small truths at theexpense of big ones.” Accessed fromhttp://www.wsws.org/en/articles/1998/07/ryan-j31.html?view=anniversary