One of the local channels TV channels, MBC-2, recently showed the Spielberg War Kabaaam ‘Saving Private Ryan‘ – I wasn’t really trying to watch it, but after they repeated it’s showing 3 or 4 times, I ended up having seen it. More or less, although not quite in the chronological sequence that Mr. Spielberg intended, I’m sure.
I’ve always had something against the movie, wasn’t quite sure why…
However, I remember that it might’ve had something to do with its timing. ‘Saving Private Ryan‘ was released at the same time as another ‘war’ movie, the less famous ‘The Thin Red Line‘ – by Terrence Malick – and whereas Spielbergs Warfest took it upon itself to show us heroic, noble, decisive, redemptive characters, ‘The Thin Red Line‘ focused on desperate individuals caught within a spiral of murder, chaos, and inhuman cruelty. Surely enough, the Malick movie had a large and willing cast of actors not only happy to be working with Malick, but who, as time has shown us, are predominantly anti-war (Should I say pro-peace? We’ve almost been programmed to treat ‘anti-war’ like there’s something wrong with it…a dangerous fact in and of itself…). Amongst this list; Sean Penn, George Clooney, Woody Harrelson, etc..
So, anyway – here I am reading the news – and there’s all this coverage about some ABC affiliate stations not wanting to show the Spielberg movie, presumably because it uses the word FUCK. This may or may not be true, any guesses I’d be making here sound too good to be true.
In any case, I started looking up some information about the movie…
And this is what I find out:
In Spielberg’s ‘Epic War Fill-In-The-Blanks’ film; a mother and father whose 4 children have been sent to WW2 are about to be informed that 3 of their sons have been killed in action. This heartrending matter is noticed by the administration’s massive, and touchingly maternal bureaucracy, and is brought to the attention of a general. The general decides he must cushion the mother’s heartache, since the loss is so grave, and sends a whole bunch of other people’s children to go hunt for the last surviving ‘Ryan’ – to make sure that, at least, one of Mother Ryan’s children is returned to her safely. Understandably (cough) he does nothing to relieve the million other mothers losing their perhaps only child to the war, but such is progress….
In any case, needless to say, and I presume we have to thank focus groups, or Spielbergs ‘grasp of the nations’ pulse’ for this – the last Ryan is returned safely to his parents, and lives a long, healthy, well-loved life.
Well…I barely know where to start…
The movie, was apparently based on the story of the Sullivan Brothers.
There were 5 brothers, not 4. They were on a boat, all together. The boat went on and killed some Japanese. The Japanese attacked the boat. ALL FIVE, yes – read that again – ALL FIVE brothers were killed. The Sullivans lost all their children.
This grief, of course, was well exploited by the US Army.
And if you’re looking for a laugh – well, get this:
The five Sullivan brothers joined the enlisted because after they saw what ‘happened’ in Pearl Harbor, they wanted to go ‘kill some Japanese’ for revenge. I can safely assume that at the time, they fully believed the official line…that the attack on Pearl Harbor had been…a vicious surprise attack! That the US Government had not known that the Japanese were attacking! That the US Government had not in fact deliberately provoked the attack to gain emotional and national credit…
The Sullivan brothers, were, to put it mildly; suckers.
I remember one horrific scene from Malick’s movie; the US Army moves in on a Vietnamese village, and as the killing starts, there is one man, a villager, who is seen, in them midst of all the chaos, sitting down, lotus-like, as though insisting on not being part of this horrific reality. For a while it seems to work, he is, miraculously, left untouched as they go about killing everybody else. Malick doesn’t even focus on this man, he’s just there, in the picture as the mayhem unfolds around him…
Of course, when the initial chaos of the attack starts to wear down, that man, too, is killed.
There’s a point to that.