Spielberg Part 3 - Saving Private Ryan, The William Goldman Essay

I finally tracked down that essay by Goldman regarding 'Saving Private Ryan'. I thought I'd put it up here to make sure I didn't misrepresent his opinion. It's from 'The Big Picture; Who killed Hollywood? and other essays'.

The bullshit started early with this baby. I remember these remarkable interviews being given on the talk shows during the standard pre-opening hype. Sort of like this:

RYAN HYPIST I have to tell you the most important thing of all.
RYAN HYPIST (Pause) Well this movie, it's . . . UM . . . violent.
GENERIC KATIE (Nodding—fascinated) You mean . . . bloody?
RYAN HYPIST Oh yes, oh God yes, bloody, so much blood, people getting blown up, killed—I have to tell you all this Generic Katie because I would never want to mislead the audience: this movie is a blood bath. Just so your audience knows that before they go—this movie is filled with battle scenes and gore and explosions and young men dying.
GENERIC KATIE (moved) Thank you for being so . . . brave and honest with us. I know it must have been hard for you.

And I am staring at the tube thinking, what is everybody smoking? Let me put it another way. Let's say I am hyping a re-make of How To Marry A Millionaire. But instead of a frothy comedy with Bacall and Grable and Monroe, I have made a hard R version. Starring Cameron Diaz and Heather Graham and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

MILLIONAIRE HYPIST I have to tell you the most important thing of all.
MILLIONAIRE HYPIST (Pause) Well, this movie, it's .. . um . . . sexual.
GENERIC KATIE (nodding, fascinated) You mean .. . with nudity?
MILLIONAIRE HYPIST Oh yes, oh God yes, passion, so much nakedness, people having orgasms—I have to tell you all this Generic Katie because I would never want to mislead the audience: this movie is carnal. Just so your audience knows be¬fore they go—this movie is filled with rapes and lesbianism and nipples and young women screaming with sexual pleasure.
GENERIC KATIE (moved) Thank you so for being so . . . brave and honest with us. I know it must have been hard for you.

Sex and violence are the twin items Hollywood wants most desperately to sell these awful days. That's why the Ryan hype was so fraudulent. Here is the kind of brave and honest hype you will never live to see.

HYPIST I have to tell you the most important thing of
HYPIST (Pause) Well this movie, it's . . . um . . . philo-sophical.
GENERIC KATIE (Nodding, fascinated) You mean . . . with talk?
HYPIST Oh, yes, oh God, yes, tons of conversation, all of it dealing with pain and suffering and how to live on earth without doing harm. I would never want to mislead your audience: This movie is intelligent. Just so your audience knows before they go—this movie is thought-provoking and deep and filled with the kind of wisdom we so need on earth these days.
GENERIC KATIE (To herself) Didn't believe one word.

Saving Private Ryan begins, as I'm sure everyone has told you, with an incredible battle sequence. Maybe that was true for them, but the version I saw sure began differently: a fif-teen-second shot of Old Glory a-wavin' in the wind. With Copland-like music in the background. Even John Wayne would have been embarrassed to start a movie that way. Hearts and flowers, God bless America, all that awful stuff. Today, only the Farrellys could get away with something like that.

Then there follows a weird sequence which I have sub-titled "The Man With the Big-Boobed Girls." And I am not being facetious. This old guy lumbers around someplace, we don't know where, and behind him are a bunch of Norman Rockwell types, but all I can concentrate on are these big¬boobed girls who are tagging along. Then we find that we're in a cemetery, and a shot of a flag tells us France. Lots of crosses. He kneels, at a particular cross, weeps, some of the family run to him, the big-boobed ones hanging back.

Then a long shot of his moist eyes and as the camera moves slowly into a close up of those eyes, we know this much: we are going into flashback now.
The story that has moved this old man is about to be told.
And now we are into the battle sequence.

What to say about it? Fabulous, brilliant, extraordinary, whatever you want. And do you know why? The length: twenty four minutes. The stuff itself is absolute as good and no better than Francis Coppola's war stuff or Oliver Stone's war stuff. But here it just goes pulverizingly on and on. It was brave of writer Robert Rodat to write it that way and brave of director Steven Spielberg to direct it with that incredible relentless tension.

What to say about Spielberg? For me, as great a shooter as anyone in movie history. Clearly the most important American director of the last thirty years, and on occasion, the most brilliant.

When he is in his wheel house. More of that presently.

As anybody reading this must know, Robert Rodat's story is about a squad of soldiers sent on a rescue mission—to find a Private Ryan, a young soldier who has lost three broth¬ers in action. Ryan, once located, is to be sent back home be¬fore another tragedy totally destroys the remains of his family.

The last shot of the great battle sequence is a shot of a dead soldier named Ryan.
OK, so what the movie has to do is simple: get the rescue squad going after the kid. The Spielberg of Raider's of the Lost Ark would have taken maybe a minute to set that up. Tom Hanks, the squad leader would have been called into a commander's presence, told to find a Private Ryan. Hanks would ask why and the Commander would say what you know: to make sure he does not die like his brothers. Get him home now and get him home safely. Those are your orders. Go!

That is not a hard premise to set up. In this movie it takes Spielberg thirteen pretentious, operatic minutes. (An amazing length of movie time.) Climaxed when a General reads a letter Honest Abe Lincoln wrote which is s0000 moving, sports fans, it brings tears to the other high officers who are listening to the General.


Then, after more uninteresting stuff, forty minutes into the movie, Hanks' squad finally sets off on their odyssey to find Private Ryan. And the hunt for him is just terrific. (A word here—he will not win the Oscar but Tom Sanders sure should—great production design.)

Sequence after sequence. The village with the French girl and the sudden Nazi's and the wrong Ryan. The church. The wounded area with the haunted pilot where they fmd out where Ryan might be. The bunker fight with the Nazi who Hanks releases and wonderful work between Tom Sizemore and Ed Burns and Hanks. Then the fight with the tank and off¬handedly, surprisingly, they find Private Ryan.

We are an hour and forty five minutes into the movie now. We have just had an hour plus of sensational storytelling. And I am so excited because I know what is going to happen now: they are going to take Ryan back only it is going to be so much harder than finding him was. Maybe they would revisit some of the places—would the pilot have killed himself, would the French girl be killed by sniper madness, would the madness of the entire enterprise come crashing down around them? The story was going to be like a great snowball, accumulating as it roared toward climax, gathering weight and size and emotional power as Hanks desperately tried to get the kid home to his shattered mother.

And guess what: the rest of the movie is a disgrace. Fifty plus minutes of phony manipulative shit.

Things start going south immediately. We are in a bombed French village which has a valuable bridge. Hanks tells Ryan to get ready. And Ryan—Matt Damon—says this: he doesn't want to go. Sure his mom has suffered, sure it's awful what's happened to his family, but these guys are his brothers now and he will not leave them.

Do you believe that? Do you believe that a young man who has just been informed his family has been devastated, that his mother has had grief overpowering poured on her, would say, hey, I'm sure mom'll understand but I want to stay here in the mud with my buddies.


I can kind of make a case that Ryan is young and in such shock and feels so guilty at his good/bad fortune, he really at that moment wants to stay. OK. I go with that.
Then the first nail in the coffin: Hanks goes along with it—hey, what a neat idea, I'll stay too.

Inconceivable, as Vizzini would say.

Before I get to how it's done in the movie, let me make a parallel. Let's say you and I were given a sworn task by our father. To make sure little Matt next store gets to school that day. Our most important task on earth is to make sure that happens.
OK. We go to little Matt's house, tell him to come along. And he says this: "My best friend in the world is visiting me today. I won't go."

And you and I think about it and decide we have only two choices.
(1) To let him stay home.
(2) To stay home with him.

Take a second. That make sense? Are those the only two choices available? How about adding a third: bringing the little fucker to school.
In an awful awful scene, after Matt has stamped his foot in anger, Hanks and Tom Sizemore, the tough Sergeant have a talk.

Sizemore asks what Hanks' orders are and Hanks replies thusly: "Sergeant, we have crossed some strange boundary here. The world has taken a turn for the surreal."
And I am sitting there thinking no, nothing surreal about it. A simple request has been made that needs a simple answer.

Sizemore tells Hanks this. "Some part of me thinks the kid's right. What's he done to deserve this? If he wants to stay here fine. Let's leave him and go home."
And Hanks says "yeah."

And I say, where did the notion of leaving him and going home come from? Surely it has never been breathed on planet Earth before. What are you talking about? Then Sizemore hits him with the clincher: "But another part of me thinks what if by some miracle we stay and actually make it out of here? Some day we might look back on this and decide that saving Private Ryan was the one decent thing we were able to pull out of this whole God awful shitty mess . . . . We do that, Captain, we all earn the right to go home."

So they stay. (Sizemore's speech might have made sense earlier—when they were having the fight about staying or going home, earlier in the flick, before they had found Ryan.)

You know the worst thing? It would have been easy to have them stay and not be phony about it. How? Try this:

Matt makes his pitch. Hanks says I understand your emotions, but we're out of here right now.
Next cut, they are leaving the village. Next cut they are crossing the bridge. Next cut, walking in the countryside
-and then a close up of Hanks and he stares and guess what?—
—The Germans are coming, They're here, it's too late to leave.
Next cut, exactly what we have now, and go on as be¬fore, only with more urgency. And without the awful manipulation.

The Ugly Tree
The most damaging speech of the movie comes next. Hanks and Matt Damon are waiting for the attack. Damon says he cannot summon up his dead brothers faces and Hanks says, think of something specific. Hanks, when he thinks of home, thinks of his hammock or his wife pruning the roses wearing his gloves.

And Matt Damon starts into this long—two minutes, folks—remembrance of the last time he and his brothers were together. A sexual escapade when one of his brothers was trying to fuck this girl, a girl who "took a nose dive out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down."

The speech—ad libbed by Matt Damon is the only time we get to spend any private time with Ryan. And the speech does not exactly endear him to us. It also rips a lot of the emotional fabric of the film to pieces. I would love to know what the real script said at this point. And I wonder only this: how could Spielberg allow something this atrocious to happen?

The Shooting of Tom Hanks

A bunch of Germans come running toward camera. They get into prone position, start to fire. We are drawn to¬ward one particular German bad guy. Want to know why? He's the only one without a helmet. And, gasp, we realize he is that very same Nodzi who Hanks let live in the earlier sequence. (Spielberg has just discovered irony.) And, shock of shocks, he is the very one who plugs poor Tom.

Now of course, this is manipulation to the nth power. But that's ok, lots of movies do that. But it is not ok here. And why?

Because it gives the lie to the great part of the film.

That wonderful twenty-four minute sequence? What did that tell us about war? That it is awful, yes, of course that. But it also told us this: war is non-sensical, illogical, totally beyond human comprehension.

But here it is all totally understandable. Let a bad guy go, guess what, he will return, relentless and helmetless to kill you. (And hang around conveniently so the cowardly lion of the flick, the translator, can become a man by killing the very man who shot his captain.) In order for this sequence to be in balance with the entire film, that opening battle sequence would have to be altered so that it was about John Wayne fighting his way to glory and saving all his raw recruits around him. Then this bullshit with the German soldier is in keeping with the film.

But it doesn't fucking matter who kills Tom Hanks. His death is what matters. His death is the tragedy.

The Death of Tom Hanks

Hanks is dying, Ed Burns runs for a medic, Matt Damon is alone with Hanks. And do you know what Hanks' last words were? Of course you don't, no one does, not the first time they see the movie. Because not only are they whispered so softly, they have never before been spoken on this or any planet. "Earn this . . . earn it." Those are the words.

I have zero idea what that can possibly mean. My only explanation is this: Spielberg was up half the night before reading Philosophy for Dummies and he wanted to inject that nugget into his flick.

Ed Burns at the Cemetery

Hanks is dead, the awful pretentious voice of the actor playing General Marshall is treackling away, we hear ole Honest Abe's letter again and I am now waiting for the shot of Ed Burns with the big boobed girls back at the cemetery. Why do I know that is coming? Well, only two members of the squad are left, Burns and the cowardly translator and I know it can't be him because he was not with Hanks and the squad during the twenty-four minutes of glory at the start of the film. So it has to be Burns standing there among the graves.

Now the morphing shot comes -and I am looking at the old face of Matt Damon at the cemetery.
Well, you can't do that. Don't you see, he wasn't fucking there. He knew nothing of the attack on the beach, knew nothing of the odyssey that followed, and he never had a chance to hear about it. The only spare moment he had was when he was telling us all about his brothers and the ugly girl and setting the barn on fire.

When he was great, and he was great, Spielberg was a phenomenal storyteller. All gone. That, or he doesn't care.

How's about Spielberg's version of Moby Dick: "Call me Ishmael. I'm going to tell you a story of this ship and this one legged captain and this whale. Actually, I don't know if the guy was one legged. Never saw him, never saw the ship, never saw the whale, never talked to anybody who ever saw anything."

"Who better than I to tell you what happened?"

The other disgrace of this storytelling is this: there is no pregnant moment to the story. (I'm not going all intellectual on you—remember, the Zipper scene and Matt Dillon trying to electrocute the dog back to life were my happiest moments this year in a theatre.) But all stories do and must have them. They are the reason the story is being told. The pregnant moment of Shakespeare in Love is this: Will has a block. We do not tell of Joe and Gwyneth after he's written King Lear—the whole point is the guy can't write anything. Armageddon happens when it happens because the meteor is on its way.

There is absolutely no reason for this story being told now since Matt has no specific reason for visiting the cemetery.

Didn't have to be phony. Say it was Ed Burns. Who has the flashback legitimately. Say he had a reason for coming pick any one you want. Try this: Ryan has just done something splendid. Or Ryan has just died but had a good life.

"Remember that little shit you died for?" Burns might say. "Guess what? He turned out okay. Not worth your dying, Captain, but at least it's something. Thought you'd like to know."

The Ending

Just when you think Spielberg has stooped as low as even he can, new thresholds are reached. Four agonizing minutes of pretentious syrup, climaxing when Matt asks his wife has he been a good man? What is she going to answer? Her husband is clearly having a breakdown. She says yes and Matt—wait for it—he salutes!

Then Old Glory returns, waving at us for half a minute. I guess reminding us that God and Steven Spielberg are on the same side.

Medicinal Level—A.

Can't get much higher. Patriotism and the flag and easy answers galore. Phony and manipulative, all in the sense of Country.

What to say about Spielberg at this stage of his career? He will win his second Oscar for this work, and probably a third when he finds another 'importante' subject to hide be¬hind. (Religious persecution, racial injustice, patriotism.)
I have never met him, never been in a room with him, but no person can come so far in such a killingly competitive business without having a reservoir of anger and rage and dark-ness hiding in there somewhere. I just wish once he would let it show.
There is no reason for him to do anything else than what he has been doing. The movies are wildly successful at the box-office, the critics bow.

And if he had directed Bambi, guess what? Bambi's mother would never have died .. .



Hi Mark,

Thanks...been awhile since i read any Goldman. How old is this piece?

all the best,

scott caple

really must work on Jim to have us over.

Mark said...

The book publishing date is 2001.

I would assume that the essay was originally published in 1998 or '99 being that Ryan came out in '98.

Anonymous said...

It seems strange to me to suggest that the movie doesn't make sense because Private Ryan can't have a "flashback" to events he didn't witness. Obviously, it was not a flashback then. Its just a movie that follows Matt Damon's character in bookends and Tom Hanks' character in the middle. There is no flashback, just two different narratives.

Mark said...

I wouldn't say that the movie doesn't make sense. It's a fairly easy plot to follow and is quite linear.

I do think it's a contrivance on the part of Spielberg to use the grammar of film to suggest that this is Tom Hanks' character.

I posted the frames here:

I don't think it's accidental and it reads very much like a flashback even if it isn't. This is a manipulation by the filmmakers so in the end we go 'oh my God, it's Ryan and not the Captain'. It's playing on emotion but doing it in a dishonest way.

Steve said...


Bill from Boston said...

This writer has obviously never served and therefore should think more about his choice to write an essay on a war movie. Private Ryan's decision not to run away from the war back into the comfortable arms of his Mommy is completely understandable. There are almost no circumstances where a member of a unit like that one would desert his fellow soldiers. The fact that Achtenberg can not understand that shows that he never served. Captain Miller's decision to stay is also completely understandable. Holding the bridge is mission critical for the whole US Army. Once he realizes that and hears Ryan's passionate plea, he receognizes that his team should stay and fight alongside the others. His "little Matt next door" comparison is embarrassing. I can not even start to list the ridiculous lack of parallels. You really have no idea what "Earn this" means. That is sad. How about "Live the rest of your life in a manner worthy of the sacrifices that my team has made to find you." Is that so difficult??? This whole article is really embarrassing. Simmons sent me here and I am pissed that this type of crap is written.

Mark said...


First off, this is William Goldman's essay, not mine. I've re-presented it here as a topic of discussion.

Your point is quite valid and a good criticism against Goldman. There has been a lot of interest in this essay and I am happy to present it. Just don't put the words into my mouth. In fact if you look at my Part 2 post I said the following:

"Regardless, I don't hate the last hour of 'Saving Private Ryan' like Goldman as it is an interesting film to reflect on."

My own brother, who did serve in Bosnia replied the same as you:

"I dont think Mr. Goldman has ever walked in a pair of combat boots or served in a Military Unit? Maybe his logic #2 issue would not longer be an issue."

Anonymous said...

So... "zooming in on eyes" = flashback? Since when?

I do agree with a lot of the other stuff though.

Mark said...

You're pulling my leg now aren't you? The dolly move into the eyes doesn't mean anything until you make a cut. The cut to 1944 gives the audience the impression that this is this man's memory. This is then reinforced by the matching close-up of Tom Hanks who reveals himself after drinking from his canteen. It's filmmaking 101 and I don't know anyone who didn't think that Hanks was the old guy at the cemetery (except possibly you but you're anonymous).

Mark said...

The other element you probably didn't notice is that the sound of the ocean and crashing waves is brought up before the cut to the past. This also leads the audience to believe that this is memory.

It's a bona fide flashback (except that it isn't). It's just meant to fool the audience so the audience has no idea that Hanks isn't coming home.

miah said...

I won't say that all of your analysis is poor, but i will say that you suffer from the malady of the new millennium; you think they way you would have made the movie would be better. it's message board/blog fever. i have seen it with movies, music, and video games. stories often have different narrative threads. don't over think it. not everyone has to be kevin smith picking apart star wars.

Mark said...

Thanks for putting down all critical thought in the new Millennium. Fortunately, there are people that are interested in discourse. Just because someone enjoys criticism doesn't mean that 'they would have made it better'. Criticism is a very old discipline and has nothing to do with the new Millennium.

I am a working filmmaker and like to dissect works to see what works and what doesn't and why it works or doesn't. This gets applied to my own work (that isn't above anyone else's criticism or analysis).

If you prefer to not engage in the discussion then there are many places to visit on this internet.

To be certain, the article you have commented on is William Goldman's (the academy award winning guy) and not mine. I posted it for discussion.

I'm not sure why you bother to come around if you are just looking to flame. That is the REAL malady of the new Millennium.

Anonymous said...

On Ryan's preference to stay with his comrades, Goldman's point is not that it's entirely implausible -- a stretch in his eyes, but not beyond comprehension. He says he can see a young man caught up in the moment wanting to stay. His bigger point is that it seems implausible that Hanks -- an experienced officer -- would go along with it. They're both defying orders directly "from the top" to do so. I admit to never having served, and perhaps it's more common to disobey orders from high command than I would expect, but it seems like a fair criticism from Goldman.

Mark said...

Good point. Obeying orders is what makes the machine work.

Anonymous said...

Btw, Goldman was in the army, frm '52-'54. He wrote Soldier in the Rain.

Anonymous said...

I agree with a lot of what Goldman has to say, but I would take issue with the "illogic" of Captain Miller deciding to stay and defend the bridge. Miller's character has been well developed up to that point in the film and Speilberg has pretty much foreshadowed this kind of decision in the scene when the squad confronts the German radar bunker. Several privates object to Miller's decision to take the bunker pointing out that this is not their objective -- Ryan is.

Miller fixes them with a stare and says something like "our mission is to win the war." After the carnage that follows and the seemingly unnecessary death of one squad member we learn that Miller was a high school teacher.

This is central to Speilberg's conception of Miller as an officer and as a human being. He is pretty much exactly what a WW II officer was -- a leader who received orders but also tremendous discretion, plus the "big picture" strategic goal -- winning the war. Some historians believe that the Army's delegation to junior officers and their ability to react and innovate is what made them superior to the Germans who were generally inflexible automotons at the company level.

I thought some of the dialog about staying was, as Goldman points out, somewhere between silly and atrocious, however. It would have been more in keeping with Miller's character and that of his seargant, if they had had a straightforward discussion about the importance of the bridge and holding it to the overall war effort even if Ryan gets killed.

The better WW II film of that year was The Thin Red Line, but it had little hope Oscar time going up against Speilberg's reputation.

Anonymous said...

I always thought that it was reasonable that the Ryan character heard about the events later. I know he couldn't have witnessed them, and I too thought it was the Hanks character at the beginning.

I think the points to have the characters leave after finding Ryan, among his protests, then having to return would be a good way to go too. The way it is represented in the film is good too and more emotional (manipulative, I guess too), and I wonder given the less cynical military times, if that could have happened like it did in the movie.

Jason G. said...

Goldman, who wrote such fine movies as Memoirs of an Invisible Man, The Chamber and The General's Daughter, has words to say about a well-beloved war movie.

Get off the pedestal Bill. You had more bad moments than good yourself.

Anonymous said...

excellent points and the details are more precise than somewhere else, thanks.

- Norman

Anonymous said...

I believe Goldman did serve in the military, but I'm not 100% certain. At any rate, it doesn't take much to know that, yes, Matt Damon's character would more than likely take the noble route--probably with some ambition to live up to his brother's set standards; and I assume he wouldn't want to abandon his battle buddies--and attempt to stay. But Tom Hanks's character--like another poster said--is an officer with strict orders. He didn't want to take the mission in the first place, didn't think it was honorable enough. Why would he sacrifice what little honor he'd feel he'd receive on the short request of Matt Damon's character? He's supposed to have morals; he's supposed to have a strong mind; he's supposed to be a good captain or whatever he is--it's been so long since I've watched the movie. Why would MD's ludicrous request sway him so quickly? Goldman gave an alternative. A pretty damn good one, I thought.

William Goldman is an excellent writer--one of my favorite novelists. Even so, if he hadn't made such valid points, I would have disagreed without a second thought. I think his review showed his writing intuition. I think it showed that he's a stronger writer than the person who wrote SPR. You fellas who disagree have, to quote Mad Mel, "a dog in this fight." (so do I, obviously--but I'm always right) Probably Saving Private Ryan. And to the guy talking about serving in the military: I salute you, but writers write all your fave military movies, and I'd be willing to bet a good percentage didn't serve. But it doesn't matter much: a great deal of veteran writers never served during wars; they weren't out in Private Ryan's situation. Good writers use their experiences to get the job done; great writers accomplish the same task with research and imagination. It's not hard to create scenarios out of thin air, and accurately predict what it might feel like to live such situations. Look at Forrest Gump: I'm absolutely certain the writers, Zemeckis and Tom Hanks would score higher on an IQ test than Forrest--maybe Tom Hanks wouldn't...--yet they pulled off making Forrest seem simple. In war. In love. In despair. That's the power of writing/directing/acting. Imagination. Ain't you ever watched Readin Rainbow?

Loosehead said...

Goldman really didn't get it, did he. "Earn this" is directed at the audience, and Ryan is just a cypher for that. The beach assault is gut-wrenching mostly to make the viewer dread the second battle in the town, and that feeling of dread evoked by Spielberg in the audience is there to reinforce Millers last words to Ryan and the rest of us.

Loosehead said...

What were they supposed to do, bring Ryan back at gunpoint?

Oh, and General Marshall actually did talk like that.

Anonymous said...

The writer is at best, ignorant, at worst just plain dumb. There is just two different narratives going on. Matt Damon does have a purpose going to the cemetary: to pay respects to the man who saved his life. Evidently the writer doesn't understand the level of comraderie that is common between soldiers. Of course Ryan would stay, he couldn't leave his "family". Tom hanks stayed because his orders were to get private Ryan and return him safely. To have left without him would be against his orders. He also realized the bridge was of vital importance to the war effort. Also "earn it" is intended for Ryan and the audience. Ryan has to earn the sacrifice these men gave so he could live. The audience has to earn the sacrifice every soldier in ww2 made to keep them free. The author needs todo a little more thinking before he writes something like this.

Paddy said...


Paddy said...

Goldman hits the nail on the head, people. Regardless of who's served and who hasn't.
The fact is that the opening sequence of this movie is terrrrific! (Not the Old Glory shit-bit -thank god!) Yet the visuals and the battle sequences mask the fact that the script is arguably just bad. All due respect to Mr Rodat, but the script is unbelievable at times - cheesy even. The Sizemore speech about "bloody mess" and going home!!!? We're talking about a man who's petrified, probably shell-shocked and only cares about one thing: survival. He hasn't got time for the philosophy he delivers to Hanks. This point is arguable, I know. But what can't be argued in my mind is the ridiculous way in which Hanks kicks the bucket at the end of the movie. And this, I believe, is Goldman's whole point. I mean, what point is Spielberg trying to make? He gives us all this carnage and bloody chaos, not to mention all the horrific ways in which the soldiers die (young guy on the beach crying for his mum as he holds his guts in; Jackson incinerated in the tower; Wade bleeding to death)only for Hanks to get his Oscar moment, taking the pain like a man, philosophizing to Damon like Yoda and then dying romantically. Surely a quick, horrific death would've have served the purpose of the film more and ripped the audience's hearts out, which a film like this should actually do. And I agree with Goldman (Anyone who thinks I'm a kiss-arse, I'll kiss yours for a cold beer) with regard to the nobility of Ryan staying behind: surely it would've been better to have Ryan and Miller's team leave as planned only to be cut-off by the Germans and then Ryan HAD to stay and do his job. Ryan would've got
what he wanted, and he would've got it in the most horrific and ironic way: another gore-soaked battle with Hanks pissing blood from his jugular and dying like a dog that's fallen into a partying wasp's nest; an encounter where Sizemore's body travels to five different destinations first class after playing bouncy castle with a landmine. That's how Friedkin would've done it and, were it not for the great visduals, I wish to god he had. This script didn't have the balls to back up the visual atmosphere of this movie.
Go watch it again, ye disbelievers.
Then come back and we'll disucss The Kingdom of The Crystal Skull. And if anyone even remotely suggests that Aliens have a place in an Indy film, I shall strangle your opinion with Lebeouf's string of good luck. "Earn this.." Ha ha.

Melton Cartes said...

William Goldman originally wrote this piece as part of a 5 picture review, for Premiere magazine, of the 5 films that were nominated to as Best Picture that year. That's why he references Shakespeare in Love.

I agree completely with his assessment and had the exact appalled reaction to the last line. The simple difference, whether you served or not, is that he should have said, "Go home! Live your life... and remember us."

After all of the (good parts of the film showing the) tragedy and sacrifice of war, to pick a stingy comment like "Earn this." cheapened the ending and the film to the manipulative piece it is.
But "Earn this" Immediately suggests that he hasn't. In the theater I started grumbling at the screen, "What? Losing all of your brothers isn't "earning this" enough?!?" WTF...

Melton Cartes said...

William Goldman originally wrote this piece as part of a 5 picture review, for Premiere magazine, of the 5 films that were nominated to as Best Picture that year. That's why he references Shakespeare in Love.

I agree completely with his assessment and had the exact appalled reaction to the last line. The simple difference, whether you served or not, is that he should have said, "Go home! Live your life... and remember us."

After all of the (good parts of the film showing the) tragedy and sacrifice of war, to pick a stingy comment like "Earn this." cheapened the ending and the film to the manipulative piece it is.
But "Earn this" Immediately suggests that he hasn't. In the theater I started grumbling at the screen, "What? Losing all of your brothers isn't "earning this" enough?!?" WTF...

Anonymous said...

There has been a lot of interest in this essay and I am happy to present it.

Did you do so with Goldman's permission? Because this isn't some obscure piece lost in the back issues of a magazine, it's collected in a book that's in print and easy to purchase. You have a right to reprint a few excerpts from the essay which are relevant to the discussion you are having, but not to reproduce the entire piece. This is piracy, sir, and you demean the quality of your blog by flippantly crossing such a line.

Mark said...

This is why I put the hyperlink to the book so people would be aware of it and buy a copy. How would people know about this book otherwise?

I do take your point but I am not being malicious and I don't make make money on this blog. It was intended for discussion and will happily take it down if Mr. Goldman finds it offensive.

Anonymous said...

Hank's character, as he is sitting down and dying, DOES NOT SAY, "Earn this", his character says 'Earnest", his character's christian name.
They were running 'book' on what his first name was, as was very clearly spoken of earlier on.

Stuart garfath said...

I'll say it once again.
It's NOT "Earn this", you bloody idiots.
It's ERNEST", that's his first name!.
He tells it as he is dying, so that he will not 'die' as he dies, he will not be forgotten.
Christ, what a bunch of dribbling wankers rabbit on here!.