War Movies of the 1990s
Not your typical hub for an old gal, but such an interesting genre. As we get to the 1990s technology has improved along with film quality. I won't say acting because actors in the forties, fifties and up were all good and exhibited tremendous talent.
So what makes the nineties different? I think there is a new depth beyond the soldier fighting in the field. Over the decades we've watched the horrors of war as seen through the eyes of soldiers, humor in war as perpetrated by soldiers, and bravery beyond imagination. Two movies in the nineties have expounded on these themes and given us superb and moving entertainment, though war movies, they showcase different qualities. I only picked two for this hub because there is so much to write about these two movies adding a third would make this novel length!
War Movies of the 1990s
The Thin Read Line
Letters from Iwo Jima
Black Hawk Down
The English Patient
Legends of the Fall
Last of the Mohicans
Courage Under Fire
Background for Saving Private Ryan
During the Civil War, it was purported that five sons were killed while fighting for the Union. In actuality, only three had died in battle, the other two survived. President Lincoln wrote the infamous "Letter to Mrs. Bixby" honoring her deceased sons.
On December 7, 1941 three brothers who were aboard the USS Arizona were also killed. Then there was the Niland brothers in WWII. It was believed three of the brothers were killed and the fourth was brought home. Later it was found out one of the three believed dead was a prisoner of war in Japanese camp in Burma.
In November of 1942, the five Sullivan brothers were killed aboard a Navy ship, the Juneau. It seems the five brothers wanted to serve together and were aboard the Juneau and did so at their own request. Four of the brothers were killed outright during the ship's explosion. The fifth was injured and managed to get on a raft but died after five days on the raft. The exact cause of death is not known. The government used these five boys as a cry for support during this war.
As a result of these tragedies The United States Naval Bureau of Personnel sent out a formal letter which stated in part:
1. In recognition of the sacrifice and contribution made by a family which has lost two or more sons who were members of the armed forces and has only one surviving, and he is serving in the Navy, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard, consideration will be given to his return to, or retention in, the continental limits of the United States, except when he is engaged in nonhazardous duties overseas.
Why am I giving you these facts? Background for "Saving Private Ryan" as stated above. Everyone's heard stories but I wasn't sure everyone knew where those stories originated.
Saving Private Ryan
Saving Private Ryan begins very graphically at the Battle of Omaha Beach during the Invasion of Normandy. You are immediately assailed with the devastating debarkation. The Germans are in control of Omaha Beach and as the Americans land they are met with assault after assault. The first 27 minutes of this film are very intense and not for those with a weak stomach, it is raw and said by veterans to be the first movie that actually shows it really is like.
Meanwhile General Marshall is informed that three of four brothers have died in action. He learns that the fourth brother, Private First Class James Francis Ryan of Baker Company, is missing in action somewhere in Normandy. General Marshall reads President Lincoln's Letter to Mrs. Bixby to his staff and then orders that Pvt. Ryan be found and returned home. (Though the Letter to Mrs. Bixby seems a pivotal point in the movie, the movie is more likely based loosely on the Sullivan Brothers or the Niland brothers.)
Captain Miller (Tom Hanks) is given the order to find Pvt. Ryan. He conscripts six soldiers from the 2nd Rangers to assist him and sets out through France to find Ryan. War is raging all over France. Miller seems a reluctant leader though he is a veteran of other battles. Throughout most of the movie he hides his civilian occupation -- teacher -- from his men. The stress of doing this is seen in his shaking hand. He tries to keep it from shaking but can't seem to stop it.
Their trek across France to find Pvt. Ryan is fraught with raids and bombings, and shootings, all the trappings of war...and although you don't get to learn the background of the soldiers looking for Ryan, you begin to feel for them.
It is not my habit to give away details ore endings of a movie so, in case you haven't seen it, you can see it for yourself and make your own judgments. If you have already seen it, I'm sure you have your own very strong opinions about this film. In closing on this film I have to say if you haven't seen it you should give it a try. It is very realistic, but also a moving story.
Liam Nisson and Oscar Schindler
Oskar Schindler (28 April 1908 – 9 October 1974) was an ethnic German industrialist born in Moravia, which was that time part of Austria-Hungary. He is credited with saving over 1,100 Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in his enamelware and ammunitions factories, which were located in what is now Poland and the Czech Republic respectively. He is the subject of the novel Schindler's Ark, and the film based on it, Schindler's List. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oskar_Schindler
I'm sure most of you already knew that Oskar Schindler really did exist. Did you know that in 1939 Schindler became a member of the Nazi party? However, the basis of the movie, Schindler's List, and the actions of Oskar Schindler once he bought his factory in Poland are very close to accurate.
Quotes from Schindler's List
Stern: “The list is an absolute good. The list is life. All around its margins lies the gulf.”
Oskar Schindler: Stern, if this factory ever produces a shell that can actually be fired, I'll be very unhappy.
Itzhak Stern: By law I have to tell you, sir, I'm a Jew.
Oskar Schindler: Well, I'm a German, so there we are.
I could have got more out. I could have got more. I don't know. If I just...
I could have got more.
Oskar, there are 1,100 people who are alive because of you. Look at them.
If I'd made more money...I threw away so much money.
You have no idea.
If I had just...
There will be generations because of what you did.
I didn't do enough.
You did so much.
Steven Spielberg was fascinated with the story of Oskar Shindler as told by one of Shindler's survivors, Poldek Pfefferberg. Upon first hearing about the story he tried to pass it off on other directors. When he finally decided to do the film himself, MGM demanded that he make Jurassic Park first. After doing Schindler's List he realized he couldn't have made Jurassic Park after making Schindler's list...
The film was shot in Poland at real life locations. They were not allowed to enter Auschwitz so they filmed around it by building a replica. Spielberg became very emotionally involved in this film as part of his heritage. One interesting fact I didn't know until researching this film, Spielberg did not take a salary for making this film...if that doesn't amaze you not much will. Additionally, he thought this film would be a flop. The film was shot documentary-style, with many hand held cameras and as you know, it was filmed in black and white except for the little girl in the red coat which was symbolic.
The movie was made in 1993 but begins in 1939. Schindler arrives in Poland and bribes SS and Nazis to help himself open his plant. Ironically Jewish businessmen lend him the money to open his plant. He hires "Jewish Poles" rather than "Catholic Poles" because they cost less.
The part of Schindler's accountant Itzhak Stern is played by Ben Kingsley. (Itzhak Stern was Oskar Schindler's accountant in real life.) Stern is responsible for proving that the 'worker Jews' are essential to Schindler's plant and production...most of which is lies but saves the workers from concentration camps and death. At first, Schindler is unaware of this.
Schindler doesn't begin to actively save the Jews until a young Jewish girl, posing as a Gentile, begs him to employ her parents. He is not happy with what Itzhak was doing but before long he gives Itzhak his gold watch so that he can get the girl's parents into his factory. This is the beginning. Throughout the film he gives Itzhak more and more of his personal belongings to secure safety for more Jewish people. Schindler transforms into a man willing to sacrifice everything...including his life, to save other people, a complete transformation of his originally selfish character.
The will to survive is so prominent in this film along with the constant face of possible death at every turn. This horror (the Holocaust) is unfortunately made very evident in this film. The range of emotions you experience watching these splendid performances is unbelievable. You get angry, you cheer, you cry, you cringe, you are stricken with horror...a complete range! You feel the pain of the Jews in all of Poland, not just on Schindler's List. This movie is not kind to the Nazis, as it shouldn't be. One shoots Jews off his balcony for target practice...absolutely no humanity!
This movie could have been more violent but it focuses on Schindler and his good deeds. I could keep writing for hours...I loved this movie and it's message and have seen it several times, but I think the best thing to do now is end this piece and recommend you see this wonderful movie.
Steven Spielburg: “There are three movies that I am exceptionally proud of in my life, ... and I rarely commit to a list of films that I like, that I've made -- but these are the three films that I was passionately connected to -- the first was 'ET,' the second 'Schindler's List,' and third is 'Saving Private Ryan.'”
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