The Pestle


Ep 83: “Saving Private Ryan”

July 03, 2019

We venture into Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan” and discuss:

  • cinematography, camerawork, and lighting;
  • story & writing;
  • storming the beaches in the opening scene;
  • and other such stuff and things and stuff.

“...just know that every man I kill the farther away from home I feel. – Captain Miller

Notes & References:
Moral Injury
Maggie Rogers! – find her on Spotify, SoundCloud, Apple Music, Youtube, etc.

This Week’s Recommendations:


  1. Marc Israel says:

    Thanks for the “war film, not an action film” review. I hope you both know how much we appreciate the quality of your conversation and your show.

    Saving Private Ryan has also been labeled propaganda and yet I’d respond by saying “so what?” Is that a fair complaint or is a USA ideology or democracy , in general, worth the red, white and blue camera filter? Or is counter propaganda to the Nazi campaign as what engulfed the daughter in “The Boy In The Striped Pajamas.” I’d rather watch “Hereditary” again! Farmers? Seriously?

    I also ask the following:

    How much of “storytelling through camera work” is obvious to you in the Business that average movie goers completely miss?

    If the rifles are separating the writer from the unit, isn’t he as much of an analogy to those back home who don’t pick up arms as is Ryan who lays the question, did we do good enough for your (American Soldiers) ultimate sacrifice?

    What are the five criteria to be a just war?

    Why is Hollywood obsessed with saving Matt Damon? (… and twice in space)

    Why did you ever cover “Hereditary” and how am I ever going to get the sound of the bowling ball hitting the floor out of my head?

    1. wes says:

      Wholeheartedly agree. If we label Saving Private Ryan as propaganda then I can live with that, too. There is a place for trumpeting our good moments, and when done with the frightening delicacy of a movie like this that bludgeons us with the brutality of war while reminding us that there are some things worth such devastation then a thoughtful person can weigh it for themselves. Even if we all aren’t in agreement on the worth of wars, it’s beneficial to see it in its best light, it’s worth knowing the good reasons to wage it.

      RE: “storytelling through camera work”
      haha, I honestly do notice an obscene amount of it. Most camera angles are speaking to power & relationship dynamics in any given scene, that’s probably the thing I notice most often. There is usually so much work and thought put into every scene that after making so many projects and repeatedly having these discussions that I can imagine it often becomes rote for many directors and their cinematographers. Having done 80+ episodes I feel how droll it probably seems for them so I’m often drawn when they turn the normal rules upside down, or at least invert certain concepts.

      RE: Oppem as analogy for those back home not fighting
      Yes! Great point, and I definitely agree there’s something quite significant to be mined in that analogy.

      RE: Just War criteria
      So the criteria for a “Just War” can be more or less than 5 depending on who you talk to, I’ve seen 6+, etc. The basic criteria is this:
      1) The damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain (war is imminent);
      2) All other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective (diplomatic intervention, etc);
      3) There must be serious prospects of success (endless war is never good);
      4) The use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated (also known as “proportional use of force”).
      5) for the life of me I can’t remember the 5th one.

      RE: saving Matt Damon
      hahaha, dude needs saving! for further evidence see “Courage Under Fire”

      RE: Hereditary
      Yeah, that’s one haunting sumbitch. You, are, a-welcome. =] haha

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