A Southport student review of the 1998 movie Saving Private Ryan

Topics is a course at Southport High School, taught by Kevin Sanders, which analyzes major events from United States and world history through Hollywood films that attempt to portray those events. Students investigate historical documents and other sources to determine if a film is historically accurate.

The goal is for students to develop deeper understandings of the historical discipline while generating questions about the way the world is around them, along with watching classical films that have graced American and international screens. This week, student Norah Servin reviews the 1998 film Saving Private Ryan.

By Noah Servin

I chose Saving Private Ryan because I just think it’s a really good movie and it has a very interesting layout. The thesis I have for this film is that it does a really good job showing what time period it is set in and what type of war they are fighting. So I’m going to tell you about some scenes and details they showed that made me feel like it was in that time period.

The technology was from the time period where World War II started. There is this one scene in the movie where the group was standing around a Gramophone which was what the radio was called during WW II. But they were listening to a French song. Also, the transition in this scene is brilliant. It’s so late in the movie, yet the audience gets to learn a new side of all the characters as they joke, laugh and talk about their past before the war, all while listening to nice French music on a sunny day. Another way they showed it by technology is that they were using an SCR-300 which was a portable radio transceiver used by the US Signal Corps in WW II, and they used this multiple times throughout the movie. There are also so many more technologies they used.

The movie showed the type of weapons used during WW II. There were multiple scenes where they showed the guns used which included an M1 Garand. This gun is used by the majority of U.S. soldiers in the film. Saving Private Ryan is also one of the few films that correctly depicts the easily identifiable “ping” sound the Garand makes after the last round is fired and the en bloc clip is ejected. Another way they showed the time period with weapons is the heavy machinery they showed including the tanks. You could hear the tanks miles and miles away rolling. The creaking noise every time it rolls sounds like some skulking monster stalking its prey.

What was one of the biggest ways the movie showed the time period? The wardrobe. The actors wore cloth shirts, and virtually none of the uniforms from World War II are still in existence today. As a result costume designer Joanna Johnston had to have more than 3,000 authentic uniforms made from scratch to outfit all the principal characters, as well as many of the extras. Johnston also located the company that made the original American troops’ boots and had 2,000 pairs of boots made using the same pattern. Then, all the uniforms and boots had to be put through an aging process to make them appear battle worn.

Is my thesis correct? Yes, because they really put good work and effort into this movie.