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It's no Band of Brothers
on March 26, 2004
Beautifully shot, especially the opening sequence on D-Day, but ultimately, there's one glaring flaw in this movie. Steven Spielberg just doesn't understand the army. If the Chief of Staff wanted to pull a private out of a line unit in another theater of operations, he wouldn't dispatch a squad of rangers to go traipsing around the French countryside to find him. The C-of-S would contact the theater commander, who would then contact the corps commander, who would contact the division commander, the brigade commander, the battalion commander and finally, the company commander, who would send his first sergeant to find the soldier and get him out of the Area of Operations, or AO. In fact, this is how it happened to the real private Ryan (it's documented in the book, "Band of Brothers"). Why does this matter? Because the rangers spend most of the movie complaining about how the army clearly values this Private Ryan's life over theirs, and if a commander ordered them on a mission like this, they'd be right, but no commander with half a brain would do it.
It's important to remember that when he was first promoting it, Spielberg tried to sell Private Ryan as an antiwar movie, and in antiwar epics, American officers do blown-brain things like wasting lives for no reason. The reality is that most commanders won't send their men out on pointless missions, but don't try to sell that in Hollywood.