Is 'Saving Private Ryan' Too Violent?

Steven Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan," which opened in theaters last Friday, captures on film the horrors of war.

New York Times film critic Janet Maslin writes: "Though 'Saving Private Ryan' is liable to be described as extremely violent for its battle reenactments, that is not quite the case. The battle scenes avoid conventional suspense and sensationalism; they disturb not by being manipulative, but by being hellishly frank."

We sent five young reporters out to a local theater to ask moviegoers how they feel about the violent battle scenes in this film. Are they integral to the plot or gratuitous and sensational?

Here are some viewer reactions.

[The violence] proved that when you hear of war, you don't think it's that gruesome. I thought it was portrayed as it needed to be. I'd see it again in six months on video.

Ashley Miller, California, student

I thought this movie was pretty intense, pretty horrible. The movie broke new ground for war movies. It seemed more real. I can't take violence myself, but in this movie it proved the point of the movie. I had my head down most of the time! I just needed to see it once. It's not a topic I want or like to see over and over again.

Marie Gillette, teacher

War is hell, it's gruesome, and that's what ["Ryan"] was about. As far as war pictures go, this one is tops. The documentary style made the fighting seem very realistic - almost too realistic. I felt like I was on the beach at Normandy, in the middle of the fighting. Thank God I wasn't, though.

Nickoli Gnone, retired

It brought real emotion to the carnage, and let you see how it really was. You can see 100 [Arnold] Schwarzenegger movies that don't have any emotion, compared to this that is full of it.

Andy Nesbitt, reporter with The Boston Globe

What [Spielberg] was trying to do was give you a sense of the horror that was faced. There have definitely been violent movies before. [But] one of the things that made this movie different was the fact that they didn't glorify it at all. It was used for a point and it accomplished that very well.

Dan Eastman, Boston

They definitely needed the violence to get across the point. The level of violence was much higher and in that I think it created a more realistic [film]. It was difficult for me to watch because I could very much see myself in the same role and having to deal with that, and so it was very effective.

Brian Rawles, US Marines

The violence was authentic. My brother was out there in France, missing in action for six months, but they got him back. The movie honors him and his fellow men. It was accurate all right.

Joan O'Donnell, retired

As bloody as war is, it happens. There were moments throughout the film when I had to remind myself that this is only a movie. I bet I'll be thinking about this one for days. I really don't think I could sit through it again. It was too much to handle. Maybe I'll see it again on video. I will recommend it to people."

Verna Baldassarri, office worker

I thought it was very realistic. I couldn't go through it again, though. You don't need to subject yourself to that over and over.

Lindsey Hawks, Boston, waitress

It was real - that's what war is. It was a notch above all the other war movies I've seen. I want to see it again - I could get more out of it a second time.

Willard Royster, Boston firefighter

It served a purpose in order to capture the war at that time. It depicts something that actually happened rather than [fictional] street violence. I wouldn't see it again, just by my nature. Once I've seen it, I've seen it.

Professor, Boston resident

"I feel strongly that I need to see this movie again. It moved me. It made me feel patriotic," he said, wiping tears from his face. "John Wayne movies - and other war movies - seem so fake compared to this one. This one set the story straight. The violence wasn't excessive, it was real. It blew me away. I don't recommend ['Ryan'] to anyone under 16. But at the same time I think about all the 18-year-olds who fought in World War II and died."

Michael Sheehan, works with computers

War is hell - it showed hell.

Army veteran who wishes to remain nameless

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