I’ve decided to change things up today and introduce a brand new segment to my blog called “Controversial Comparisons”. This is where I take two movies by the same director, the same lead actor or ones that are in the same genre and discuss why one is better than the other. Most likely I’ll be defending the movie that isn’t as popular as the other one. Hence the controversy.

Why People Prefer Saving Private Ryan Over The Thin Red Line…

Not only were both of these movies released in 1998 but both were also nominated for several Oscars. However, it would be Saving Private Ryan that audience’s gravitated to and to this day, it’s safe to assume that Saving Private Ryan is the more popular film.

I saw both movies in the cinema when I was just 15 years old. I remember that Saving Private Ryan came out first and I’ll never forget seeing the opening sequence for the very first time. That would be the infamous Omaha Beach landing on D-Day. That sequence still holds up as one of the most horrific and brutal reminders of the true cost of war and is one of the best shot war scenes ever put to film. No one had seen anything like it before and I remember being not only shocked but mesmerized as a young teenager, hoping that wasn’t really what war was like.

Later in the year, I saw The Thin Red Line and after seeing it I started to like that film more than Saving Private Ryan. Sure, The Thin Red Line isn’t as gory but psychologically speaking and as far as cinematography goes, The Thin Red Line is a beautiful juxtaposition to Saving Private Ryan. While Saving Private Ryan seems to be a bit more flashy and patriotic, The Thin Red Line is a down in the mud type film that asks much deeper questions about war. Saving Private Ryan on the other hand, put country and duty first but I respect The Thin Red Line more for taking the deeper approach. I think that for me, it makes the film ultimately better than Saving Private Ryan, which for me, hasn’t held up all these years later.

Why The Thin Red Line Is The Better Film…

I feel that most of Saving Private Ryan revolves around the impact of its opening sequence. After that, the film slows down. While the trek to save Private Ryan isn’t an easy one, by the time we get to Ryan, the characters fight one battle and talk about the same issue they’ve been talking about for the entire movie. Then they fight, some nameless characters die and that’s about all. The film’s end is a little sentimental and Saving Private Ryan never really reaches the intensity, which was introduced in its first 25 minutes. At least, not for me anyway.

On the other hand, The Thin Red Line is a much different film. It starts off rather slow and takes its time to introduce many of its characters. The one criticism I can give the film is that perhaps there are too many characters, which makes it hard to follow all of them but at least the film tries to give the audience time with our main characters before putting them into battle.

One aspect that surprised me about The Thin Red Line was how normal the beach landings were. In fact, unlike the Germans on D-Day in France, the Japanese often didn’t defend beaches in the south Pacific, specifically on the island of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands where The Thin Red Line took place. They would be waiting inland and subsequently would wreaked havoc against troops from dug in positions in hills and valleys.

To me, The Thin Red Line is a deeper, more philosophical film about why men fight and how war changes a person’s humanity. Saving Private Ryan is more a reflection of patriotism, duty, honour and courage. I find that both war movies stimulate the interest of different crowds and wish The Thin Red Line was just as popular, if not more popular than Saving Private Ryan. To me, it’s the better film for asking the deeper questions, showing what happens to the mental state of soldiers in combat and for showing the real harsh realities of war outside the combat zone. Men fight with men. They drink and get depressed but feel detached as soon as they step on the big landing craft heading for home.

Those points, for me, will always make The Thin Red Line a much better film than Saving Private Ryan. While Saving Private Ryan might look more like what war actually is, and I commend Spielberg for showing audiences that, The Thin Red Line makes us feel the scars of what those men left behind. To me, that will always be more of an impact than seeing blown up body parts.

Should also be no surprise that I prefer The Pacific to Band of Brothers for very similar reasons. The war is the south Pacific was brutal but was ultimately overlooked.