'Saving Private Ryan' is an interesting example of 'backlash
'. Some films seem to invite it - 'Apocalypse Now
', for example - whilst other films rouse no passion in this area. Some films recover ('It's a Wonderful Life
' was derided on release for being trite), whilst some films do not ('The Deer Hunter
', or almost anything by Bernardo Bertolucci
). Some films even generated a backlash against a backlash - recent rampant overpraise for 'Get Carter
' now seems misplaced.
On release, 'Ryan' was universally praised for its astonishing battle sequences and for Spielberg's generally-successful restraint from sentimentality - of the fifty reviews linked from 'Rotten Tomatoes', 49 are positive. Reviews posted on Amazon.com and the IMDB by regular film-goers were no less breathless.
Shortly afterwards, Terrence Malick's 'The Thin Red Line', was released, and there were critical murmurings that, maybe, 'Saving Private Ryan' had been over-rated. People decried the flashback ending as trite, whilst the film was also criticised for being dull, overlong, shallow, and excessively gung-ho.
Spielberg's previous WW2 film, 'Schindler's List', has experience a similar phenomenon (Claude Lanzmann, creator of 'Shoah', being the most famous dissenter), although to a lesser extent as, perhaps, more people saw 'Saving Private Ryan'. This seems to grow from a desire not to put things on a pedestal and worship them blindly, without question. Whether his rule should be applied blindly is a matter of opinion.
With regards to 'Ryan', both opinions now seem to share an uneasy peace. Personally, I walked from the cinema stunned and unable to speak. Such was the intensity of the 'action'. In retrospect, the conventional character-building that came between the first and last half-hours seemed necessary to allow the audience to unwind; otherwise, the film would have been unbearable.