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Tuesday, September 8, 1998 Published at 09:17 GMT 10:17 UK


Veterans back Spielberg war epic

Director Steven Spielberg says the film shows hope and decency in war

Some of the real-life characters of director Steven Spielberg's war epic, Saving Private Ryan, were at the film's London première on Monday evening.

Around 40 British veterans, all members of the Normandy Veterans Association, attended the showing.

And many gave their seal of approval to the film's harrowing portrayal of the D-Day landings during the Second World War.

Bill Collins, 78, who was in the Hampshire Regiment which landed at Normandy, said: "It was so real that the next best thing would have been to be there yourself.

"It did bring back some memories of those who had fallen."

Leslie Frost, chairman of the Normandy Veterans Association, also said the film gave a realistic depiction of events.

"Films like this should probably be made so people will understand what happened 50 years ago," Mr Frost said.

On the defensive

However, Mr Spielberg has been criticised in America, and has been accused of gratuitous violence.

There have also been reports of American veterans needing counselling after seeing the film.

[ image: Tom Hanks stars in another potentially award-winning role]
Tom Hanks stars in another potentially award-winning role
At the première, Mr Spielberg said: "Nothing about the movie is gratuitous in terms of violence. It is a realistic portrayal of combat and war."

And the former BBC war correspondent Martin Bell also supported Mr Spielberg's treatment of the film's subject.

He said that in the past, he had walked out of many war films because they had been so terrible. Saving Private Ryan, he said, was "very powerful and moving".

A film with a quest

Saving Private Ryan depicts the true story of the search for a serviceman trapped behind enemy lines whose three brothers have been killed.

It also highlights the question of whether it is justifiable to risk the lives of eight men to save one.

The film, which has taken £160 million at the US box office since it opened six weeks ago, opens across Britain on Friday.

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