A question about Saving Private Ryan

Just watched this movie again for the first time in years, a large TV and surround sound system really does add something to the experience!

Anyway my question is this, is the German soldier Uppham shoots at the end the same soldier who Captain Miller released after the fight at the radar station earlier? He looks similar but it can be hard to tell apart one shaven headed man in uniform from another. Although I did have a WTF moment when I realised the soldier shot by the sniper in the French village was Vin Diesal! I’m guessing that SPR was before he became really famous. (I’m going through my collection of old movies I haven’t sen for years on DVD at the moment, another WTF moment was recognising Chris Rock as a parking attendant in Beverly Hills Cop 2 and Brendan Gleeson as a British airline pilot in Die Hard 2!)

btw SPR is just about the only film I’ve seen where ‘shaky-cam’ actually works as its supposed to and is not just an annoying distraction, I suppose thats the different between an average or even good director and a great one like Spielberg.


There you go, I didn’t catch that the first time I watched it.

edited to add I also thought that Uppham shot him because he told his comrades he knew Uppham (from the fight in the house) and knew that he wouldn’t fire on them but on watching it again I don’t think thats the way it played out, it looks more like Uppham shot him in revenge because he’d killed his friend.

BTW the character is credited as “Steamboat Willie.”

Yeah it’s one of those Spielberg ambiguous-morality things.

And just to head off the usual follow up question - that’s NOT the same soldier who killed Mellish in with a bayonet in the brutal fight in the upstairs room a few minutes earlier. There are several websites about it.

…and what he says to Mellish as he’s sinking the bayonet into his chest is: “Give up, you don’t stand a chance! Let’s end this here; it will be easier for you like this!”

so why did the soldier that killed Mellish spare Upham?

Yeah, I always thougth it was the same guy, and that he spared him because he argued on his behalf. Now I totally don’t get it.


Did he just evaluate Upham as not being a threat?

Because Upham posed no threat. He stood frightened outside the room as the German soldier killed his friend and he did nothing. After he passes by Upham he looks back at him briefly to make sure he wasn’t going to attack and when Upham still does nothing, he leaves.

I think it was to show that the Germans weren’t monsters but rather they were just soldiers.

Because the solider saw Upham wasn’t a threat?

I think that it was because he considered Uppham with total contempt.

Not even worth the respect of killing.

And I think that Uppham realised that, and his own self disgust may have had something to do with him actually killing the other soldier

Uppham is a really interesting character. At the beginning of the film, I very much identified with him…not his soldiering skills, but his manner and love of knowledge and such. Then, as his cowardice becomes apparent, I completely lose contact with the identification, and while I partly understand the feelings he had…the weakness in not overcoming his fear is frankly disgusting to me. He sort of redeems himself later, and that’s good.

As a generally peaceful guy, I understand the reticence to kill and the fear that war entails. As a former Army officer, however, I also understand how one can put that aside and how one MUST put that aside for your fellow soldiers…and the inability to do that in the face of your comrade’s death is just sickening to me.

This is in fact a well documented phenomenon in battle. There are countless examples of soldiers who, in the context of seeing an enemy who is in some way visibly not a threat, losing the will to kill them.

How does he redeem himself later? He doesn’t do anything else once Mellish is killed. He hides instead of joining the others on the bridge, eventually ending up behind enemy lines. When the cavalry comes, then he picks up a rifle and starts yelling at prisoners. He also kills Steamboat Willie, unarmed, in cold blood–a perfect reflection of his own self-loathing, and probably an even more detestable act of cowardice than on the stairs. That was fear and I might relate to that. Killing SW is far far uglier.

Yeah, I too took it how just disgusting Upham was. Even though Upham was the enemy soldier he really wasn’t going to do anything but stand there and cry. Why should he waste a bullet on someone so pathetic?

I think you’ve got it, Lusty. The German soldier was killed because he knew Uppham was a coward, and Uppham didn’t want this to get out to others.


So maybe Upham needed so badly to redeem himslef that in the end he killed when it wasn’t even necessary?

Correct. It isn’t.