I have a admiration/cringe relationship with Steven Spielberg. On the one hand, I consider him a master storyteller, a genius of his craft, a man that was born to sit behind a movie camera, and has worked his way up to become one of the finest cinema directors the medium has ever seen.
On the other hand, however, is all that cheese. I still recall my double eye roll at one of the final scenes of Bridge of Spies, when the Tom Hanks character sees some children climbing on top of a fence, and the picture segues into German citizens trying to escape from East Berlin.
The same is true of Saving Private Ryan. You get the inspired Spielberg, shooting his actors in a dimly lit church in the middle of the night, sharing childhood stories, and it is beautiful to behold. And you also get a moving coda from an old veteran, meant to stir emotion into the hearts of viewers.
I think the reason I find Schindler’s List and Munich to be stronger films overall is because Spielberg is not trying to move you to tears. That is very rare, but since he lets us bask into the humanity of the story and the characters-those two previously mentioned movies have plenty scenes like the church one, but none like the cemetery confession-, we feel much more connected to everything that happens on screen.
And when the tears are not forced, the emotion feels better.
It feels, in the words of one character here, earned.