Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Saving Private Ryan (1998)
  • Time: 169 min
  • Genre: Action | Drama | War
  • Director: Steven Spielberg
  • Cast: Tom Hanks, Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns


After the invasion of fortress Europe on June 6th 1944, Tom Hanks leads his squad from the 2nd Ranger Battalion of the 29th Infantry Division, on a mission to find and bring home Private James Francis Ryan after the death of his brothers. The mission takes them through Nazi occupied territory to establish contact with Ryan’s unit an element of the 101st Airborne Division. This exiting war thriller brings the reality of history’s bloodiest war into the homes of ordinary people, but also brings into light the reality of broken and lost families in a time of total and encompassing war.


  • We begin with a man. He is of old age, and just in his eyes we can see the hardships that he has endured. He falls to his knees in front of a cross at Arlington National Cemetary, and we get a closer look at those same eyes. The camera cuts. and the scene is set. It is June 6, 1944, and a troop landing craft is speeding towards the beaches of Omaha. We see our lead character, Captain Miller (Hanks), and in the landing craft wit him, we see the genuine nervousness, fear, and determination that exists in the hearts of the Allied soldiers. Then…SPLASH….the ramp lowers, and simultaneously a torrent of German machine gun bullets rains upon the men. This scene lasts approximately 15 minutes, and it introduces the audience to our main characters, especially Captain Miller (Hanks). After making it up to a place of cover, Miller and his men take out the machine gun nests, and the air quiets.
    Soon, Miller is told the story of the Ryan brothers. There were 4 brothers, and all of them were part of the Allied forces in Europe. The US army had just learned that all but one of them has been killed in action. In an act of sympathy, the army has granted the remaining brother a free pass to return to his home and be with his grieving mother. So the group of men must now travel across Nazi-occupied France in search of a single man, and as their journey continues, the value of a man’s life is weighed, and they find that live itself is a precious thing.

    From the title to the final scene, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. At the time of its release, Saving Private Ryan was loved by some, and met with displeasure by others. In the case of the latter, the film is incredibly realistic, and it does not shy away from showing any of the brutality and hardships of war. While this is true, I have set to see a more brilliant representation of the heroism and bravery that was employed by the Allied forces in the second World War.
    The acting is quite good. Tom Hanks does a great job of portraying Captain Miller, and his supporting cast does a fantastic job of making their characters mesh and interact throughout the plot. From a technical standpoint, this is one of the finest films I have seen. The photography is well-done, the sound and effects are used well, and the film editing is top-notch.
    On Oscar night, the movie was nominated in 11 categories, and it come home with 5 trophies in-hand: Director, Cinematography, Sound, Film Editing, and Sound Effects. Although he did lose to Roberto Benigni (Life is Beautiful) in the Best Actor category, I see this as one of Tom Hanks’ most notable performances; along with Philadelphia and, of course, Forrest Gump.
    In terms of theme, this movie is a very emotional film that is almost guaranteed to evoke a response of some sort. In my case, it possibly the most moved by a film I have ever been.
    As if I did not already before seeing this movie, this film definitely re-emphasizes the valiant and noble nature of the men who fought for our nation’s freedom, and I sincerely thank them for their efforts and their acts.

    For those who can handle the tough battle scenes, I profoundly suggest that you see this film. For those who may not, I suggest that you either a.) skip the D-Day scene and try t handle the less-tough scenes, b.) watch it with an expert in fast-forwarding who has seen the movie, or c.) read the plot synopsis or watch a summary video. In any capacity, the heart of this film should be experienced by everyone.

  • June 6, 1944. Omaha Beach. Normandy. A landing craft prepares to unload. The skies are grey. The men are a portrait of mass anxiety. There are no gung ho warriors here, only young men trembling, vomiting, praying.

    The gate opens and therein ensues 25 minutes of pure, chaotic carnage. Rows of soldiers are shot before a full second passes. Within minutes, the ocean bleeds corpses. Bullets fly like miniscule meteors. Explosions abound. Soldiers are engulfed in fire. Bodies are dismembered by shrapnel. One soldier even wanders, holding his severed arm. Intestines spill. The men cry for their mothers.

    Do you remember that shot from Gone With the Wind? That majestic crane shot of the camera pulling back as Scarlett O’Hara surveys the wounded men? And you think, My God, will the bodies never end? Imagine extending that into twenty-five minutes. Saving Private Ryan spares you nothing in its opening sequence. The camera itself isn’t exempt. It’s in the trenches with the men. It gets knocked about; dirt, water and blood are spat on it; there are moments amidst the gunfire when it doesn’t even know where to look.

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  • Saving Private Ryan, one of several Spielberg war films that we’ll examine this month, has been heralded for its incredibly realistic portrayal of combat, and for its harrowing performances from cast members, including of course, Tom Hanks. However it has also come under the scrutiny of veterans and filmmakers alike. It’s a film that can be quite unnerving to watch, but ultimately can stand up against some of the greatest war movies made thus far.

    After a present-day prelude, we are taken back to June 6th 1944, the D-Day invasion on Omaha Beach. Captain John H. Miller (Tom Hanks) leads the 2nd Ranger Battalion up the beach and toward German defences as severe carnage ensues around them. Several days later, after the situation is more controlled, Miller learns that his company is to find Private James Ryan (Matt Damon), a missing-in-action soldier and the last remaining of four brothers fighting in the war.

    Saving Private Ryan is well known for its realistic representation of combat conditions, especially in the opening scene of the landing on Omaha Beach. Just as Oliver Stone aimed to represent his experiences in Vietnam in Platoon, so did Spielberg strive for accuracy in his representation of the landings. The 27 minute sequence cost millions to make and wasn’t even storyboarded, with Spielberg preferring to move the camera freely to capture the action. The horrific details of seasickness, machine-gunfire, bloody water and limbs being torn off make for some difficult viewing, with some WWII veterans regarding it as the most realistic representation of the events that they have ever seen. The power of the film rests in this realism, and the relatable characters that are placed within this insane situation, on a controversial mission that will cost several lives just to save one. If I have one criticism, it’s that at times, it becomes overly patriotic to the point that it can come across as less about the men using their allegiance to grapple with the situation, and more as a justification for their actions.

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