Seen through the eyes of a squad of American soldiers, the story begins with World War II’s historic D-Day invasion, then moves beyond the beach as the men embark on a dangerous special mission. Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) must take his men behind enemy lines to find Private James Ryan, whose three brothers have been killed in combat. Faced with impossible odds, the men question their orders. Why are eight men risking their lives to save just one? Surrounded by the brutal realities of war, each man searches for his own answer – and the strength to triumph over an uncertain future with honour, decency and courage.
Spielberg has broken from the norm with this film and has the courage to depict war as it really is. Previous war films have been heavily sanitised to 'protect' the viewer, and Saving Private Ryan acts as a wake up call to the public, especially to myself and the younger generation, who have never experienced a major conflict in our lifetime. This film acts as an antidote to the traditional John Wayne style war movie. War is not fun, and this film removes the myth that when a soldier is shot, they fall to the floor quietly and lie still. Some of the injuries suffered by the soldiers are truly horrific but the level of violence is not gratuitous and is necessary as it adds to the level of realism.
Many people have argued that this film only portrays the American side of D-Day, neglecting the contribution of the troops from other Allied nations. Whilst this is true, Omaha beach and the areas featured in this film were areas attacked by predominantly American troops, and to feature the entire Normandy area of operations would overly complicate the story. The scene showing Omaha beach after the battle, with the sea flowing red with all the blood spilt, is particularly poignant and brings a lump to the throat of everyone who sees it.
I recently watched this film with my grandfather, who landed on the British 'Gold' beach in one of the first waves ashore on June 6th 1944. He watched the first 20 minutes of the film, which depicts the D-Day landings, with tears in his eyes as the memories of that day flooded back. While he got through that day unharmed, a number of his friends and comrades were not so fortunate. The film transported him back 57 years, and he said that this is the closest you can get to the reality of the landings without actually being in a landing craft and coming under fire.
Saving Private Ryan aptly demonstrates the horror and chaos of battle. After watching this film I found myself with a new found sense of respect for those young men who were thrust into the Hell of World War 2 and still carry those memories as pensioners. Stunning, moving, compelling, and deserving of all the accolades it gets.
This does not glorify war.
- Saving Private Ryan review by RP
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You rated this film: 4
I saw this at the cinema when it was first released and now again on DVD I was just as shocked by the first 20 minutes. Certainly it does not glorify war. If this is what war is like, then that's one place I never want to be. After that – when the storytelling begins – it all seems a bit of an anticlimax, and the premise that a small platoon of troops is sent to wander semi-randomly around to rescue / retrieve a lone soldier seems a little far fetched. There are other flaws that bug me as well, from its over-riding American war perspective to the wooden acting abilities of Tom Hanks. I guess this sums up this film for me: multi-Oscar winning, flawed action film masquerading as a war film, some very powerful scenes, and despite my reservations Tom Hanks does act better than in many of his other films. It is most definitely American and the patriotism is a little over-done for this Brit. But it's a good film and I rate it as 4/5 stars.