The text below is part of a series of articles originally published May 25th – June 6, 1999.
So, you probably saw this one coming from a few parsecs away. No surprises here, and there’s really not much more that can be said about this great movie, but I’ll manage somehow.
Without a doubt, the beginning twenty minutes of this film probably portrays THE most important turning point in modern human history . . . the invasion of Normandy, France, also known as D-Day, June 6, 1944. Why is this the most important point in human history? Just ask yourself what today’s world would look like if the Allied forces had not been successful invading France, let alone liberating Europe as a whole. Nazi Germany possibly could have bounced back, and today’s “new world order” might look a lot different!! Just look how the world was impacted even with a defeated Nazi Germany.
The invasion sequence is played out in all of the brutality and gore that was present on that faithful day in 1944. Spielberg didn’t pull any punches with Saving Private Ryan. He shows us exactly how horrible and gut wrenching warfare can be. When we went to Ryan there was an old gentleman sitting next to us, obviously a WW II veteran. He was visibly shaken during much of the movie as he probably faced recalled demons that had been buried for over 50 years.
The story is simple. A mother loses three of her four sons during the war, and Captain Miller (Tom Hanks) is charged with finding James Ryan (the surviving son), a paratrooper, somewhere inland of Normandy, and return him home. The band of brothers under Miller’s command quickly begin to question their mission . . . putting their lives on the line to save one life? This resentment quickly gets heightened as members begin to die along the way. When they finally meet up with Ryan they find that he does not want to return, he wants to continue fighting. He also feels it is unfair. Why has he been singled out to leave his comrades? I won’t give away more for those who haven’t seen it yet.
For true WW II purists there is none better. Even the still pictures shown in this mini-review [Edit: I’ve removed the pictures for this re-posting.] have the look and feel of vintage WW II photos. The inaccuracies are few to none. The liberties minor to negligible. The combat looks violently real. The explosions are real explosions (heavy duty thuds, not poofy pyrotechnics). The gore is real . . . as real as you can get without actually inflicting harm. And the violence is horrifying. If ever in your life you thought war was a glorious or heroic endeavor, you need to watch this movie. The only thing glorious about war is surviving. The soldiers who fought during WW II weren’t out on a personal crusade, they were serving their country in a greater cause, and trying to survive so they could come home to live a boring, average life . . . something most of us take for granted, and everything they were fighting for.
Saving Private Ryan was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won 5 for the following: Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Effects, Best Film Editing, and Best Sound. If you’re a fan of the genre, or history in general, you have no excuses not to see this movie making triumph . . . it’s now out on video. A sobering and moving experience to say the least, with images that will probably stick with you the rest of your life.
Note: I’m revisiting and re-posting many older articles (almost 200) I’ve written (or contributed to) over the years, either for my own purposes or as contributions to other sites now long digitally decayed and dormant. These reviews/articles will appear in their nearly raw, unaltered form, with a few updated thoughts at the beginning of each.