Once every decade there comes a movie that forces your heart to feel and your mind to think about the essence of human life and the value attached to it. Saving Private Ryan directed by Steven Spielberg is one among many such films belonging to the war genre. It is a war movie but with a difference, dedicated to preserving human life. Ryan’s life. “Saving Private Ryan” is a startling reminder of exactly how spectacular a director Spielberg can be when he allows himself to be challenged by a subject (in this case World War II) that pushes him against his limits as also proved by other films like “Schindler’s List” of the same genre.
Written by Robert Rodat, the film was released in 1998 and was widely acclaimed. Starring Tom Hanks as the laconic squad leader John Miller, “Saving Private Ryan” gives a close insight into the unimaginable horror and death of World War 2.
The film opens with a brief prelude depicting the American flag soaring high and an old veteran who is returning with his family to the American cemetery at Normandy, we flash immediately back to the Omaha beach and a shot of Capt. Miller in his landing craft on D-day, June 6, 1944. During the next 20 minutes, we are shown the invasion of France with violence and an intensity that is awe-inspiring. Much has been said about the graphic violence that these twenty minutes portray. The slaughter starts immediately and does not let up. In the meantime the military office back home finds out that three of four Ryan brothers have died in action within days of one another.
Captain Miller (Tom Hanks) is handed over the PR mission of finding and bringing back Private James Ryan (Matt Damon) to his mother. As the squad warily picks its way through the combat zone, we get an insight of the squad members, starting with Sgt. Horvath (Tom Sizemore), the captain’s imperturbable right hand, and the newly added Upham (Jeremy Davis) .The rest of the men besides the compassionate medic Wade (Giovanni Ribisi) are all privates. The biggest talker is Reiben (Edward Burns). Also present are Caparzo (Vin Diesel), Mellish (Adam Goldberg) and Jackson (Barry Pepper) a religious Southern sniper who prays “God grant me strength” before taking aim and firing.
The squad wades through the countryside of france fighting not just the enemy attacks but also the conflicting notion of putting their lives at stake just to save a single soldier. Lives are lost along the way but that does not deter Captain Miller.
The film however suffers with an overdose of sentiment. Rodat’s script though well structured and solid over relies on conventional elements of the movies of this genre.
‘Saving Private Ryan’ has been criticised for its excessive show of cold-blooded violence but one cannot expect director of photography Janusz Kaminski and film editor Michael Kahn to settle for anything less than an honest portrayal of real time war. The violence is compelling and free from the typical Hollywood “show-off action”, it actually makes one relive the war time trauma that our soldiers face. Sound and music director, John Williams endows the film with bombastic background score coupled with the soulful patriotic music that makes one salute the war veterans.
Thus based on World War 2, ‘Saving Private Ryan’ is a must watch for war movie buffs on a lookout for some realistic action and patriotism.