Saving Private Ryan

To Normandy and Beyond

Name Cast: Tom Hanks, Tom Sizemore, Barry Pepper, Edward Burns, Matt Damon

Director: Steven Spielberg

Plot Summary: After learning that a soldier’s three brothers have all died in the war, the government attempts to locate him to send him home. A group of elite Rangers are sent on this mission.

The words “harrowing” and “chaotic massacre” don’t quite do justice to the opening scenes of this serious and authentic WWII movie. For the young, the assault of Normandy Beach on D-Day is text in a history book. For those very few left alive, it was as real as this life can get. Rushing up the beach against withering fire from entrenched positions, this movie shows just how bad it was.

And this is just the opening. While intense and full of blood-soaked realism, it doesn’t allow characterization or plot development. That comes later. But a few soldiers are introduced (and survive) D-Day, including Captain John Miller (Hanks), an Army Ranger who occasionally suffers from a shaking hand. He is asked to gather his men and go after one soldier, Private Ryan. It seems that all his brothers were killed and the Army doesn’t want to lose every single son of that family. In this day and age it would be pure PR, but here it is more concern than image (although that is mixed in).

So the captain and his men are sent out to find one man in the vast expanse of war. Most of the unit thinks this is a joke, but they go anyway. Because that’s what soldiers do. But drama does play a role in that, inevitably, some time during the mission one or more of those troops blows off some steam and rails against the thought of looking for just one guy while hundreds more are killed. How the captain deals with this is an interesting study in psychology.

Overall this is an “event” picture, serious and with a message. But it is couched in entertainment, however grim and unyielding, and of course the action and special effects is top notch. I highly recommended this for everyone, especially in this time of war.

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