Posted by: benherst | November 5, 2009

Saving Private Ryan Review

Saving Private Ryan

            Bullets whizzed past, grenades exploded nearby, and debris rained down, but the top priority on Captain John H. Miller’s mind was saving Private James Francis Ryan.  This mission is the underlying notion of a film by the same name, “Saving Private Ryan.”  Directed by Steven Spielberg, the movie follows the path of a Miller-led company of American soldiers as they fight for their lives, Ryan’s safety, and their country in the Second World War.  The story is told through the eyes of Private Ryan (Matt Damon), an odd phenomenon considering the plot sequence.  From the opening battle on the beaches of Normandy to the desperate fight for the defense of Romelle, “Saving Private Ryan” is an epic account of the gruesome and intense campaign that was World War II.

            The film opens with a flashback to the Allied invasion of Normandy on D-Day.  Despite high casualties, a band of Allied troops manage to penetrate the Nazi defense.  Back in America, General George C. Marshall learns that three of the four Ryan brothers have been killed in action.  He orders, in accordance with government policy, that the missing fourth brother, James Francis, be found and sent home in an attempt to console the grieving Mrs. Ryan.  Receiving the command to locate and rescue Private Ryan, Captain Miller (Tom Hanks) amasses a small legion of U.S. Army Rangers to carry out the task.  The plot follows the band of soldiers through Normandy as they boldly serve their orders, encountering a range of trials and tribulations along the way.  When the company finally connects with Private Ryan, Captain Miller must obey the stubborn yet heroic Ryan as they struggle to fend off the overpowering German Army.

            Throughout the film, Spielberg never fails to procure scene after scene of accurate and ambitious brilliance.  Characteristic of the epic film genre, “Saving Private Ryan” utilizes countless extras and scenic camera pans to convey the true essence of the war.  On top of the striking cinematography, the film delves into the emotional capacities of the soldiers.  From the naïve and overwhelmed character of Timothy E. Upham (Jeremy Davies) to the dilemma Miller faces following the capture of a Nazi soldier, the film realistically explores the human psyche of a soldier in combat.  This unity of battle and mind combine to drive the plotline along in a flurry of spectacular action.

            Its logical flaw aside, “Saving Private Ryan” sets the standard for war illustration, featuring several dynamic and layered battle sequences.  Though it is truly difficult to ignore the quantity of brutally dispensed carnage, Spielberg forcefully creates a sweeping perspective of the situation.  From the vivid storytelling to the grand battle scenes, the film is a wild ride – all encircled by the meaningful present-day bookend scenes depicting a slightly more mature yet just as noble Private Ryan.

            Overall, the film can be boiled down to the adage that “War is Hell.”  As bodies drop like flies, men burn alive, and blood spurts into the air, the soldiers are pushed to the brink of desertion.  Only one belief keeps them going – the notion of patriotism.  In the film, many of the characters – most significantly Captain Miller – make the ultimate sacrifice, all for the sake of one man, Private Ryan.  In the final scene, as Ryan kneels at Miller’s grave, he ultimately proves himself worthy of the sacrifice that the men made for him, knowing that he may now finally die in peace.


Saving Private Ryan


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