Saving Private Ryan (1998)

saving private ryan poster 1998 movie
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 10/10

Amazing looking movie

Some story aspects are a bit weak

Movie Info

Movie Name: Saving Private Ryan

Studio: Amblin Entertainment

Genre(s): War/Action/Adventure/Drama

Release Date(s): July 24, 1998

MPAA Rating: R

saving private ryan d-day normandy beach invasion tom hanks

“Organized” chaos

When the three Ryan brothers are killed near the time of the D-Day invasion, the U.S. military realizes that the solo surviving son James Francis Ryan (Matt Damon) is somewhere in France.  Under the command of Captain John H. Miller (Tom Hanks) a team has been ordered to go into the war zone and locate Ryan for extraction.  Journeying across battlegrounds, even finding Ryan could be tricky, and not all of Miller’s men are onboard with the goal of the mission.  War is hell, and the sacrifice of many for one man doesn’t always seem right.

Directed by Steven Spielberg, Saving Private Ryan is a fictional war action-drama.  The film was released to positive reviews and won Academy Awards for Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Sound, and Best Sound Effects Editing with nominations for Best Actor (Hanks), Best Original Screenplay, Best Art Direction, Best Makeup, and Best Dramatic Score.  The Library of Congress selected the film for preservation in the National Film Registry in 2014.

saving private ryan giovanni ribisi death

Awe…he’s a nice guy…that means he must die

I was working at a movie theater when Saving Private Ryan came out.  We had a special screening for military and you could see many older people going into Saving Private Ryan and leaving the film shook.  The film is very good, but I can admit that it isn’t my favorite film, but I understand how some feel great attachment to the movie.

The movie is often cited as one of the “I can’t believe it lost” movies of the Academy Awards, and it definitely shouldn’t have lost to Shakespeare in Love.  I think some of the other nominees could have been argued, but Saving Private Ryan was the popular choice that was still hard to make.  I think where Saving Private Ryan falters is that it has one of the best opening sequences on film with the chaotic and terrifying raid of Normandy and then gets into the walking around in a format very similar to Apocalypse Now (which I would say is a superior film).  It finishes with another battle that just doesn’t match the power of the opening sequence, and by the time it gets there, the viewer is worn down.  Part of that is intentional.  Like war and like the character, the pressure is often too great…and the split second thinking eventually breaks you.  It just doesn’t always make for the best storytelling.

saving private ryan jeremy davies

Sorry, you get to the coward who survives by not rising to the challenge of war character

Tom Hanks is Tom Hanks.  He had already made the jump to “dramatic actor”, and I still miss the simpler days of funny Tom Hanks.  I feel he is generally good in his roles, but they aren’t always the most dynamic.  In addition to Hanks, the movie was loaded with established and young and up-and-coming actors.  Barry Pepper as the sniper is a scene stealer while “likes to fight” Edward Burns plays the foil most of the movie.  Matt Damon plays the young Private Ryan (and in another fault of the movie, I never thought the old man was Tom Hanks as the scripting tried to lead you to believe because he was far too young in 1998 if Hanks had been in the war).  Tom Sizemore plays the heavy balance to Hanks with Giovanni Ribisi and Vin Diesel as the “good guys” who of course are sacrificed.  Jeremy Davies gets the unfortunate and always present “coward” role which allows the audience to either identify with or vilify him.  Adam Goldberg, Dennis Farina, Ted Danson, Nathan Fillion, Paul Giamatti, Bryan Cranston, and others have appearances.

saving private ryan ending ed burns tom hanks matt damon

“I’ll be right hereeee….wait wrong movie. Earn it”

What cannot be faulted is the look and style of Saving Private Ryan.  The booms feel real and the raw nature and style of the shooting does raise the bar for tension and stress…it is one of Spielberg’s best looking films.  The film in that sense felt like something really new different, but of course with Saving Private Ryan’s success other military movies followed that took similar styles.

Saving Private Ryan is a film that you can’t deny is good, but that doesn’t always mean that everyone will like it.  For the most part, everyone does…and sometimes maybe for the wrong reasons (aka the style and big action sequences).  A lot of criticism was held for the bookends of the film in the memorial in Normandy in which an older Ryan pays his respect to Miller.  It is cliché and over-the-top dramatic, but it does serve a purpose be it a bit cheesy or not.  Every decision in war and battle has an effect.  Ryan and his family exists because of the other soldiers’ sacrifices and the line goes on and on.  One man might not matter in the grand scheme of a war, but the reverberations of actions taken can change lives and the world…it is why people fight and sacrifice.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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