Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars

By Henry Jaques

Though some of the most memorable parts of Saving Private Ryan is the excessive gore, Saving Private Ryan not like your typical World War II movie that simply highlights the tragedies of war. Director Steven Spielberg, who is famous for directing Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Schindler’s List, writes a thrilling World War II film, which emphasizes the importance of looking out for one another. Robert Rodat, the writer, does this by fabricating a story in which ten men set out to save the mysterious and nearly intractable private James Ryan (Matt Damon), who is located somewhere in the heart of Northern France.

After all of Ryan’s brothers were killed in combat, General George C. Marshall sends a squad of soldiers to retrieve Ryan in hopes that the Mother won’t be completely heartbroken by losing all of her sons during World War Two. Though this film may be a fantastic World War II drama, the idea of having General Marshall wanting to send one soldier home to his mother so she can be happy is as heartwarming as it is far-fetched. It’s obvious that one of the highest ranking generals would not and should not send one soldier home for this, as it was admitted by the captain of the the squad, played by Tom Hanks, who leads the mission to retrieve Ryan.

Spielberg begins the movie by taking the viewer on a tour of Omaha beach on D-Day, making sure to include everything from a man who got his arm blown off by a grenade to a soldier holding his innards while crying, “Momma” (gore included, of course). As emotional as this scene was, it was seemingly endless and did not serve much of a purpose beyond introducing the characters and emphasizing the brutality of World War II. It’s certainly a valuable scene, but shaving twenty minutes off the scene could save the viewer some time while still sending its message. Beyond the ridiculously long opener, it is a fantastic film, taking you through the many dangerous Nazi-occupied small towns of France, which keeps you interested, engaged and, of course, emotional.

Spielberg utilizes technical elements as well as magnificent acting to turn this story into an extremely captivating film. The cinematography particularly stands out in this film. In many scenes, the camera is right there with the actors making the viewer feel as if they are right there with the soldiers. Spielberg succeeds in using other effects such as explosions, blood, and gore to simulate the brutality of the war zone.

The actors in this movie did a great job of becoming the soldiers, particularly Hanks and Damon. Damon, who you may know from Good Will Hunting, plays the role of Private James Ryan, a loyal soldier committed to fulfilling his duties. It seems strange that the plot of the movie would revolve around him, yet after a little bit of dialogue and one monologue, Damon continues to blend in as another just another soldier. This was Damon’s third major role in a blockbuster film.

Hanks, who is known for his roles in Big, Forrest Gump and Apollo 13, plays the role of Captain John Miller. Miller,  who is portrayed as a hard on the outside but soft on the inside officer, is the man officer who leads the group through the dangerous lands of northern France. Hanks worked well with the other actors and was a great fit for this role and did a formidable job.