IMDb Top 250: 35th with 8.5/10 rating
It D Day, June 6, 1944. American soldiers plan to land on Omaha Beach, but their landing is waylaid by the German infantry, who starts shooting them to pieces the moment they second they come close to the beach. Many American soldiers die, but Captain John H. Miller (Tom Hanks) survives and assembles a group of soldiers to take down the German defences, leading to a breakout from the beach.
Back in Washington, D.C, General George Marshall (Harve Resnell) is informed that three of four Ryan brothers were killed in the war, and that their mother will receive notification that very day. Her fourth son, Private First Class James Francis Ryan is a paratrooper, assumed alive but missing in action in Normandy. Marshall reads Abraham Lincoln’s Bixby Letter, and this moves him to order that Ryan must be found alive and sent back to his mother so that she can at least have one son.
Executive Mansion, Washington, Nov. 21, 1864.
I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.
Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,
Three days after D-day, Miller is ordered to find and return Ryan to his mother. He assembles six men: Horvath, Reiben, Mellish, Carparzo, Jackson and the medic Wade, and Upham, a cartographer that speaks French and German and who tells Miller from the start he hasn’t been in combat and has the barest of training.
They move on to Neuville. They meet a platoon of the 101st Airborne Division. After entering the town, Caparzo (Vin Diesel) is shot by a sniper. Jackson (Barry Pepper) takes the sniper out but they still lose Caparzo. They find a Private James Ryan, but he is not the Ryan they are searching for. A member of the incorrect Ryan’s party tells them that the man they are looking may have rallied at the drop zone at Vierville. Miller and his men head there and hear that Ryan is helping defend a strategically important bridge over the Merderet River in Ramelle, and they continue on their search mission.
While travelling to Ramelle, Miller decides to neutralize a German gun position. Wade (Giovanni Ribisi) is fatally wounded and when a last surviving German soldier is found, the Americans want to kill him, except Upham (Jeremy Davis), who pleads for his life to be spared. To the incredulity of the other men Miller lets the German walk away, blindfolded. Reiben (Edward Burns) speaks up and questions Miller’s leadership. He plans to leave but is pulled into a confrontation with Horvath (Tom Sizemore). To defuse the suddenly volatile situation, Miller tells his men information they have been desperately curious about – what Miller’s profession is outside of War. Reiben grudgingly stays with the troop.
In Ramelle they finally find Ryan (Matt Damon). He is told of his brothers’ death, Miller’s mission and that he is allowed to go home. He is saddened by the loss of his brothers and the for the lives of the two men who died on the mission to find him, but he says that he must stays with his troop, the brothers he has left, and help them defend the seriously undermanned bridge. This causes some upset amongst Miller’s men because they risked their lives finding him, but eventually they stay to help the men on the bridge and Miller takes over control.
Will Ryan make it out alive? Was the mission been vain? Will Miller and his men get out alive?
Even though it was excellent, this wasn’t the easiest movie to watch. It is gruelling, brutal and intense but also gripping and entertaining. The opening scene was horrific, the senseless slaughter, the hopelessness of the soldiers stuck in an impossible situation, watching their fellow soldiers die in agony. The bloody waves rolling onto the beach really touched me because the sea is something that should bring you great peace and those soldiers were just being shot to pieces.
I haven’t ever seen Tom Hanks being anything less than fantastic and he didn’t disappoint here either. Captain John H. Miller was a good man, and I found how he kept his true job a secret and how he later used it as a tool to calm everyone down. At the end of the day, Miller’s occupation was so vastly removed from his war life I was like whaaat? It seemed incomprehensible to me that he was such a normal family man and a war general everyone naturally followed at the same time.
He was obviously the right leader for the mission. One of the saddest scenes was when he broke down away from his men because he knew they needed a stable person they could rely on leading them.
Richard Reiben was one of my favourite characters – he was cocky and did not mind one bit telling Miller what was on his mind. He was the first to voice his opinion, even if it got him into trouble, and I respected him for that. I had a huge amount of sympathy for Upham – even though the other men weren’t necessarily glorifying what they did in the war and struggled with adapting, he had the most trouble accepting what he saw and the horrors of War. The death of the medic, Wade, made me so sad just to think that he exactly knew how he was dying and what was wrong but couldn’t even fix himself.
I was feeling pretty steamed at Private James Ryan when he was eventually found, and his rejection of the offer to return home maddened me even while seeing sense in what he was saying. I completely stood with the incredulity of the other men that risked their life to get there to take him back to his mother.
If you are one of the few people who haven’t seen Saving Private Ryan, like I was, I suggest you do so. It is excellent.