STARRING: Tom Hanks, Edward Burns, Tom Sizemore, Matt Damon, Harrison Young, Barry Pepper, Adam Goldberg, Vin Diesel, Giovanni Ribsi, Jeremy Davies, Kathleen Byron, Ted Danson, Paul Giamatti, Dennis Farina, Harve Presnell, Leland Orser, Bryan Cranston, Nathan Fillion, Max Martini, Demetri Goritsas, Joerg Stadler and Dale Dye
EARNED (Worldwide): $481.8m
AWARDS: 5 Oscars (Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Sound, Best Film Editing and Best Sound Effects), 2 Golden Globes (Best Picture and Best Director) and 2 BAFTAs (Best Sound and Best Special Effects)
Following the Normandy Landings, a group of U.S. soldiers go behind enemy lines to retrieve a paratrooper whose brothers have been killed in action.
Saving Private Ryan takes us to back to World War II where we witness the Allied invasion on Omaha Beach on 6th June, 1944. Once the beachhead is secured, Captain Miller and members of the 2nd Ranger Battalion are given by the United States Army Chief of Staff, George C. Marshall, to find and bring back Private James Francis Ryan back home to his mother, upon learning that all of her sons with the exception of James have been killed during the invasion.
Saving Private Ryan has one of the most memorable first acts in cinema as it takes us to the invasion on Omaha Beach and provides possibly the most graphic war battle sequence I’ve ever seen, with the camera panning across the beach showing us the chaotic carnage, solider carrying limbs, trying to hold their insides together to men thrown into the crucible of fire that have to advance forward to save their own lives. Once they secure the beach, they are ordered on a mission to locate Private James Francis Ryan to bring him back home to his mother. She’s already lost three of her sons in the war and The Army Chief of Staff is not having another telegram send to her. The men know the purpose behind this mission, a matter of bringing him back home to boost morale though what about their own parents as they sacrifice themselves going behind enemy lines to find Ryan? While it’s true for me that the film doesn’t live up to the intensity of the Omaha Beach sequence, that’s not to say that there’s not plenty of memorable moments along the way, but the second act builds on the characters within the group of ordinary men thrown into an relentless war, we learn of Captain Miller’s backstory (which has the group guessing throughout about what he did before the War) upon which they come across a German machine-gun nest which leads to a dilemma: keep to the mission and go around it or to do keep with their original mission which is to take out the enemy? The direction of Spielberg and the cinematography Janusz Kaminski is phenomenal, with a gritty feel to it like you’re thrown into battle with them and the cast itself is mighty impressive with Tom Hanks giving a commanding performance as Captain Miller who appears to be on a verge of a breakdown at any given moment but powers forward, Tom Sizemore is solid as Miller’s right-hand man Sergeant Mike Horvath, Jeremy Davies somewhat has the toughest role and does a great job in it as Corporal Upham, whose morality and character arc I understand now with older wise but back upon release I hated the character for his actions (well, more like non-actions) involving one scene in particular I can never stomach to rewatch again, even when it’s on television and it comes up to that scene I can’t look at it. The rest of the outfit are given good performances by Edward Burns, Barry Pepper, Vin Diesel, Adam Goldberg and Giovanni Ribsi and Matt Damon does a fine job in the small screen time he has as Private Ryan and looking back it’s surrounded by excellent talent in the small roles, particularly the ‘before they became well known’ actors such as Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Nathan Fillion (Firefly/Serenity/Castle), Max Martini (The Unit/Pacific Rim) and Ryan Hurst (Remember The Titans/Sons of Anarchy). Considering how the film is still well regard, it’s amazing to think that it lost out on the Best Picture Oscar to Shakespeare In Love….each to their own I guess.
FAVOURITE SCENE: The Omaha Beach sequence is still the best war film scene in cinema let alone in this film. It’s relentless showing us the mayhem of war, right down to the blood sticking to the lens.
FAVOURITE QUOTE: ‘I just know that every man I kill the farther away from home I feel.’ – Captain Miller
DID YOU KNOW?: The Omaha Beach scene cost $11 million to shoot and involved up to 1000 extras, some of whom were members of the Irish Army Reserve. Of those extras, 20-30 of them were amputees issued with prosthetic limbs to simulate soldiers having their limbs blown off. Mel Gibson and Harrison Ford were both considered for the role of Capt. John Miller, before Steven Spielberg decided on casting Tom Hanks.