- Saving Private Ryan -

By Bill Miller

The Ryan family has already lost three sons to WWII and the U.S. Army does not want to present Mrs. Ryan with a fourth, folded flag.  Powerful.  Graphic.  Emotional.  Realistic.  Take your pick.  They all apply to Saving Private Ryan.  This Steven Spielberg movie is a hard-core look at war, unadulterated, unfiltered, and unnerving.  The saving of Pvt. Ryan involves and navigates the audience through the harsh realities endured by Americans during WWII.  This is not a happily-ever-after-Hollywood-hoax, but rather a film offering the truth about a devastating period of history.  Viewer discretion is advised.

The action begins on the beaches of Normandy as viewers experience the horrors of D-day.  Amidst the bodies and bullets, the focus is on a squad of eight led by Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks).  Upon surviving the invasion, Captain Miller and company are presented with a new mission: save Pvt. James Ryan (Matt Damon).

The question naturally arises: is the life of one man more valuable than that of the eight?  Is it more difficult for a family to mourn the loss of their fourth and final son or for a mother to cope without her only child?  Pondering this and questioning their orders, the men try to prevent either scenario from becoming a reality.  Captain Miller justifies the mission with patriotism and the hope that saving Private Ryan will put him one step closer to returning to the States and his wife.

Oscar nominations are inevitable for this powerful picture and its talented creators.  Saving Private Ryan is blunt and brutal, yet Steven Spielberg manages the atrocities of war with a certain artistic elegance.

I had the distinct honor and privilege of watching the movie alongside two veterans.  Their emotional reaction emphasized the film's authenticity.  Images of Saving Private Ryan will help cement a deep respect and appreciation for the men who so admirably served our country.  The final credits may compel you to give a standing ovation -- not for Tom Hanks and Matt Damon -- but for the men they represent.

Five stars.

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