‘Saving Private Ryan’: A War Movie That’s Ultimately About Hope

Movies on War generate a deep sense of sadness within us. The World Wars are the most significant and important part of our history. And Movies revolving around World Wars are a beacon of Hope and Faith. Saving Private Ryan, a by product of Tom Hanks brilliant acting and Steven Spielberg’s detailed direction, recounts the very same tale of Hope, and as the literal sense of the movie title, it’s about saving the life of a Private named Ryan.

Saving Private Ryan, based on the Normandy Invasion in France during World War II, speaks about a certain family named Ryan, where all the four sons are serving in the army. So why saving just one Ryan and not Ryan’s? Well, early on in the movie, we find out that three of the Ryan brothers are already dead and the telegrams of all three deaths are to be received by their lone mother on the same day. In a desperate attempt to save the mother from shock, the solution is to save the last Ryan brother. This forms the underlying theme of the movie.

The movie opens with the Normandy Invasion at Omaha Beach during the Second World War. Tom Hanks essays the role of Captain John Miller, a Ranger who is summoned for the mission to rescue the last of the living Ryan brothers. John Miller is a School teacher who has signed up in the army during the War. He is shown as a man of few words and a motivating leader to his group of Rangers. After he survives the invasion, and assembles his team, to go after the Germans, we see bodies of the dead soldiers laying with focus on a particular dead body with an inscription of ‘S Ryan’, presumably the third brother to die. The US Department of War is informed about the dead of three brothers while also reporting that a fourth brother, James Ryan, is missing in action at Normandy. The General immediately orders that Ryan must be found and sent home immediately.

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Thus, Miller embarks upon the mission to rescue Ryan with his team, after receiving the orders. Miller’s team comprises of 7 men including a cartographer named Timothy Upham. While they are successful in finding Ryan at the very end, it the words uttered by a Dying Miller to Ryan that somewhat reflect the amount of risks, turmoil and deaths Miller and his group had to encounter and go through while rescuing a particular Ryan. This brings us back to the start of the Film where an Elderly Ryan is at Miller’s grave mouthing words “I tried to live my life the best I could? I hope that, at least in your eyes, I’ve earned what all of you have done for me.” This is not just a promise of being in debt of someone who saved your life but a reminder that Ryan got a second life to live. Even Miller somewhere knew deep down that this might as well be a futile mission had the last Ryan been dead before he was even rescued. It was also a reminder that he lived a worthy life though he may not have been deserved to be rescued.

Miller’s death is another important aspect in this movie. While the group is on their search, they encounter a German soldier whom the group wants to take down but on Miller’s insistence, they leave him on a condition that he surrender as a Prisoner of War. Later we find that the same man shoots miller dead. While the portrayal of the German is shown to be cold hearted and harsh, it’s quite okay to accept the fact that he was in fact doing his job of serving his country. While the German meets his fate at the hands of Upham, who all this while was shown as a submissive, shy and fearing character, one could conclude the amount of positive effect miller has had on Upham. While Miller draws flak for having let go of the German, which in reality shows courage and not cowardice at killing him, this very virtue creates an impact of Upham.

Even in a bloody warfare, the team is shown to have a good time playing an old record on gramophone when they arrive in Ramelle. This is basically essential element as it shows how well connected they are as a team. All of them have agreed to risk their lives for a particular soul, Miller especially when he talks about his life prior to enlisting and how much he wants to go back to his wife and his life as a teacher. Though Miller is shown as a stoic leader, his shivering hands and the partial deafness he suffers are some signs which show that he is as much as a human as the members of his team. Though Millers end is harsh, his parting words to Ryan, “Earn it” is like giving a blessing to Ryan for the sacrifice he and his team had to make.

Each and every scene in the movie is significant and presented in the most real way. The first 30 minutes of the movie which depict the Omaha Beach assault are the finest as well as heart wrenching to watch. The realistic aspect of this movie could be mistaken for a documentary or real footage being shot. The way it has captured the fights, deaths and all the emotions in between is pure fine direction by Spielberg and amazing cinematography by Janusz Kaminski (Schindler’s List, Munich, Bridge of Spies). Saving Private Ryan is a masterpiece to say the least. Though it was snubbed by Shakespeare in Love for the Best Film Award at the Oscars, it has been preserved by the National Film Registry for being “Culturally, historically and aesthetically significant.”Spielberg and Hanks’s partnership weave pure magic, and you surely will be spellbound by this one.

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