“I’m a schoolteacher. I teach English composition… in this little town called Adley, Pennsylvania. The last eleven years, I’ve been at Thomas Alva Edison High School. I was a coach of the baseball team in the springtime. Back home, I tell people what I do for a living and they think well, now that figures. But over here, it’s a big, a big mystery. So, I guess I’ve changed some. Sometimes I wonder if I’ve changed so much my wife is even going to recognize me, whenever it is that I get back to her. And how I’ll ever be able to tell her about days like today. Ah, Ryan. I don’t know anything about Ryan. I don’t care. The man means nothing to me. It’s just a name. But if… You know if going to Rumelle and finding him so that he can go home. If that earns me the right to get back to my wife, then that’s my mission.”
‘Saving Private Ryan’, directed by Steven Spielberg in 1998, is an American war movie set during the seven days following the Normandy Invasion landings of June 1944. Tom Hanks plays John H. Miller, a captain in the 2nd Ranger Battalion. The film opens with the Allied forces landing on the beaches and fighting for survival. Having got through this, Miller is tasked with a mission: to lead a small group of soldiers deep into northern France to rescue a private, James Ryan, played by Matt Damon, whose three brothers have died. In order to save Ryan’s mother from receiving a fourth letter, Miller is told to locate Ryan and to evacuate him. I first saw this movie in the cinema on release and suffered such a powerful anxiety attack during the opening scenes, I had to leave the theatre and sit outside waiting for my friends for two and a half hours. This time I got through the visceral, intense opening and found a surprisingly conventional, although as one would expect from Spielberg, a well-constructed, war movie. The opening scenes undoubtedly eclipse the rest of the film, Spielberg throws everything at them but, at the same time, abandons his usually tight control of the image allowing some improvisation to occur. The look and feel of the film in general has been incredibly influential from battle scenes in cinema, television and, tellingly considering the immersive feeling of the direction, video-games. The performances, especially that of Hanks, are authentic, helped by the preparation Spielberg put the actors through and the reportedly sense of danger that existed in the filming. Hanks portrays Miller, despite the title the central character of the film, with a thick carapace of stoicism and professionalism, with only a few glitches and trembles betraying his inner emotions.
Would I recommend it? If you can get through the powerful opening, the film is a solid and well performance action adventure. Watch in a double bill with ‘Sergeant York’.