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Seeing Private Ryan
A review of Saving Private Ryan
by J. D. Rummel

There are some movies that everyone should have to see. Saving Private Ryan is such a film.

Director: Steven Spielberg

Stars: Tom Hanks, Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Barry Pepper, Adam Goldberg, Vin Diesel, Giovanni Ribisi, Matt Damon, Ted Danson

Rating: R

Release: 07-24-1998

Time: 170 minutes

Buy Movie at People would have you believe that the first few minutes of Ryan are so devastating in their graphic depiction of the Normandy invasion that you as a viewer cannot recover. In truth, the first half-hour serves its purpose. It puts away images of war movies from our past. Gone are the speeches where gut-shot GI's send a message home to their best gal saying "I died fighting for you." This movie would have us know that men died in stunning numbers, like sand falling in an hour glass, and that if they did not die swiftly, they were more often screaming in fear and agony. To its credit, the film establishes very quickly that the men dying on screen could be the viewer in another time.

The plot is a simple one. Private James Francis Ryan's three brothers are all killed somewhere off screen and someone in power does not want mother Ryan getting a fourth telegram informing her of further loss, so Tom Hanks is sent into France with his men to extract Ryan before he is KIA (killed in action).

That simple mission sends Hanks and the audience into a morass of issues. War as sanctioned murder, war as wholesale death, war as a test of character, war as a source for gallows humor, war as a definer of men, men who, in less chaotic environments, are radically different. More than any other film that this reviewer has seen, with the possible exception of Platoon, Saving Private Ryan transports very safe viewers from the safety of the multiplex and into a world where the rules change without warning. It is one of the first times I viewed Memorial Day as something other than a day off.

This movie will have you squirming in your seat and making choices that you will question later. But for most of us, it's only a movie. For many men and women it was horribly real, and the freedom we enjoy today was earned at a terrible price.