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Saving Private Ryan

#1 Saving Private Ryan 1998

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.

Steven Spielberg

Robert Rodat

Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns

This movie has Spielberg's usual trademark style; the structure is all tied up and unified from beginning to end, emotional symbols alive and well, the music of John Williams swelling when he's working at your emotions, and perhaps the most remarkable feature, it stays with you for a while. Spielberg has a long history of blockbuster success, but none can affect me the way Saving Private Ryan does.

For this movie to work Spielberg needs a strong and capable lead. He needs someone who the audience can empathize with. We need someone right off the bat who can pull us in and make us root for him on a personal level. Captain John H. Miller (Tom Hanks), fits this role excellently. Tom Hanks reveals a really complex military leader in this story, and does so without overacting; somehow it comes from within. While you may not empathize deeply with many of the platoon, you will still feel something because of the relationship that is formed with Hanks.

The first 30 minutes or so of this movie is the most realistic and intense action I've ever seen. Everything feels authentic, and this carries on for the rest of the movie. Scattered in between the heavy action we get some priceless scenes involving the rest of the platoon. We get to hear about their backstory and their lives before being shipped off to war.

The final battle of the film is one my most memorable ones. I have studied it and watched it countless times, and it always gets better. I always find something I never noticed before, or I pick out something that Miller could've done better. The movie starts and ends with a bang. Spielberg begins our journey with Miller's platoon on the beaches of Normandy, and we say goodbye to them in the ruined streets in the fictional town of Ramelle.

Overall it is excellent despite the U.S. flag waving and the usual Spielberg love of sentimentality. Spielberg expertly puts us as close to experiencing the horrors and the humanity within war as I hope we'll ever be.