Saving Private Ryan (1998)

One of the first movies that made my list when I decided to do the DailyView this summer was Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan. I have never been much of a fan of war movies so this one was a movie that I never found too appealing. Of course, I knew that it was basically loved by most and that it was a iconic hit and that it was a hole in my movie viewing. I closed that hole today.

Saving Private Ryan is an incredible film, with perhaps some of the most realistic war imagery that you could possibly imagine, tense anxiety with every scenes (even the quiet ones) and powerful performances from an ensemble cast filled with amazing actors.

And yet, this is a movie that I will, most likely, never watch again.

After the death of three brothers, the army assigned Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) to assemble a group to go through the battlefields of Europe in order to retrieve Private James Ryan (Matt Damon) so he could be returned to his grieving mother.

The first twenty minutes of Saving Private Ryan is one of the most disturbing and unsettling war scenes I have ever seen. I remember the shock I felt during Hacksaw Ridge, but this blew it away. The realism was drastic and the blood, guts and carnage shook me desperately. This was painful for me to watch despite the fact that I have absolutely no basis for connection. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for real combat veterans watching this scene.

There are some great performances in this movie. Tom Hanks is always amazing, and he does not let us down here. Edward Burns, Tom Sizemore and Adam Goldberg were each on their game. I did not expect to see LOST’s Faraday, Jeremy Davies, be in the movie in such a significant role, but he was excellent here. Of course, every time I saw him, I thought about Faraday, but that is my own fault.

There were also a bunch of surprising cameos throughout the movie. Vin Diesel, Nathan Fillion, Paul Giamatti, Leland Orser, Bryan Cranston, Ted Danson, Dennis Farina, and Max Martini all made appearances in Saving Private Ryan, some more significant than others. I have heard people say that this was Vin Diesel’s best performance ever despite it being only a few scenes.

The film is both beautifully and tragically shot. The CGI/special effects were astounding and brutal, painting the picture of hopelessness amidst the mission of mercy thrust upon Captain Miller and his team. The way the men responded made perfect sense as the mission itself felt very un-Army like.

There have been many movies over the years that I thought were great, but that I never want to watch again: Schindler’s List, 12 Years a Slave, Room, the aforementioned Hacksaw Ridge to name a few. Saving Private Ryan will now go on that list too.

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