Magazine article Anglican Journal

Saving Private Ryan

Magazine article Anglican Journal

Saving Private Ryan

Article excerpt

Directed by Steven Spielberg Starring Tom Hanks and Matt Damon

**** (out of five)

(extreme and graphic gore and violence, profanity)

THERE'S A POIGNANT moment near the end of Steven Spielberg's film, Saving Private Ryan, when Private James Ryan (Matt Damon) confesses to Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) that he cannot remember the faces of his three brothers who, he has just learned, have been killed in the Second World War.

"You have to remember context," Captain Miller advises the private who he has found during a mission deployed by the U.S. military establishment as an act of mercy for the Ryans' mother, who has received three death notices on the same day. "What's context?" asks Ryan and Capt. Miller tells him to remember a location, a time with his brothers. Ryan shuts his eyes and recalls the last evening he was at home in Iowa with his three brothers.

As he tells the story of a happy and reckless evening, you become aware of how the story he's remembering is so far away both from the town in France and where he is with Capt. Miller. There are flashbacks of Ryan's home, a farm in Iowa with its rolling fields and big sky, which contrast with the bombed out ruins of a quaint French village about to be the theatre for a bloody battle between the Allies and the Nazis. Yet recalling a time with his brothers releases the memory of their faces and Private James Ryan begins to grieve ... Miller's right: context is everything. It is the key to unlocking memory's images.

Saving Private Ryan may well be one of Spielberg's finest films but it is not for the weak-spirited or weak-stomached: it is a graphic, explicit look at the horror of war, opening with a 30-minute soldier's eye view of the June 6, 1944 landing by American troops on Omaha Beach, the bloodiest of the five Normandy beach-heads. With hand-held camera and sometimes the point of view from just behind a Nazi gunner's shoulder, these opening shots at once demythologize and redefine the war movie.

War is hell. War is tide turning blood red. War is dismembered limbs. War is men lying in agony beyond relief or saving. War is life one moment and death the next. After that battle, Capt. Miller is ordered to recruit a small platoon to find and save Private Ryan. …

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