Opening with the Allied invasion of Normandy on 6 June 1944, members of the 2nd Ranger Battalion under Cpt. Miller fight ashore to secure a beachhead. Amidst the fighting, two brothers are killed in action. Earlier in New Guinea, a third brother is KIA. Their mother, Mrs. Ryan, is to receive all three of the grave telegrams on the same day. The United States Army Chief of Staff, George C. Marshall, is given an opportunity to alleviate some of her grief when he learns of a fourth brother, Private James Ryan, and decides to send out 8 men (Cpt. Miller and select members from 2nd Rangers) to find him and bring him back home to his mother... Written by
Excellent despite some Spielberg slips into sentiment
During the Normandy landings during WW2 two brothers are killed. In another part of the world another of the Ryan brothers is killed in action, leaving their mother with one remaining son and three telegrams due to be delivered. A group of men, led by Captain Miller set out to reach Private Ryan and not only break him the news but to safely return him for return to the US.
What can I say it is an excellent film despite some minor flaws. The plot is based on a real life situation during WW2 and allows for us to follow a group of men as they take part in the horrors (and humanity) of war. This is the film's strength and it is never stronger than in the first 25 minutes and, to a lesser extent, the final 20 minutes. The opening of the Normandy landing is simply pure emotional power and is really well done it is so powerful that the actual plot itself is a bit of a letdown. I love Band of Brothers because the focus was on the war and what it was like to be involved rather than a sort of soap opera story. Here the plot is still very good but can't really follow that opening.
It also sinks into sentiment a tad too often. For example Ryan's mother lives in this sort of Norman Rockwell painting that is Spielberg's vision of middle America. Also there is a little too much use of gawkish dialogue as well although it's hard to criticise the death scenes for being emotional, because they should be.
A minor flaw that is easy to get over is the lack of Brits. Like Band of Brothers (which had a few cockney accents) this is an AMERICAN film so of course they will focus on the American experience. However it would have been nice to have some British (or any other) voices or faces among the Allies. I can understand why the film opens and closes with the stars and stripes and why the film focuses on the yanks but a little bit of perspective would be useful. There's nothing wrong with focus but when it totally excludes huge bits of information then it's a problem. It always makes me think of the way that Michael Caine took his children back to the UK when they were taught in an US school that WW2 started in the 1940's (ie when America joined).
However this is a minor flaw as, in fairness, it's an American film why be surprised when it's focus is Americans! Of the cast Hanks is good he is much more subtle than his Oscar roles where he played to the crowd. He benefits from having a great support cast of good actors, current actors, old faces, up and comers etc. Sizemore, Burns and Farina are the good current actors. Damon, Ribsi, Diesel, Martini etc are all very good on the way up although Damon has one of the simplest characters. They may all be slight stereotypes of Americans but it's not a major flaw just a screen writer wanting to cover all bases I think, although it does grate that they cover all these backgrounds but can't squeeze any other Allies in to the edges.
Overall it is excellent despite some stereotyping, US flag waving and the usual Spielberg love of sentimentality. Even if the actual plot is flimsy Spielberg expertly puts us as close to experiencing the horrors and the humanity within war as I hope we'll ever be.
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