24 reasons to watch the classic 'Saving Private Ryan'

Saturday June 15 2024
me-saving private Ryan#2

Scene from Saving Private Ryan. PHOTO | POOL


There is no better time than the 80th anniversary of a singular event — in this case the ‘D-Day’ landings on Normandy beach by Western armies that ended up with Berlin burning a year later, German surrender and Hitler’s suicide in a bunker – to review the greatest movie ever made about ‘D-Day.’

Ever since I first watched Saving Private Ryan at the then 20th Century cinema in mid-1998 as a first-year college student, I have since watched it at least twenty times; the last time being last week during ‘D-Day’ anniversary on Netflix.

Starring Tom Hanks as Captain James Miller, leader of a small band of men on a mission to evacuate one Private Ryan (Matt Damon), the only survivor of a quartet of brothers in World War II, Spielberg’s genius as a director is obvious from the first shot, pardon the pun.

The superb cinematography captures the gritty and grisly reality of the Omaha Beach landings and machinegun carnage, the shooting, wounding, mauling, drownings and grenade blower and flame thrower human BBQs; war in all its gory.

Throughout this reality of war movie, it leaves nothing unexplored —  the ferocity of being under fire, Mexican standoffs in ruined rainy French countryside castles, deadly snipers (on both sides); the bravery, gallantry and great cowardice of being in a theatre of war.

As well as the more personal poignancy, tragedy, guillotine humour, camaraderie of comrades, friendships forged under the anvil of fire as well as the great sacrifice of soldiers — (some school teachers in a former lifetime) —fighting to free the world from a tyrant the kind yet to be paralleled, Herr Adolf Hitler.


In our case, though, it is a tiny platoon looking for this one Private James Ryan, on the orders of General George Marshall, across bogs, beaches and poppy fields, to take him home.

In my favourite line in a super well-scripted movie, Captain Miller (Tom Hanks) at one moment swears: “By God, this Private Ryan better be worth it! He better go home, and cure some disease or invent a longer-lasting light bulb or something.”

The last hour of this classic war film, that lasts almost three hours, is a battle movie in itself, as our band of GIs battle to hold a vital bridge against the Wehrmacht.

Saving Private Ryan took home five Oscar awards, and almost 500 million dollars after it came out quarter a century ago; and it is worth all its two hours and 49 minutes in screen time. Even when you are watching it for the 24th time.