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“Saving Private Ryan” by Steven Spielberg Essay (Movie Review)

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Updated: Jan 15th, 2022

During the World War II, when everywhere one can feel despair but, at the same time, hope, one mother gets three triangular letters. Her sons are dead. Captain John Miller gets a complicated mission. Within a group of eight soldiers he has to go behind the enemy’s line to find Private James Ryan, the fourth and youngest son of Ryan’s family. The command decides to demobilize Ryan. But, firstly, the captain must go through the hell to find the guy. This is the short description of one of the greatest movies about the World War II. Steven Spielberg, well-known director of the large-scale action scenes, had an intention to create a movie which can inspire to the whole world to remember those days, according to the slogan of the movie. This movie teaches the patriotism and heroism, shows us that we can be proud of our history. Saving Private Ryan is an obvious example of demonstration of the best human qualities for the young generation which make us believe in the power of good intentions even within complicated situations.

The actual event of this movie is the Normandy landing, codenamed the Operation Neptune. 6 June 1944 at 6:30 AM American, British and Canadian troops landed in Normandy occupied by the Germans. The biggest amphibious operation, called D-Day, has finally opened the Second Front in a Europe. Almost three million soldiers were landed on the Normandy coast. The movie shows us that James Ryan was one of those soldiers.

This day was one of the key moments of the War. Since the main forces of the Nazi’s army were on the Eastern Front, the Chief of the German troops on the West Field Marshal von Rundstedt had in disposal only 58 divisions stationed in France, Belgium and Holland. Some of them were fixed, so they didn’t have their own transport. There were only 12 divisions with 160 available combat-ready aircrafts nearby the Landing. The number of the soldiers in the allied army was more than three times as numerous as the German troops. They had twice as many guns, three times as many tanks, and 60 times as many planes as the Germans (Williams, p. 216). Although the German High Command expected the Allied invasion, they couldn’t be sure about the place and time. On the night of June 6 18 British ships in common with the bomber groups have taken the demonstrative steps nearby Le Havre. The American troops captured the Cotentin peninsula and the port of Cherbourg.

The Allied troops were able to achieve the complete unexpectedness. Having a huge advantage in the manpower and technology, they absolutely dominated at the sea and in the air. They took a giant springboard in Normandy. All attempts of the German High Command failed.

Saving Private Ryan is completely related to those events. Spielberg gives the picture of battles in Normandy. We have an opportunity to observe the wide-front attack of the Allied forces. Against the background of the war we can watch the efforts of the Capitan’s Miller group to find Private Ryan. The paratrooper forces of the 101st Airborne Division landed behind the enemy’s line, and the communication between them and the other divisions is lost. There must be James Ryan. The rangers landed on Omaha Beach, the German machine gunners and mortal men shoot them from the steep bank. Capitan Miller tries to collect the survivors and to break through the German line of defense.

We can watch the reflections of Capitan Miller who was a school teacher before the War. We can see the human mercy, when Miller saves the life of a German, and the betrayal, when this German kills Miller. The movie demonstrates us the uncovered pictures of the war, blood and pain, losses and joy of the small victory. When the group finally finds Private Ryan, he refuses to return to US because he got an order to continue the fight. Well, only two soldiers from the group of eight survived. Did the life of one man cost the lives of six? When Capitan Miller dies, he whispers to Ryan be worthy of it. The epilogue of the movie, when old Ryan with his children comes to visit the Capitan Miller’s tomb, reminds us about the personal tribute that should be paid by everyone who visits Normandy nowadays.

In 1994, Robert Rodet saw in New Hampshire the monument in memory of five brothers Sullivan who died during World War II. Rodet impressed so much and wrote a story based on the real events. Five brothers Sallivan served on the light cruses Juno which was destroyed by Japanese submarine during the Guadalcanal Campaign in 1942. This story later became the basis for the script of Saving Private Ryan. In 1998 the movie got five Oscars in the nominations for Best Cinematography, Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Effects Editing, and Best Sound.

Although Saving Private Ryan got the world-wide fame and acceptance, an idea that the movie demonstrates an extreme violence and intense adult language leaded to sanctions by the federal Communications Commission within its anti-indecency standards (Moraes). As for me, I think that this movie should be demonstrated in a history class. The war is not an adventure. The war shows us the different sides of human nature. Saving Private Ryan tells that, in spite of the stark reality, people always have to be merciful. Saltman uses this movie as the perfect example of demonstrating how the best human qualities and the good goals change the face of War (p. 11). But, for example, Register says that Saving Private Ryan was (and is) as much about Peter Pan syndrome as about the World War II. Since its release, movie has become inseparable from the popular pietism (p. 313). I completely disagree. I don’t think that sending a detached force in the midst of war to his death just to save one life was an absurd. This movie is an amazing antiwar drama which shows that even one single life is more important than all violence and cruelty of the war.

Saving Private Ryan shows us that mainstream entertainment can be really useful in teaching American History. Some time it can be even more useful and expressive to see the picture of the war than only to read about this. A good acting can interest young people in a history of our country. The movies based on the historical events are not so popular as, for instance, fantasy and horror. But we can’t deny that the value of those movies is more important than just the pleasure of entertaining movies. Those who don’t remember the past of native land have no future. This movie inspires the whole nation that won the War.

Works Cited

  1. Moraes, de Lisa. “Saving Private Ryan”: A New Casualty of the Indecency War.” Washington Post, 2004.
  2. Register, Woody. The Kid of Coney Island: Fred Thompson and the Rise of American Amusements. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003. Print.
  3. Saltman, Kennet J., and David A. Gabbard. Education as Enforcement: The Militarization and Corporatization of Schools. New York: RoutledgeFalmer, 2003. Print.
  4. Williams, Ross F., and Charles F. Romanus. U.S. Army in World War II: The Technical Servises. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1956. Print.
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