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Saving Private Ryan: War and the Value of the Sacrifice Essay (Critical Writing)


Saving Private Ryan is one of the best American films about war of all the times. Steven Spielberg directed the film, and Robert Rodat wrote it. The work of these two people received much acclaims: Academy Award, Empire Award, NYFCC Award, and Golden Globe Award nominations. This film describes the events of World War II. It tells a story of how a group of soldiers leaded by Captain John Miller search for Private James Francis Ryan missing in Normandy, France.

The movie begins with a scene when an old veteran is going to the American Cemetery in Normandy accompanied by his children, grandchildren, and wife. He walks through the cemetery, looks around, and suddenly falls to his knees and starts crying.

In a moment, another scene begins. 6 June 1944. War… Lots of soldiers’ bodies ripping apart, limbs flying in the air, grey colors, and fire – all this makes us think about the horrors of war. Interrupted movements of cameras and emphasis on gory details astonished me a lot. Spielberg was not afraid to underline the details that may avert people. In my opinion, such technique is just perfect.

One more technique used by Spielberg that impressed me is the speed during the battles. A scene of Private Caparzo murder can serve a good example of this.

Quite atmosphere. No one expects that something can happen. Sudden shots, quick movements of cameras, and the life of one character, Adrian Caparzo, is over.

It proves once again the fleetingness of our life. On the one hand, you realize that you may die one day, especially, when you are in the field. On the other hand, you will never be ready for this. Death is something that catches unawares. This is one of the major themes in the movie.

A lot of things depend on the actors and their plays. Unfortunately, I cannot analyze the director’s work when watching the film for the first time. The main things that capture my attention are the plot and actors’ play.

The cast of Saving Private Ryan is really great: Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Edward Burns, Vin Diesel, and Giovanni Ribisi. The play of every actor is unique. I forget about all the roles these actors have played before. I was so captivated with the characters, their appearance, and ambitions.

For me, Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) was one of the most interesting characters in the film. His devotion to the mission, ideas, and moral principles impressed me a lot. An ordinary schoolteacher became a great captain respected by lots of soldiers, this is really amazing indeed.

He leaves his own family to participate in war and save the future of his children. After each battle, Captain Miller shows real courage that makes his troops respect him. Once he said: “I just know that every man I kill, the farther away from home I feel.” (Saving Private Ryan)

One day, he gets a task to find and bring home Private Ryan. Captain and his troops know nothing about this person. The only thing they know is that Ryan’s family lost three sons in action in one day. Ryan is the only son who is alive. His family needs him, and the only purpose now is to bring the child home.

I was truly impressed with Captain Miller’s attitude to the task given. In spite of his careless to the person (Ryan), he gathered a troop, sacrificed own principles, and started the mission. Once, he said to Private Reiben (Edward Burns):

“I am a schoolteacher. I teach English composition… in this little town called Adley, Pennsylvania. The last eleven years, I have been at Thomas Alva Edison High School. I was a coach of the baseball team in the springtime. Back home, I tell

people what I do for a living and they think well, now that figures. But over here, it’s a big, a big mystery. So, I guess I have changed some. Sometimes I wonder if I have changed so much my wife is even going to recognize me, whenever it is that I get back to her. And how I will ever be able to tell her about days like today. Ah, Ryan. I do not know anything about Ryan. I don not care. The man means nothing to me. It is just a name. But if… You know if going to Rumelle and finding him so that he can go home. If that earns me the right to get back to my wife, then that’s my mission.” (Saving Private Ryan)

To my mind, this monologue characterizes Miller as he is. He disregards his own ambitions and feelings to complete his mission. However, he clearly understands the importance of his job. And this is what makes him really strong. Wartime dictates the rule that anyone should be strong. He is a great soldier, a good friend, and a great man.

The mission to save Ryan requires a great leader with a strong will and power. Courageous Captain John Miller is the only man who can cope with this task. He is able not only to convince himself that he will achieve the goals, but also to persuade other soldiers that they will succeed and come back home one day.

“This Ryan better be worth it. He’d better go home and cure some disease or invent a longer-lasting light bulb or something.” (Saving Private Ryan)

The coming result does not really matter. We speak about present, not future or even past. It is crucially important to be strong, to be a leader both for oneself and for people around.

As the movie goes, we understand that the old veteran standing in front of Captain Miller’s graveside is James Ryan. Ryan addresses to Miller:

My family is with me today. They wanted to come with me. To be honest with you, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel coming back here. Every day I think about what you said to me that day on the bridge. I tried to live my life the best that I could. I hope that was enough. I hope that, at least in your eyes, I’ve earned what all of you have done for me.” (Saving Private Ryan)

He salutes the American flag realizing the sacrifices of his comrades who came one day and saved his life in exchange for their own.

We will never forget about all those sacrifices that brave soldiers made in order to provide future generation with peaceful and happy life.

Movie’s writer and director have made a good job. They demonstrate not only the horror of wars, but also the ways of how and why people should respect the actions of all war heroes.

The movie Saving Private Ryan changed my world outlook greatly. I realized what it means to be a real man, a real hero. It is not that easy to be a hero in a modern world. The film made me think over the questions like “Should the war heroes be recognized in war time only?”, “Is it possible to be a hero in peacetime?” and the like.

I truly believe that one can achieve a lot if he/she really strives for this. Your actions and your ideas – these can make you a hero. Just choose the right way and follow it. Such films as Saving Private Ryan help us understand this simple truth.

Works Cited

Saving Private Ryan. Dir. Steven Spielberg. Perf. Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, and Edward Burns. DreamWorks. Paramount Pictures.

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IvyPanda. 2018. "Saving Private Ryan: War and the Value of the Sacrifice." June 25, 2018. https://ivypanda.com/essays/saving-private-ryan-war-and-the-value-of-the-sacrifice/.

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IvyPanda. (2018) 'Saving Private Ryan: War and the Value of the Sacrifice'. 25 June.

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