Saving Private Ryan is a 1998 film directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, and a number of other well known actors in smaller parts. It was both a critical and box office hit. It garnered eleven Academy Award nominations and won five including “Best Director.” Even though it is a fairly recent film, it has already found its way onto a number of “best of” lists and is widely regarded as one of the best depictions of the second world war put to film. So does this film deserve all the accolades it has recieved and to stand among the all time greats?
Should this film be considered a classic? There are very few films that I have ever seen that have impacted and continue to impact me as deeply as Saving Private Ryan. From the gut wrenching portrayal of the assault on Normandy to the final shot of an American flag waving above the modern memorial on the same beach, this film touches me in a way few others have. Just speaking from a technical perspective, the film is superb. From the sound to the camera work to the acting, everything is spot on. Even the speech of the soldiers feels right. Today, war films are often called “The Saving Private Ryan of…” That means that not only is this a great film but it has become a pop culture reference. Yes, this is a classic. It’s portrayal of war is brutal and unflinching and a potent reminder to people today (who have been asked to sacrifice very little compared to ‘the greatest generation’ that soldiers still sacrifice for the cause of freedom on battlefields far from home.
Would I own this film? Most definitely. This is a film that I do not revisit often because it emotionally wears me down. That said, it is a film that needs to be revisited periodically to help remind people of how much has been sacrificed so that we can enjoy the freedoms we do today. If you haven’t seen this film, sit down and watch it sometime. When your kids are old enough, watch it with them. It is good to be reminded of our history and the cost so many have paid for freedom. If we don’t remember then it becomes far too easy to squander.