Who is Private Ryan? – The Film

Steven Spielberg’s film, Saving Private Ryan (1998), gave audiences a glimpse of World War II, unlike that of any other movie. With its realistic portrayal of the Invasion of Normandy, the movie depicts the story of a group of 8 soldiersĀ  through German-occupied France in search of one man, Private James Ryan. The movie shows the horrors of war and the camaraderie that forms from from those horrors. Throughout the movie, the recurring central question isĀ  “when is one life more important than another?”1

The opening scene of the movie shows Private James Ryan as an old man, visiting a cemetery, which happens to be in Normandy. Then movie flashes back to D-Day, June 6, 1944. The allies approached the beach in their LCVPs, narrowly missing gunfire from the German forces on the cliffs above the beach. Captain John Miller, in charge of the 2nd & 5th Rangers, gives instructions before the launching of the attack. He gives a “pep talk” and then simply says, “Keep the sand out of your weapons. Keep those actions clear. I’ll see you on the beach.” 2 Men are shot down in the boat and many are shot in the water as well as on the beach. After the battle, the scenes on the beach are probably the most remembered scenes from the movie. Bodies strewn all over the beach, the tide of the ocean is red with blood, and bodies being taken away on trucks.

A special order is sent out to Captain John Miller, that he and his unit of 2nd Rangers has a mission to find Private Ryan and bring him back alive. The remainder of the movie shows the journey of the 2nd Rangers across the French countryside in search of Private Ryan. They make various stops to search for him, because the 101st Airborne division landings had accidentally been scattered. Two men are killed along the way, and the question arises whether it is worth the lives of eight to save one man. 3 The 2nd Rangers find Private Ryan and fight for the fictional city of Rommelle.

The movie ends with Ryan back at the cemetery at Normandy, talking to Captain Miller’s grave, explaining how he tried to live a good life and tried to “earn it,” and hoped he made the Captain proud.

  1. Review: Saving Private Ryan, http://www.reelviews.net/movies/s/saving.html, (accessed October 31, 2010).
  2. Saving Private Ryan, DVD, produced by Stephen Spielberg (Los Angeles: Dreamworks Production, 1998).
  3. Saving Private Ryan, DVD, produced by Stephen Spielberg (Los Angeles: Dreamworks Home Entertainment, 1998).

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