I remember the first time I saw Saving Private Ryan. In 1998, when the movie was released, I still lived in Colorado. World War II was my specialty in grad school, yet I was hesitant to see the film. I had heard the first 27 minutes were intense and I’m not one who likes that type of intensity. Then a friend asked if I wanted to go to the drive-in theater. I agreed. That’s how I saw this film. On a massive drive-in screen. It was an uncomfortable experience and for the most part I was too traumatized to enjoy the rest of the film.
When I saw that movie was on the AFI top 100 I wasn’t thrilled. Well, folks I watched it again. This time, though, it was on a much smaller screen thank goodness. It’s still an intense movie, especially the opening scenes. However, I knew what I was in for so I was able to concentrate on the story and not just the carnage. War is hell, and Spielberg made sure that was clear in this film.
After the invasion of Omaha Beach, Captain John H. Miller (Tom Hanks) and his squad are sent on a mission to save the last surviving brother of four servicemen, Private James Francis Ryan (Matt Damon). Robert Rodat, the writer, conceived this story after seeing a monument dedicated to eight siblings who died in the American Civil War. He set his story in World War II.
The film received numerous awards and audiences flocked to the theater to see it. It was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won 5, including Best Director. Actually, it would take an entire post to list all of the awards it won. Let’s just say, a lot.
Did I change my opinion of the movie? Yes, a little.The violence in the film still made me uncomfortable, but I think that was the intention. Was I traumatized all over again? Yes. But I did enjoy the story more and I can see what all the fuss was about in 1998. What I appreciate most is that this movie doesn’t glorify war. It shows the brutality, the suffering, and the illogical effects it has on people. After re-watching this film it made me understand even more why my grandfather never talked about the war.
I will say that I won’t rush to watch this film again, if ever. It’s a great war flick and if you haven’t seen it yet, I do recommend it. Just know that it’s not easy to watch. Funny enough, while I was in Malaysia, we came back from a river cruise and the staff at the lodge was watching this flick on the telly. I sat down and watched a few minutes, and then I went and got a beer and joined some new friends at a different table keeping my eyes averted from the screen.
Up next is a film I’m dreading even more: A Clockwork Orange.