234. Saving Private Ryan

Movie: Saving Private Ryan

Release Date: July 24, 1998

Director: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Tom Hanks, Edward Burns, Matt Damon, Tom Sizemore.

Tag Lines: “In the Last Great Invasion of the Last Great War, The Greatest Danger for Eight Men was Saving… One.”

“The mission is a man.”

“There was only one man left in the family, and the mission was to save him.”

Relevance: The summer of 1998 wasn’t my favorite time on this planet. It was quite a dark period for me. I didn’t do much except work, sleep and rent movies that I watched alone in my apartment in a tiny town in Upstate New York. Going out to the movies was a very rare occasion. ‘Saving Private Ryan’ was one such occasion. As I have mentioned many times before on this blog, if I had to choose, war would be my least favorite genre in film. Then why on earth did I go see this in theaters? Two reasons: Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks.

Steven Spielberg is by far my favorite director of all time. ‘Saving Private Ryan’ is his first of nine films on this list, the most of any other director. Similarly, Tom Hanks is my favorite actor of all time and he has a total of fourteen films, the most of any other actor. ‘Saving Private Ryan’ is his fourth to appear here. You can check out 314. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, 275. Apollo 13 and 256. The Green Mile for his first three. As I mentioned above, war films aren’t really my thing. In fact, there is only one that appears on this list. This one. Thanks in large part to the power of Mr. Spielberg and Mr. Hanks.

I am glad that I got to see this picture on the big screen, because it truly was a magnificent, epic film. It was harrowing, realistic, emotional and genre redefining. It was almost more of an experience than an actual film. It kept me on the edge of my seat, flinching and averting my eyes during many of the combat sequences. Anchored by powerful performances, ‘Saving Private Ryan’ was an almost three hour tour de force that left me exhausted yet exhilarated. I left the theater knowing I witnessed a film that would most certainly stand the test of time.

My maternal Grandfather was a World War II veteran and he often talked about the war. “WW Two. The big one” is how he always referred to it. Now he was a mechanic on an island (I am not sure exactly which one) and he never talked about any type of combat that he faced. It is very possible he didn’t face that much if any at all. His stories lacked gun fights, death and sorrow and more how he learned to dislike the taste of pineapple, as he ate so much of it during that time. It is possible he edited the “bad parts” out for his grand children, but the one thing he never left out was his pride. He was extremely proud to have served his country and his patriotism was something he carried throughout his entire life.

‘Saving Private Ryan’ was an incredible story and film, and it made me feel incredibly lucky. Lucky that my Grandfather and his entire generation suffered the burdens they did so we didn’t have to. They did it with so much bravery, pride and patriotism, the likes of which we don’t see very often any more. Through a fictional story, Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks made a sort of love story to those veterans and made me realize that no matter what sacrifices I ever make in my life, nothing compares to those made by all veterans of all wars.

Today’s Thoughts: An almost three hour war movie has to be nearly perfect for me to sit through the entire thing. And perfect is the word I would use to describe ‘Saving Private Ryan.’ Not only am I able to sit through it (numerous times throughout the years), but it is a movie that I enjoy and hold in very high esteem.

It is quite a movie, and an emotional one at that. For me, this is a multi-Kleenex film. During today’s viewing I started crying right at the opening scene and didn’t stop until the end credits began to roll. Steven Spielberg knows how to tell a story and more importantly make you fall in love with his characters, all while entertaining the hell out of you. His Oscar win for Best Director for this film is very well deserved.

The ensemble cast he assembled are all spectacular. Everyone from Vin Diesel to Ted Danson to Edward Burns give great performances. Jeremy Davies as Corporal Upham is definitely a standout for me. I feel so deeply for him throughout and always think, “that would be me at war.” One of the most heartbreaking and painful scenes for me to watch is the death of Adam Goldberg’s character. He is brilliant in that scene and I always have to look away as tears stream down my face. It’s so good. Then there is Tom Hanks. He gives such a tremendous performance and breaks my heart so many times, like he has in so many movies. “Earn this…earn it.” Kleenex.

‘Saving Private Ryan’ is a war picture, a drama, a tribute to veterans and a reminder for all of us. War is not always necessary. It is not always the answer. But we also can’t take for granted the rights that we have in this country and forget how and why we have them.

Awards: Academy Award for Best Director, Steven Spielberg (winner), Academy Award for Best Cinematography, Janusz Kaminski (winner), Academy Award for Best Sound, Gary Rydstrom. Gary Summers, Andy Nelson. Ron Judkins (winner), Academy Award for Best Film Editing. Michael Kahn (winner), Academy Award for Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing, Gary Rydstrom, Richard Hymns (winner), Academy Award for Best Picture (nomination), Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, Tom Hanks (nomination), Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, Robert Rodat (nomination), Academy Award for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Thomas E. Sanders, Lisa Dean (nomination), Academy Award for Best Makeup, Lois Burwell, Conor O’Sullivan, Daniel C. Striepeke (nomination), Academy Award for Best Music, Original Dramatic Score, John Williams (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Drama (winner), Golden Globe for Best Director, Steven Spielberg (winner), Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama, Tom Hanks (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Screenplay – Motion Picture, Robert Rodat (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Original Score – Motion Picture, John Williams (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Sound, Gary Rydstrom. Gary Summers, Andy Nelson. Ron Judkins (winner). BAFTA Award for Best Special Effects, Stefen Fangmeier, Roger Guyett, Neil Corbould (winner), BAFTA Award for Best Film (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Direction, Steven Spielberg (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, Tom Hanks (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Cinematography, Janusz Kaminski (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Production Design, Thomas E. Sanders (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Editing, Michael Kahn (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Make Up/Hair, Lois Burwell, Jeanette Freeman (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Film Music, John Williams (nomination), Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast (nomination), Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role, Tom Hanks (nomination), Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Picture (winner), Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Director, Steven Spielberg (winner), Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Score, John Williams (winner), Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures, Steven Spielberg (winner), Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Picture (winner), Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Director, Steven Spielberg, Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Cinematography, Janusz Kaminski (winner), National Board of Review Award for Top Ten Films (winner), National Film Registry (2014), National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Film (nomination), National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Director, Steven Spielberg (nomination), National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Cinematography, Janusz Kaminski (nomination), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Film (winner), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director, Steven Spielberg (nomination), PGA Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures. Steven Spielberg, Allison Lyon Segan, Bonnie Curtis, Ian Bryce, Mark Gordon, Gary Levinsohn (winner), Writers Guild of America Award for Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, Robert Rodat (nomination).

Ways to Watch: YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, Amazon Prime, iTunes, Sling TV, DVD Availability.

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