TMS 30 Greatest Movies: #17 Saving Private Ryan

February 22, 2008 | Comments (0) | by The Hundley

Title: Saving Private Ryan
Year: 1998
Genre: War
Main Actors: Tom Hanks, Tom Sizemore, Ed Burns, Barry Pepper, Jeremy Davies, Adam Goldberg, Giovanni Ribisi, Matt Damon
Ranked: Dave Thomas #10, The Hundley #3

A specially assembled unit of soldiers from the 101st Rangers Division are ordered to track down James Ryan (Damon) to send him home to his mother, who is grieving the loss of his three brothers. Captain John Miller (Hanks) is chosen as the leader of the group, who must go behind enemy lines to track down Private Ryan. Along the way we are introduced to the other members of the search party and their attitudes and opinions on war and what saving James Ryan means.

Reasons This Movie Kicks Ass
Patriotism. It's almost un-American to NOT like this movie. The opening 25 minutes of this movie is perhaps the best war reenactment ever filmed. So great in fact, that many veterans of the actual D-Day have marveled at it's authenticity. Many veterans have also found that opening scene very intense and difficult to watch because of its realistic portrayal, and many had to leave the theatre. The supporting cast also plays a big role in the success. Ed Burns gives a great performance as a tough talking Brooklynite and Barry Pepper as a Bible quoting bumpkin sniper with a thick southern accent. If you pay attention you'll also catch some great cameos by Ted Danson providing morals, Dennis Farina living the good life while on the battlefield, and Paul Giamatti stealing scenes where he portrays a nervous (and bald) sergeant.

Monster Role
It's easy to point out the great performance turned in by Tom Hanks. More than anyone else in the movie, he is the main character and the Moral Majority for the audience, showing his John Wayne type bravery while also showing a vulnerable, compassionate side that will do whatever it takes to get home. However, the monster role was turned in by the translator-turned-battlefield soldier, Timothy Upham (Jeremy Davies). Portrayed as a naive and often cowardly individual, Jeremy Davies makes you want to walk through the television and punch him. Particularly when he is frozen with fear as his comrade (Adam Goldberg) is being stabbed to death by a German soldier, knowing that he could help, but ultimately crying and shaking with fear. Very reminiscent of when you see The Green Mile and want to take an axe handle to the sniveling guard Percy (Doug Hutchinson). Any time a movie can elicit that kind of emotion from an audience is an excellent example of truly talented craftsmanship.

Make Your Weiner Tingle Moment
Opening beach scene, duh.

On the human side, when the group is in chaos over what they're doing, and a mutiny and public killing is at risk, Captain Miller finally reveals that he is an English teacher back home, thereby settling the nerves of his fellow comrades, and reminding them that they are all the same. They all just want to be done with war and will do whatever they have to do to get back home.

Did You Know?
The famous Omaha Beach scene in the opening 25 minutes was actually filmed on the coast of Ireland. Many of the extras during the invasion were actual members of the Irish Army. Yes, apparently Ireland has an army. Also, Saving Private Ryan is one of the few movies that features scenes with Vin Diesel where the audience doesn't gag or roll their eyes.

Watch this movie if you like.....
War movies, Tom Hanks always being the good guy, saluting The Flag, playing baseball, apple pie.