An Allied squadron is commissioned to retrieve one specific soldier from the battlefield, when the Army discovers that all of his brothers have died in combat. A powerful, realistic re-creation of WWII's D-day invasion and the immediate aftermath, from Oscar-winning director Steven Spielberg.
Most of the advance word you've heard about Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan is true. This depiction of the World War II invasion of Normandy and its aftermath is a blow-you-away kind of movie – the lengthy Omaha Beach sequence near the beginning of the picture depicts war as never before seen on the screen.
The basic story follows the formula of many World War II movies – the journey of a small, racially mixed, patrol on a dangerous mission. Tom Sizemore even looks and acts a bit like William Bendix, who was a staple in those films. Here the mission is an odd one: to locate and rescue one man, Ryan, whose brothers have already been killed. In a way it's the opposite message to the films made at the time, when the individual was never as important as the group.
So much of Saving Private Ryan is so good that, when it indulges in typically Spielbergian flagwaving and sentimentality, which it does at the very end, it's joltingly disappointing. But not enough to ruin a remarkable achievement. The camerawork by Janusz Kaminski is quite outstanding, and the creative use of sound is, itself, an object lesson in the movie-maker's art. Tom Hanks gives another noble, possibly Oscar winning, performance, and is well supported by a strong cast, with Matt Damon making a powerful impression as Ryan himself.
Saving Private Ryan is a fine piece of contemporary filmmaking, a genuine epic with something relevant and timeless to say about the inhumanity of war.