Saving Private Ryan ★★★★★

I'm certain I've seen this movie over two dozen times in the 20 years it's been out. I've seen it in many different formats, and on many different screens. Yet, it has never once lost its luster with me.

Saving Private Ryan is a remarkable achievement in filmmaking for Spielberg. I hesitate to refer to the war sequences as "action sequences" because Spielberg truly creates an immersive war experience that is devoid of gratuitous violence and does not glamorize the war. Spielberg takes tremendous care to create the rawest emotions of the war complete with shaky camera movements and sets that are immaculate in detail.

The D-Day invasion sequence that opens the movie will never cease to amaze me. Like I said, I've seen this movie over two dozen times and every single time I see it, I'm astonished at the opening sequence. The camera shakes as it switches from shot to shot, showing the horror of war while following Tom Hanks' character up the beach.

It isn't glamorous or flashy, it's real. There are many moments that haunt you from the sequence. Like seeing a wounded soldier with his guts laying next to him screaming for his mother, or Captain Miller dragging a soldier up the beach only to look back and see that the soldier has been eviscerated. These are quick moments in the film's opening 15 minutes, yet they stick with you and set the tone for the film to come.

Once we get into the mission to find Ryan, the movies becomes this thought-provoking rumination on war, what it does to the men fighting it, and the senseless idea of sending 8 soldiers to find 1 man. We're also treated to beautifully scripted scenes of reflection from the platoon. In one scene, Giovanni Ribisi tells the group his trick to falling asleep only to drift off into a memory of how he'd pretend to sleep when his mom came home. The performance by Ribisi in this scene is powerful as his character shifts from sharing an anecdote from home right into feeling regret and guilt for behavior he only now knows was selfish and may never be able to be rectified. It's played with a subtlety that is just beautiful.

For a movie just shy of 3 hours, Saving Private Ryan doesn't feel like it. I credit that to the deeply immersive quality of the film. By the time it gets to the war sequence with the bridge at the end of the movie, we have grown to know the characters and it hurts when they fall.

Saving Private Ryan is book-ended with scenes in the present day Arlington National Cemetery and then we reach the end of the movie and have the context for the scene that ends the film, it never fails to produce a deep emotional reaction out of me. The last few lines of dialogue in the movie carry so much weight and power with them that it's easy to be deeply loved by the time the credits roll.