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4.80 

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Mother of War Films
Dec 21, 2005 08:44 PM 3583 Views
(Updated Dec 21, 2005 08:44 PM)

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Saving Private Ryan, a film directed by Steven Spielberg, released in 1998, and winner of five Academy awards, is perhaps the best film ever made on Second World War. Starring Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Edward Burns and Tom Sizemore, it is indeed a masterpiece.


Most of us have read about the “opening of the Second Front” in our history class in school. Like any other side bar story, we took it for granted, and closed our books as the bell rang and classmates dashed toward the waiting buses or the hostel building. But I had always wanted to more know about the soldiers in those greyscale pictures of NCERT textbooks, how they must have felt during those intense moments, their fears, their hopes, their aims. No, I am not a pro-military person and I did not join the armed force and had never tossed money into donation boxes offered by superficial NGOs or film stars; however, I admire the men and women of this profession, genuinely.


Saving Private Ryan, as the title suggests, is a story about eight soldiers who were ordered by the American high command to find a man whose three brothers were killed in action on the same day. The man’s name is J.F.Ryan. The typist at the communications room when learning that Ryan’s widowed mother would get all three letters of condolence inside a single envelope, felt sorry and informed the commander to find a less painful solution to break the news to her. Of the four brothers, J.F.Ryan was the only one who survived D-Day. The American commander, even though he knew it futile to send a team deep inside France and behind German lines to rescue one man, gave the order to bring him home. This because the mother would find peace if at least one of her son came back alive.


They ordered Captain Miller (Tom Hanks) of the 2nd Ranger Battalion to assemble a team and find J.F.Ryan. He set out with seven men under his command to do the mission. The interesting thing here is the absurdity of the mission itself. Thousands and thousands of soldiers have died since the beginning of the war, and more have perished in the few days following the Normandy invasion. Everybody had contributed to the war equally, and no man was a hero or an extraordinary soldier but a team. In such a critical point as the liberation of France, a mission involving eight specialists to find one man was an utter waste of resources. Nevertheless, Capt. Miller led his men. But before he could find Ryan, two of his men died on the way. The loss hurt the psyche of his team so much that a soldier decided to abandon the mission. What divine reason was there to save Ryan when so many men were dying? And they all have mothers too.


But Capt. Miller said something that put the renegade back on track.


”I don’t know who Ryan is, where he was born, what he likes and what he doesn’t. He is just a name to me. But I think if I saved his life, I will have earned my right to go back home. Someday I would look back on all of this and say ‘saving private Ryan was the only sensible thing me and my team ever pulled out from that whole goddamned shitty mess.’ With every man killed under my command, I feel farther away from home.”


Finally, they found Ryan with a scattered team of the 101st Airborne, defending a small bridge in a place dominated by Germans. Ryan is told about his brothers and that he has been ordered to come back home; however, he decides not to go. Even though the Germans outnumbered the 101st Airborne plus the mere six men led by Capt. Miller, Ryan wants to stay with his company to defend the bridge, for if the bridge is taken the Allied troops would face grave danger. Capt. Miller could not decide what to do, whether to hold position or bring back Ryan. Then he asked his lieutenant for advice.


“Part of me feels that the boy is right. He has done nothing to deserve a ticket home. It’s his duty to stay with his men, we can’t force him to obey us. And part of me feels that we should stay here for a while. What if by chance, we survived today, then we all would have earned the right to go home.”


They all stayed – Capt. Miller’s team and the 101st Airborne.


Some hours later, a large group of German soldiers backed by Panzer and Tiger tanks headed toward them, and a battle was fought. Capt. Miller utilised the scare resources so efficiently that the tanks were almost defeated. But by the time reinforcement arrived, Capt. Miller was dead, his lieutenant was dead, the 101st airborne men were dead, only Ryan and two of the rescue team members survived.


Miller’s last words to Ryan was – “I have earned it.”


I do not know if my review had conveyed the theme of the film properly, but I think the interested reader must have felt a mild curiosity on the film. It is a very good film; one must not miss it even if one is not a war film lover, for the lessons given in this film could be applied in other occupations too.


The first few minutes of the film is breathtaking. One will get to know how the grandfathers of the Hippies, the Rock&Roll, the Punk-Rock and the Hip-Hop youngsters had fought to make life easy for their grandchildren. They did not get the support of Smart Bombs or U2 planes; they fought as hard as their souls could allow.


The film starts with a very aged Ryan kneeling at the Normandy war cemetery, the camera slowly goes through his eyes, and the next moment it comes out from Capt. Miller’s view, who sat tensed and nervous on a landing craft headed for Omaha beach, where in the vast open sand German machine guns and mortars waited in silence. At the end of the film, when Capt. Miller is dead, the camera goes through his eyes and comes out from the kneeling Ryan.


I recommend this film. The reader might find other interesting aspects in the film, things that I might have missed in my review.


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