As a retired army officer and an adjunct history professor I thought it was important to review what I consider the best war movies depicting the challenges of leadership and the command of men.
This is the best movie depicting the “lonely place” command can be, especially when you do not believe in the mission! “Saving Private Ryan” is the greatest Hollywood movie showing the reality of infantry combat ever made. The first 30 minutes showing the D-Day invasion was only missing the sense of smell to complete the realism!
Tom Hanks is Ranger Captain John Miller who receives orders from the “top” to take 8 of his men and comb the countryside for airborne Pvt. James Ryan, (Matt Damon), because he has recently lost 3 of his brothers in combat; thus, leaving him as the sole survivor, and the “brass” wants to get him home. Looking for a needle in the haystack and fighting several skirmishes doing it while his men gripe and moan why they must needlessly put their lives in danger is the real life tension and challenge of command that makes this movie # 1 on my list of movies depicting command challenges. I know I cried at the ending, how about you?
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A stalwart Tom Hanks plays Captain Miller, a soldier's soldier, who takes a small band of troops behind enemy lines to retrieve a private whose three brothers have recently been killed in action. It's a public relations move for the Army, but it has historical precedent dating back to the Civil War. Some critics of the film have labeled the central characters stereotypes. If that is so, this movie gives stereotypes a good name: Tom Sizemore as the deft sergeant, Edward Burns as the hotheaded Private Reiben, Barry Pepper as the religious sniper, Adam Goldberg as the lone Jew, Vin Diesel as the oversize Private Caparzo, Giovanni Ribisi as the soulful medic, and Jeremy Davies, who as a meek corporal gives the film its most memorable performance.
The movie is as heavy and realistic as Spielberg's Oscar-winning Schindler's List, but it's more kinetic. Spielberg and his ace technicians (the film won five Oscars:Saving Private Ryan touches us deeper than Schindler because it succinctly links the past with how we should feel today. It's the film Spielberg was destined to make. --Doug Thomas