Nominated for eleven Academy Awards, this film received five (for direction, cinematography, editing, sound, and special effects editing) and each was deserved. Much as I admire Shakespeare in Love, I remain convinced that Saving Private Ryan should have received another Oscar as best film. For those of us who were not involved with D-Day and the period which immediately followed it, this film enables us to get a sense of what it was like. Obviously, heroic efforts to "save" Ryan provide the primary plot. However, I was (and am) most impressed by how Spielberg enables us to empathize with the legitimate concerns about what that "salvation" requires of those ordered to achieve it.
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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