Over the years, there have been war films based on different wars that either feature real-life characters or fictional characters. Saving Private Ryan is one that is a combination of both; characters are fictional but the invasion of Normandy itself is true. Also, there are films set during a war that features normal people not in combat but there are others set during a war where there are soldiers in combat. In all honesty, Saving Private Ryan is the absolute masterpiece of them all and there are many reasons for this. The action scenes were filmed and directed literally perfect, the opening action scene on Omaha Beach is quite possibly one of the most powerful openings in cinema history, it is directed by the legendary Steven Spielberg with the great Tom Hanks in the leading role and it takes us into great depth with war. We see the horror of war and the ugliness that people have to kill each other for what is right whatever the cost, the determination, courage and bravery that the Allies (especially British, Americans, French and Soviet Unions) had. It also showed that there is still beauty in the world and there was a bit of beauty shown during World War II because the soldiers bond, make friends and share their thoughts on life, family etc.
I would call Saving Private Ryan an unusually artistic film in a lot of ways because the background settings were so fantastic and the cinematography was breathtaking. Most artistic scenes were scenes with the sunset/sunrise and a soldier in front of the camera looking all-black like a shadow. I would also call Saving Private Ryan a road film because these 8 soldiers are hiking across France to just search for one man and it is indeed an intense, brutal and quite emotional journey. I mean, a lot of action films are overloaded with meaningless explosions (Transformers 1 and 2 for example) but Saving Private Ryan does have a lot of explosions but it is epic! The action, the story, the characters, EVERYTHING! Saving Private Ryan won 5 Academy Awards: Best Director (Steven Spielberg), Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Sound Editing and Best Sound and was nominated for Best Picture 1998, Best Leading Actor (Tom Hanks), Best Original Screenplay, Best Art Direction, Best Make-Up and Best Original Score.
Opening with the Allied invasion of Normandy on 6 June 1944, members of the 2nd Ranger Battalion under Cpt. Miller fight ashore to secure a beachhead. Amidst the fighting, two brothers are killed in action. Earlier in New Guinea, a third brother is KIA. Their mother, Mrs. Ryan, is to receive all three of the grave telegrams on the same day. The United States Army Chief of Staff, George C. Marshall, is given an opportunity to alleviate some of her grief when he learns of a fourth brother, Private James Ryan, and decides to send out 8 men (Cpt. Miller and select members from 2nd Rangers) to find him and bring him back home to his mother.
You may find the plot is very basic but it goes a lot deeper than a group of men searching for one man and to be honest, there aren't many war films with quite a simple dialogue. First of all, I must point out that the ensemble cast is just incredible and gladly Tom Hanks who is one of my favourite actors is in the leading role! His performance as Captain John H. Miller was just brilliant and can be added to his best performances list and maybe even the best leading performance in a war film. What I loved about Captain Miller's character wasn't only that because he was a brave leader with a big heart but also because he was before he fought in the war a school teacher and that is brave. Also, despite the entire war isn't completely in his hands, he still has hope for him and his men to find Ryan and get their justice to go home. Matt Damon was in the early stages of his career and already earned a Best Leading Actor Oscar nomination for Good Will Hunting as well as a Best Original Screenplay Oscar win which he shared with Ben Affleck and unfortunately, his acting wasn't that awesome for such a crucial and important character in the film. I mean, he was decent but could have been a lot better.
Steven Spielberg has always been a director of making blockbusters all part of different genres and he has made history with Saving Private Ryan in this case by this becoming the first blockbuster war film. It is now his time to make a war film and gladly Saving Private Ryan was the one he chose to make. As many times as I have seen this film, I still can't believe how brilliantly Spielberg directed the opening beach scene and the final action scene where Miller and his men eventually find Private Ryan. In a lot of ways, I would call Saving Private Ryan a tribute from Steven Spielberg to all of the Allies and innocent civilians who lost their lives during both World Wars. The script really impressed me especially the beach scene at the start. I mean, it must have been really hard to write a scene like that which controls the actions of a character and what they say and how they must say it so that is another way where Spielberg's direction was flawless.
Overall, Saving Private Ryan is a landmark of cinema that, in my view, felt almost completely real from the beginning to the end. Steven Spielberg has created another masterpiece that can be added alongside Jaws, Schindler's List, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial and the Indiana Jones franchise on the greatest works from Spielberg. It is definitely one of Tom Hanks's best roles as well and always will be. One of the greatest war films ever as well as one of the best films of all time.