June 6th 1944 is known as the day that turned the tides of World War II. Allied troops both Para dropped and landed on French occupied territory via the English Channel. For Captain John Miller, the beach was enough, but after only three short days of recovery, Miller and his squad of men are sent in search of what has become a very important soldier. Receiving his orders from the very top , Miller and his men set out in search of a James Francis Ryan from Iowa. Along the way, Germans kill two of Miller s men, provoking the question, How many men are worth one man s life? As the movie progresses, Captain Miller s team finally finds Private Ryan, the man they were sent to save. John explains to him that all three of his brothers were killed in action, and as a result of this, James Ryan, the last surviving brother of the Ryan family, is ordered to be returned home so that he may carry on the family name.
However the conflict arises when James is reluctant to leave and is determined to stay with the only brothers he has left , in order to defend a strategic bridge who s defense is vital in determining the immediate tide of the war. Again, Captain Miller, after already loosing two of his men, decides that Ryan and his fellow soldiers cannot hold the point on their own, and that he and his men will aid the already weakened defenders in hopes of not only defending the bridge from the Germans, but also to save Private Ryan from what would other-wise be his inevitable death.
After hasty preparations and decisive planning, the French ghost town previously torn apart by war, erupts to life once again with the sounds of conflict. The town of Rommel is slowly but surely being overtaken by the Germans, their numbers too great for Miller s men to fend off. On top of that, Captain Miller s squad is diminishing by the minute and all hope seems lost. John gives the order to fall back to the predetermined point of retreat called the Alamo . This is the point of no return, and their last resort is to blow the bridge in order to prevent the Germans from gaining a strategic stronghold in the region. With bullets whizzing by and ricocheting in every direction, Captain Miller stands up, thus revealing himself to enemy fire, and moves to get the device needed to trigger the bridge to explode. However, Captain Miller takes a bullet from a German soldier on the other side of the bridge, and he falls to the ground. He knows its over, he knows he has failed, and that he will soon die. Private Ryan soon rushes to his side, along with one of Miller s original men. Miller looks at Ryan and simply says in his last dying breath, Earn it earn it. Captain John Miller then dies, and Ryan is left standing there alone, facing the realization that Miller s men selflessly gave their lives for someone they didn t even know, a true sacrifice.
Did James Francis Ryan earn what he got from those men? Did Private Ryan repay the men that had died so long ago with a good, honest, and productive life? The movie says yes , and it concludes with Ryan saluting the graves of his fellow comrades who fell more than fifty years ago so that he could go home and live a full life. I believe Stephen Spielberg wants the viewers of this movie to believe that Ryan did the best he could to fulfill the wishes of Captain Miller. Certainly, Ryan did not neglect or squander the tremendous gift, which was bestowed upon him; instead, he lived a good life, had children and never forgot the 2nd chance at life he was given.
From a Christian perspective, the underlying theme of the soldier s sacrifice for Ryan coincides with Jesus sacrifice for us. These are not even remotely the same in how they relate, however they are similar in their principle. Miller s men gave their lives so one man could live and get another chance at life here on earth. Similarly, Jesus sacrificed his own life so that we might be saved spiritually. The soldiers who gave their lives in the movie never saw what was to become of Ryan, rather they obeyed their orders and laid down their lives in the name of freedom amidst tyranny.
Saving Private Ryan is a violent and graphic movie. It is rated R because of the strong physical violence and repetitive use of profane language. This movie should not be viewed by one with a weak stomach or low tolerance for foul words. However, many have said that this movie has come the closest to depicting how horrible WWII in Europe actually was. The breakthrough method of cinematography, in the beginning, on the beach, gave viewers a first person view at what storming a heavily defended beach might have been like. And the authentic German Panzer and Tiger tanks in the end along with other armored vehicles, and Spielberg s attention to detail, made this movie absolutely unforgettable. I believe therefore, that anyone who sees this movie will walk away with an awesome sense of respect and honor for those who had to endure the indescribably hellish conflicts in WWII. Spielberg surpassed any previous expectations with this production, and seeing such an accurate representation of what those men some fifty years ago had to endure, evokes feelings far beyond respect, admiration, and appreciation for our soldier s actions. In the name of freedom they served, and in that same name they died. I highly recommend this movie to anyone who can tolerate a few relatively short scenes of extreme violence and profanity. In studying this film I have gained an even greater respect for our country and the men who have so selflessly served in its defense and honor, I sincerely hope that in viewing this film, you will too.