Tom Hanks has standing as one of the greatest actors of our time was solidified when he received the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 2020 Golden Globes. Now, an amazing film in Hanks’ library is once again available on Netflix but if you haven’t seen it (not sure how that’s even possible) or haven’t seen it in a long time, prepare yourself. The movie packs a wallop.
Saving Private Ryan is an epic (with a 2-hour 49-minute running time) World War II movie from director Steven Spielberg and starring Hanks as Captain John Miller. He first must navigate his way through the Normandy Invasion and then take his squad on a virtual suicide mission to bring home a soldier who has lost his three brothers to the war.
When Saving Private Ryan begins, we get a brief introduction to an elderly man visiting Normandy cemetery. When the man reaches a tombstone, he falls to his knees. Spielberg barely gives his audience time to reflect on this moment because what comes next is 24-minutes of the horrors of war. It is immediately graphic, heart-wrenching, and many times hard to watch. The opening sequence follows soldiers as they prepare to storm Omaha Beach and then the sheer terror which follows as the landing crafts lower their doors for the slaughter. It is a scene that has been etched into the minds of millions.
For all its horror and graphic depiction of Omaha Beach, the opening sequence also set up Tom Hanks as Captain Miller as well as the men under his command. Tom Sizemore portrays Technical Sergeant Mike Horvath, while Edward Burns is PFC Richard Reiben and Barry Pepper is Private Daniel Jackson. Also in the group is Vin Diesel as PFC Adrian Caparzo, Adam Goldberg as Private Stanley “Fish” Mellish, Giovanni Ribisi as Medic Irwin Wade, and Jeremy Davies as Corporal Timothy Upham. When their portion of D-Day is complete, Miller gets his orders, much to the chagrin of those seven men he chooses for the mission. They are to go find a Private James Ryan and bring him home safely as his three brothers have been killed in combat and he is the remaining son in the Ryan family.
Saving Private Ryan is loosely based on the true story of the Niland Brothers. During WWII, the four Niland’s served, and it was thought that three of them had been killed in action. So, the fourth, Fritz, was brought home to serve out the remainder of his service. It was only much later that Fritz discovered that his brother Edward, who had been presumed dead, was actually a prisoner of war in a Japanese POW camp. While this Tom Hanks film is fictionalized, there are kernels of truth throughout.
The horrors of war continued as Tom Hanks leads his squad through German-occupied Western Europe in search of Private Ryan. One by one, Miller begins to lose men in his command. But as they carry on their mission, they eventually find out that Private Ryan is helping defend an important bridge in Ramelle.
When Miller and his remaining squad finally reach Private Ryan (played by Matt Damon), Ryan is upset that he has lost his brothers to the war, but he refuses to leave his fellow soldiers, knowing how important holding the bridge is to the war. Miller decides that he and his squad will join Ryan and his group of paratroopers to help hold the bridge. The American casualties are many during the final skirmish against the Germans, with very few surviving the battle. When we finally get back to the elderly man at the cemetery, we realize who he actually is and whose grave he is visiting.
Steven Spielberg hit it out of the park with his horrific look at World War II. Saving Private Ryan was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, taking home five including a Best Director nod for Spielberg. It also won Best Picture and Best Director at the Golden Globes. Since its release, the Tom Hanks-led movie has been considered one of the most influential war movies of all time as well as one of the greatest movies to ever be made. Spielberg was able to recreate WWII on a $70 million budget, which included $12 million just for his opening Omaha Beach invasion. Worldwide, Saving Private Ryan brought home over $482 million at the box office.
Tom Hanks is truly an American icon when it comes to the film industry. He got his start on the short-lived TV comedy series Bosom Buddies and jumped into the feature film side of the business with his comedic turn in Ron Howard’s Splash. Hanks would hit a couple of snags with movies like The Man with One Red Shoe and Volunteers but got back on track with Big. Another few duds were offered by Tom Hanks but then came A League of Their Own which he quickly followed with Sleepless in Seattle and Hanks was on his way.
By the time Hanks got to the set of Saving Private Ryan, he had already won Academy Awards for Philadelphia, portraying a gay lawyer who was dying from AIDS as well as for his wonderful performance as Forrest Gump. In total, Tom Hanks has been nominated for six Academy Awards. Most recently, Hanks received the aforementioned 2020 Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award. The list of other Hanks’ accolades is long, as are the further successes he has had at the box office. His latest movie, News of the World, was met with good reviews and on tap for Hanks is an upcoming Elvis Presley project in which Hanks plays Elvis’ longtime manager Colonel Tom Parker. Also, in the near future, Tom Hanks is about to play Geppetto in the live-action Disney remake of Pinocchio.
If you are in the mood for a true Tom Hanks masterpiece, check out Saving Private Ryan on Netflix.