Tom Hanks has been part of some truly amazing films over the years. When it’s all said and done he’s likely to have one of the greatest acting careers of all time and will have put together one of the most iconic movie resumes ever put together. So many of his films stand the test of time and have become part of the zeitgeist. And one of them, a truly remarkable feat of filmmaking in terms of story, history, characters, and scope is about to leave streaming. You have until May 1st to catch Saving Private Ryan on Netflix. It’s one of the truly great World War II movies ever made and it’s worth taking the time to catch it before it leaves streaming.
Saving Private Ryan begins in the *present-day* at a graveyard in Normandy, the sight of the famous and critical D-Day invasion that began the United States’ entry into the European theater for the war. We see a man overcome with emotion and then we are transported back in time to that famous day. From there, the film wastes no time introducing us to the horrors of war. Tom Hanks plays Captain John Miller and he and his men are preparing to exit the troop carrier boat. The viewer is then unapologetically made aware of the horrific nature of this day. The American troops are bombarded with enemy gunfire and resistance from the German forces on the beach.
Tom Hanks and his men are able to survive the D-Day invasion though it is let on that one soldier, with the last name of Ryan, has been killed. Back in Washington DC, we learn that he isn’t the only Ryan brother to die during the invasion. Three other members of the family lost their lives and now it’s become a military imperative to make sure the last Ryan son is rescued and brought home lest the entire family line end in the war. Tom Hanks and his men are sent on a mission to find James Francis Ryan and bring him home.
Thus begins a truly amazing movie about men, war, faith, brotherhood, good, evil, and what happens when men are sent into battle to fight for their lives and their country. Tom Hanks and his men work their way across France in and out of enemy lines to find Ryan which begs a philosophical question about the value of one man over the lives of the others sent to find him. Is there a moral imperative to save Ryan if it comes at the cost of many others? It’s just one of the things that plague these men along the way.
Tom Hanks and company eventually find Private Ryan and in doing so must set about making something like a last stand against a German outfit which is advancing on their position. The movie is unrelenting, both beautiful and brutal at the same time. In the end, we do learn who that man was at the opening in the cemetery though that’s for the viewer to find out.
Saving Private Ryan was directed by Steven Spielberg and became one of the defining movies of the late 1990s. Some of the action and fighting scenes were so realistic in the way that they were shot that it actually was reported to have triggered PTSD reactions among World War II vets who saw the film.
Joining Tom Hanks in the cast was an all-star group of actors who rounded out his group. There’s Tom Sizemore, Ed Burns, Vin Diesel, Jeremy Davies, Adam Goldberg, Barry Pepper, and Giovanni Ribisi. Plus there’s of course Matt Damon as the titular Private Ryan. Also included in the film in smaller roles are Ted Danson, Paul Giamatti, and Dennis Farina.
Saving Private Ryan was just another in the laundry list of award-winning films on Tom Hanks’s resume. Steven Spielberg won an Oscar for Best Director and the film was nominated for Best Picture as well but somehow lost to Shakespeare in Love. Tom Hanks was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role but Roberto Benigni won for Life is Beautiful.
In terms of critical success and box office return, this was another massive win for Tom Hanks. The film earned over $480 million in ticket sales on just a $70 million budget. And it’s sitting at 93% on Rotten Tomatoes which feels about 7% too low. In all this is one of the great movies ever. And there’s still time to check it out on Netflix before it goes off the platform. Take some time this weekend and check it out.