Miller's squad is a family, tried under the most unbelievable circumstance, and they bond as a family unit. And as such, they feel the understandable pain when one of their family is taken from them. Toward the end, it seems, they begin to see that what they're doing for Private Ryan is really no different than what they'd do for any of their own squad/family members.
The value of a human life pops up repeatedly through "Saving Private Ryan," from the opportunity to help some small children to the urge to wreak vengeance on a Nazi soldier they hold responsible for gunning down one of their mates. But rather than moralize, the film presents the events matter-of-factly and lets you draw your own conclusions.
Hat's off to Spielberg for this, too. Perhaps he saw this film as being too important for liberal dogma. Or perhaps he realized that it's because of the people who sacrificed during the events portrayed in this film, and others, that all of us are free to spout whatever dogma we choose today.
But we've lost so much. Our forefathers gave their lives to ensure our freedom, yet today we are no longer nearly as free as we were even 50 years ago - the creeping loss of freedoms adding up so that, while we're free to ride a bicycle, we're no longer free to do it without the helmet mandated by Big Government. Okay, that's a pretty minor example, but count up the freedoms we're losing today and it's a frightening scenario. Heck, some of us are no longer free to express our opinions if they're deemed by others to be offensive or "hurtful".
This isn't the world the heroes of "Saving Private Ryan" saved, and subsequent generations should be ashamed to have squandered so much of their heritage in the name of comfort, ease, and political correctness.
In the end, and at the very end of "Saving Private Ryan," the elderly James Ryan remembers Miller's final words to him and questions the value of his own life as he lived it after being "saved." It's a powerful emotional punch from a director who has the talent and skill to play his audience like a violin, and I defy anyone not to be moved. Heck, I'm tearing up writing this, long after the home theater has gone dark.
"Saving Private Ryan" neither glorifies war, nor does it protest it. It just is, and the war presented here was a - if not the - pivotal moment in the lives of those who waged it. These were men who put their lives on hold, went over to a hell hole thousands of miles away, did a dirty job, and came home to build new lives, burying their experiences inside them, but never forgetting them even though they didn't talk a lot about them.
What Spielberg, through Robert Rodat's script, does glorify is these people - people who had the courage and the vision to put the safety and freedom of the human race above their own comfort and convenience. Despite the revisionists who seem to have so much control over our current perception of these past events, the generation portrayed in "Saving Private Ryan" wasn't a bunch of misled cattle, neither was it a bunch of gung ho jocks intent on crying havoc and letting slip the dogs of war.
No, they knew exactly what they were doing, and why. And despite knowing what they were in for (as much as one can know such things without having actually experienced them first), they went anyway, and they not only saved the fictional Private Ryan, they saved every one of us who came after.
Steven Spielberg has done a superb job of showing us this.
Lest we forget.
Paramount's Sapphire Series Blu-ray does the subject matter justice. The film's 1080p picture is presented in widescreen (1.85:1) with a dts HD Master Audio 5.1 surround soundtrack and the picture and the sound are superb. The video quality features that "faded" look Spielberg used to such good effect to give the movie a truly "documentary-like" look, but it's sharp and clean and with good depth. Some grain is in evidence, but rather than detract it helps to give the film an authentic, 1944 look. It's an ultra-realistic rendering of an important and ultra-realistic film.
The audio matches the visuals beautifully, with excellent dynamics and the mixing of the ordnance whizzing around the home theater is spectacular - frightening and involving. But it's more than that; quieter scenes are just as realistic and enveloping and the overall feel is one of being there.
Paramount's two-disc Blu-ray also includes more than three hours of bonus features, many of which are in HD:
As mentioned at the top, Saving Private Ryan should be on every high school's curriculum, but it won't be. That is not only a shame, but a damning testament to the revisionist, politically correct age in which we now live.
Saving Private Ryan,
from Paramount Home Video
169 minutes, 1080p widescreen (1.85:1), dts HD Master Audio
Starring Tom Hanks, Edward Burns, Matt Damon, Tom Sizemore
Produced by Steven Spielberg & Ian Bryce and Mark Gordon & Gary Levinson, Written by Robert Rodat
Directed by Steven Spielberg