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Saving Private Ryan is a 1998 American war film set during the invasionmarker of Normandy in World War II. It was directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Robert Rodat. The film is notable for the intensity of its opening 25 minutes, which depict the Omaha beachhead assaultmarker of June 6, 1944. Afterward, it follows Tom Hanks as Captain John H. Miller and several men (Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Barry Pepper, Vin Diesel, Giovanni Ribisi, Adam Goldberg and Jeremy Davies) as they search for a paratrooper (Matt Damon), who is the last surviving brother of three fallen servicemen.

Rodat first came up with the film's story in 1994 when he saw a monument dedicated to four brothers born to Agnes Allison of Port Carbon, PA, who died during the American Civil War. The monument was erected twenty-three years after her first son was killed. Inspired by the story, Rodat decided to write a similar story set during World War II. The script was submitted to producer Mark Gordon, who then handed it to Hanks. It was finally given to Spielberg, who had previously demonstrated his interest in WWII themes with films such as Schindler's List, and decided to direct Saving Private Ryan after reading the film's script. The film's premise is very loosely based on the real-life case of the Niland brothers.

Saving Private Ryan was well received by audiences and garnered considerable critical acclaim, winning several awards for film, cast, and crew as well as earning significant returns at the box office. The film grossed US$550 million worldwide, making it the highest-grossing film of the year. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences nominated the film for eleven Academy Awards; Spielberg's direction won him a second Academy Award for Best Director. Saving Private Ryan was released on home video in May 1999, earning $44 million from sales.


The film begins in the present day with an elderly World War II veteran (Harrison Young) and his family visiting the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorialmarker at Colleville-sur-mermarker; Normandy, Francemarker. The veteran collapses to his knees in front of a gravestone, overwhelmed by emotion. The scene then dissolves to the morning of June 6, 1944, the beginning of the Normandy invasionmarker, with American soldiers first trying to cope with the sickness-inducing ride in a landing craft, and then the perils of landing on Omaha Beachmarker and struggling against dug-in German infantry, machine gun nests and artillery fire. One of the officers who survives the initial landing, Captain John H. Miller (Tom Hanks), commanding officer of C Company, 2nd Ranger Battalion, assembles a group of soldiers and slowly penetrates the German defenses, leading to a breakout from the beach.

Meanwhile, in the United States, General George C. Marshall discovers that three of the four brothers of the Ryan family have all died within days of each other and that their mother will receive all three notices on the same day. He learns that the fourth son, Private First Class James Francis Ryan (Matt Damon) of Baker Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment is missing in action somewhere in Normandy. After reading to his staff Abraham Lincoln's Letter to Mrs. Bixby, Marshall orders that Ryan be found and sent home immediately.

Back in France, Miller receives orders from his battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Walter Anderson (Dennis Farina), to find Ryan. He assembles six Rangers from his company (Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Barry Pepper, Vin Diesel, Giovanni Ribisi, and Adam Goldberg), plus one man detailed from the 29th Infantry Division (Jeremy Davies), who speaks fluent French and German, to accomplish this task. With no information about Ryan's whereabouts, Miller and his men move out to Neuville. On the outskirts of Neuville they meet a platoon from the 101st. After entering the town Private Adrian Caparzo (Vin Diesel) is fatally wounded by a sniper and dies. They locate a Private James Fredrick Ryan from Minnesotamarker (Nathan Fillion) but soon realize their mistake. They find a member of Charlie Company, 506th, who informs them that his drop zone was at Viervillemarker. He also tells them that both Baker and Charlie companies have the same rally point. Once they reach the rally point, Miller locates a friend of Ryan's, who reveals that Ryan is defending a strategically-important bridge over the Merderet Rivermarker in the fictional town of Ramelle.

On the way to Ramelle, Miller decides to take the opportunity to neutralize a small German machine gun position close to an abandoned radar station. Technician Fourth Grade Irwin Wade (Ribisi), their medic, is fatally wounded in the ensuing skirmish. The last surviving German, known only as "Steamboat Willie" (Joerg Stadler), incurs the wrath of all the squad members except Technician Fifth Grade Timothy E. Upham (Davies), who protests to Miller about letting the squad kill the German soldier. Miller decides to let the German walk away and surrender himself to the next Allied patrol, a decision viewed by Private First Class Richard Reiben (Burns) as letting the enemy go free. No longer confident in Miller's leadership, Reiben declares his intention to desert, prompting a tense confrontation with Technical Sergeant Michael "Mike" Horvath (Sizemore) that threatens to tear the squad apart, until Miller defuses the situation by revealing his origins, on which the squad had formed a betting pool; Miller is an English teacher and high school baseball coach in the fictional town of Adley, Pennsylvania. Reiben remains with the group.

The squad finally arrives on the outskirts of Ramelle where they destroy a German mechanized reconnaissance unit with the help of some American paratroopers, one of them being Ryan. The unit regroups in Ramelle, joining with the American paratroopers defending the town, where Miller informs Ryan of his brothers' deaths and of their mission to bring him home. Ryan adamantly refuses to leave his makeshift unit, demanding that he remain to help defend the bridge against an impending German counterattack. Miller reluctantly agrees and orders his unit to help defend the bridge in the upcoming battle, taking command and setting up the defense with what little manpower and resources they have. There are fewer than twenty American soldiers in the town.

The Germans arrive in force supported by two Tiger I tanks, two self propelled guns, a towed FlaK 38 cannon, and half-tracks. Miller leads the defense, but in spite of inflicting heavy German casualties, most of his remaining squad members are killed. While attempting to blow the bridge, Miller is shot by "Steamboat Willie", who is now with the German unit attacking the town, and is fatally wounded. Just before a Tiger reaches the bridge, an American P-51 Mustang arrives and destroys the tank, followed by more Mustangs and advancing American infantry and M4 Sherman tanks who assault the town and rout the remaining German forces. Upham executes "Steamboat Willie", having witnessed him shoot Miller. Ryan, Reiben and Upham are the only main characters to survive the battle, and Ryan is with Miller as he dies and hears his last words, "James... earn this. Earn it."

Back in the present, the elderly veteran is revealed to be Ryan at Miller's grave. Ryan asks his wife to confirm that he has led a good life and that he is a "good man", and thus worthy of Miller's and the others' sacrifice. He then salutes Miller's grave as the camera pans down the gravestones to the American flag and fades out.


Main cast

Supporting cast



In 1994, Robert Rodat saw a monument in Putney Corners, New Hampshiremarker, dedicated to eight brothers who died during the American Civil War. Inspired by the story, Rodat did some research and decided to write a similar story set in World War II. Rodat's script was submitted to producer Mark Gordon, who liked the story but only accepted the text after 11 redrafts. Gordon shared the finished script with Hanks, who liked it and in turn passed it along to Spielberg to direct. A shooting date was set for June 27, 1997. Before filming began, several of the film's stars, including Edward Burns, Barry Pepper, Vin Diesel, Adam Goldberg and Giovanni Ribisi as well as Tom Hanks, endured ten days of "boot camp" training and work on the film set to prepare for their roles. Purposely, to make the rest of the group feel resentment to Matt Damon's character, Damon was not brought into the camp until the final days.

Spielberg had already demonstrated his interest in World War II themes with the films 1941, Empire of the Sun, Schindler's List, and the Indiana Jones series. Spielberg later co-produced the World War II themed television miniseries Band of Brothers with Tom Hanks. When asked about this by American Cinematographer, Spielberg said, "I think that World War II is the most significant event of the last 100 years; the fate of the Baby Boomers and even Generation X was linked to the outcome. Beyond that, I’ve just always been interested in World War II. My earliest films, which I made when I was about 14 years old, were combat pictures that were set both on the ground and in the air. For years now, I’ve been looking for the right World War II story to shoot, and when Robert Rodat wrote Saving Private Ryan, I found it."

The D-Day scenes were shot in Ballinesker Beach, Curracloe Stand, Ballinesker, just east of Curracloemarker, Wexfordmarker, Irelandmarker. Filming began June 27, 1997, and lasted for two months. Some shooting was done in Normandy, for the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorialmarker in Colleville-sur-Mermarker and Calvadosmarker. Other scenes were filmed in English locations such as a former British Aerospace factory in Hatfield, Hertfordshiremarker, Londonmarker, Thame Parkmarker, Oxfordshire and Wiltshiremarker. Production was due to also take place in Seahammarker, County Durham, but government restrictions disallowed this.

Portraying history

Saving Private Ryan has been critically noted for its realistic portrayal of World War II combat. In particular, the initial 24-minute sequence depicting the Omaha landings was voted the "best battle scene of all time" by Empire magazine and was ranked number one on TV Guide's list of the "50 Greatest Movie Moments". The scene cost US$12 million and involved up to 1,500 extras, some of whom were members of the Irish Army Reserve. Local reenactment groups such as the Second Battle Group were cast as extras to play German soldiers. In addition, twenty to thirty actual amputees were used to portray US soldiers maimed during the landing.

The landing craft used included twelve actual World War II examples. The film-makers used underwater cameras to better depict soldiers being hit by bullets in the water. Forty barrels of fake blood were used to simulate the effect of blood in the seawater. This degree of realism was more difficult to achieve when depicting World War II German armored vehicles, as few examples survive in operating condition. The Tiger tanks in the film were copies built on the chassis of old, but functional Sovietmarker T-34 tanks. The two vehicles described in the film as 'Panzers' were meant to portray Marder III self-propelled guns. One was created for the film using the chassis of a Czechmarker-built Panzer 38 tank similar to the construction of the original Marder III; the other was a cosmetically-modified Swedish SAV m/43 assault gun, which also used the 38(t) chassis.

Inevitably, some artistic license was taken by the filmmakers for the sake of drama. One of the most notable is the depiction of the 2nd SS Division "Das Reich", as the adversary during the fictional Battle of Ramelle. The 2nd SS was not engaged in Normandy until July, and then at Caen against the British and Canadians, a hundred miles east. Further, the Merderet River bridges were not an objective of the 101st Airborne Division but of the 82nd Airborne Division, part of Mission Boston. Much has been said about various 'tactical errors' made by both the German and American forces in the film's climactic battle. Steven Spielberg responded, saying that in many scenes he opted to replace sound military tactics and strict historical accuracy for dramatic effect. Tom Sizemore as Technical Sergeant Michael "Mike" Horvath uses cans to keep the sand of the beach. The word "France" on the lid is written with a felt-tip pen, but the first felt-tip pen was invented in Japan by Yukio Horie in 1962.

To achieve a tone and quality that was not only true to the story, but reflected the period in which it is set, Spielberg once again collaborated with cinematographer Janusz Kamiński, saying, "Early on, we both knew that we did not want this to look like a Technicolor extravaganza about World War II, but more like color newsreel footage from the 1940s, which is very desaturated and low-tech." Kamiński had the protective coating stripped from the camera lenses, making them closer to those used in the 1940s. He explains that "without the protective coating, the light goes in and starts bouncing around, which makes it slightly more diffused and a bit softer without being out of focus." The cinematographer completed the overall effect by putting the negative through bleach bypass, a process that reduces brightness and color saturation. The shutter timing was set to 90 or 45 degrees for many of the battle sequences, as opposed to the standard of 180 degree timing. Kamiński clarifies, "In this way, we attained a certain staccato in the actors' movements and a certain crispness in the explosions, which makes them slightly more realistic."


The film was distributed by DreamWorksmarker in North America and by Paramount Pictures internationally. As a result of Paramount's 2005 acquisition of DreamWorks, Paramount has gained North America distribution rights as well (though still through the DreamWorks division). Saving Private Ryan was a critical and commercial success and is credited with contributing to a resurgence in America's interest in World War II. Old and new films, video games, and novels about the war enjoyed renewed popularity after its release. The film's use of desaturated colors, hand-held cameras, and tight angles has profoundly influenced subsequent films and video games. Saving Private Ryan was released in 2,463 theatres on July 28, 1998, and grossed $30.5 million on its opening weekend. The film grossed $216.5 million domestically and $265 million at the foreign box office, bringing its worldwide total to about $480 million and making it the highest grossing film of the year.


Critical reception for the film was generally positive, with much praise for the realistic battle scenes and the actors' performances, but earning some criticism for the script and for ignoring the contributions of several other countries to the D-Day landings in general and at Omaha Beach specifically. The most direct example of the latter is that during the actual landing the 2nd Rangers disembarked from British ships and were taken to Omaha Beach by Royal Navy landing craft (LCAs). The film depicts them as being United States Coast Guard-crewed craft (LCVPs and LCMs) from an American ship. This criticism was far from universal with other critics recognizing the director's intent to make an "American" film. The film was not released in Malaysiamarker after Spielberg refused to cut the violent scenes; however, the film was finally released there on DVD with an 18SG certificate much later in 2005. It currently scores 92% on Rotten Tomatoes and 90% on Metacritic, two movie review aggregate sites. Many critics associations, such as New York Critics Circle and Los Angeles Film Critics Association, chose Saving Private Ryan as Film of the Year. Roger Ebert gave it four stars out of four and called it "a powerful experience".

The film was later nominated for eleven Academy Awards, with wins for Best Cinematography, Best Sound, Best Sound Editing, Best Editing and Best Director for Spielberg, but lost the Best Picture award to Shakespeare in Love, being one of a few that have won the Best Director award without also winning Best Picture. The film also won the Golden Globes for Best Picture - Drama and Director, the BAFTA Award for Special Effects and Sound, the Directors Guild of America Award, a Grammy Award for Best Film Soundtrack, the Producers Guild of America Golden Laurel Award, and the Saturn Award for Best Action/Adventure/Thriller Film. In June 2008, the American Film Institute revealed its "Ten Top Ten"—the best ten films in ten "classic" American film genres—after polling over 1,500 people from the creative community. Saving Private Ryan was acknowledged as the eighth best film in the "epic films" genre.

Home video

The film debuted on home video in May 1999 with a VHS release that earned over $44 million. A later special edition, the D-Day 60th Anniversary Commemorative Edition, was released featuring an extra tape with documentary footage of the actual D-Day landings as well as the making of the film. The DVD was released in November of the same year, and was one of the best-selling titles of the year, with over 1.5 million units sold. The original DVD was released in two separate versions: one with Dolby Digital and the other with DTS 5.1 surround sound. Besides the different 5.1 tracks, the two DVDs are identical. The film was also issued in a very limited 2-disc Laserdisc release in November 1999, making it one of the very last feature films to ever be issued in this format, as Laserdiscs ceased manufacturing and distribution by the year's end, due in part to the growing popularity of DVDs. In 2004, a Saving Private Ryan special edition DVD was released to commemorate the 60th anniversary of D-Day. This two-disc edition was also included in a box set titled World War II Collection, along with two documentaries produced by Spielberg, Price For Peace (about the Pacific War) and Shooting War (about war photographers, narrated by Tom Hanks).

Television broadcasts

On Veterans Day from 2001 through 2004, the American Broadcasting Company aired the film uncut and with limited commercial interruption. The network airings were given a TV-MA rating, as the violent battle scenes and the profanity were left intact. The 2004 airing was marred by pre-emptions in many markets because of the language, in the backlash of Super Bowl XXXVIII's halftime show controversy. However, critics and veterans' groups such as the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars assailed those stations and their owners, including Hearst-Argyle Television (owner of 14 ABC affiliates); Scripps Howard Broadcasting (owner of eight); and Belo (the owner of four) for putting profits ahead of programming and honoring those who gave their lives at wartime, saying the stations made more money running their own programming instead of being paid by the network to carry the film, especially during a sweeps period. A total of 65 ABC affiliates—28% of the network—did not clear the available timeslot for the film, even with the offer of The Walt Disney Company, ABC's parent, to pay all fines for language to the Federal Communications Commission. In the end, however, no complaints were lodged against ABC affiliates who showed Ryan, perhaps because even conservative watchdog like the Parents Television Council supported the unedited rebroadcast of the film.

From 2005 through 2008, TNT acquired the rights to air the movie, usually airing it as ABC did on Veterans Day, complete and uncut. The movie was syndicated to local stations by Paramount-CBS Domestic Television in 2009, although in a heavily-edited version.




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