Then comes D-day. Easily one of the greatest film sequences of all time and Spielberg directs the hell out of it. WWII veterans have even said that “they got everything right but the smell.” I feel like I do not need to go into too much detail here because words just wouldn't do it justice. What I love about it is at the end of this sequence, Spielberg decides to show us a montage of the dead in the most beautiful way that he can. “Yes it is. Quite a view….” Never have words meant more than in this moment. We hear Williams score come in again as we see the dead who have sacrificed everything. It is a view we will never get again and hope to never see again. I just feel it is a moment we all need and remember what those men gave their lives for. A beautiful and important moment in all of cinema.
As the film moves along we follow Captain Miller and his troops as they try and locate Private Ryan. Along the way, lives are lost within the group and the true effects of the war start to take its toll. What I think Spielberg does effectively, with help from the brilliant cinematography from Janusz Kaminski, is that he slowly starts to isolate each of the characters. Not so much that they are alone, just that he starts to break them up with both his staging and visuals. The scene after they attack a German outpost in a field is the beginning of the end for the group and Spielberg makes that very evident. After that moment, they are never the same and have slowly kind of drifted away from one another. Even though they come together to help dig the graves, the stress and toll of this mission has already reached its tipping point.
Spielberg to me is one of the best at staging scenes and knowing where to move the characters. The final battle is a perfect example of this. As the battle rages on, we jump around from character to character and see that they are each separated from one another. Yes they are with other American soldiers, but those soldiers are not who they have been fighting with throughout the film. And as we come to find out, they will also die away from one another as well. And I think that I what is most important about this journey. Casualties will be lost in order for the greater good. Those that are lucky enough to survive have a chance to “earn this” or earn what is now given to them. A new life.
Saving Private Ryan to me is not just a war film but really a reflection on a band of brothers. A group that sacrificed their lives so that others could live. Spielberg is able to craft a gripping and mesmerizing film that will hold up for generations to come. How this didn't win best picture is beyond me, but we can all agree that this will stand this test of time and that we will never see anything like this again.
Bottom Line: What Spielberg has achieved here is nothing short of brilliant. One of the greatest directorial efforts and films of all time.