#RookieReviews: 'Saving Private Ryan'

A movie-watching novice reviews 1998 classic war film

When I tweeted on Saturday that I was back to watching movies for #RookieReviews, this is the meme I was sent. 


Now, two days later, I know that no meme could be truer. 

In my quest to conquer movies that everyone in their right mind have seen, my third movie was "Saving Private Ryan," the 1998 war classic starring Tom Hanks. 

I approached the movie knowing very little, other than a particular battle scene in the movie was named as one of the most life-like scenes in Hollywood -- storming Omaha Beach in Normandy. While I was not in Normandy, clearly, I could tell it was real. I could tell that it had been written, produced and directed with heroes in mind. It was true, it was authentic but it was also respectful. 

The transition into the movie with the eyes was beautiful. I think it captures what a lot of veterans go through -- being captured by old memories. It did, though, lead me to believe the movie was being told through Capt. Miller's eyes, and that's who "Dad" was at the beginning. 

I found the concept of searching for this one man really quite touching. It took just one observant woman writing telegrams (telegraphs?) to notice that three of four brothers had died. More so, that woman knew it would mean a great deal to her to have him go home. 

I was not surprised to see commanding officials say "no" to the search for Pvt. Ryan. I was, however, surprised that another officer bypassed him with a solid, "nuh-uh. We're finding him."

The internal battle between saving one while losing a few to save many is never easy. It's a complex issue that people in a lot of walks of life don't ever come to terms with, and understandably so. 

Here's the exchange between Capt. Miller and Sgt. Horvath (lovingly known as "Sarge" in the movie) reflecting on it. 

Capt. Miller: You see, when, when you end up killing one of your men, you tell yourself it happened so you could save the lives of two or three or 10 others. Maybe a hundred others. Do you know how many men I’ve lost under my command?
Sgt. Horvath: How many?
Miller: Ninety four. But that means I’ve saved the lives of 10 times that many, doesn’t it? Maybe even 20, right? Twenty times as many? And that’s how simple it is. That’s how you, that’s how, you rationalize making the choice between the mission and the man. 
Horvath: Except this time the mission is the man.

It was touching to me because to get through the day, to make it to one more tomorrow, he has to riddle it all down to arithmetic. How hard.

It was sad to see so many of the men die along the way, especially when they all first find Pvt. Ryan and he seems not to care for what they've done, appreciate it or have any part of it. Of course, it's after the battle, when Miller lays his life on the line, when he sees that last piece of explosive and lures the Germans in, that Pvt. Ryan truly understands what Capt. Miller did for him. His last words, "Earn this, earn it," telling Pvt. Ryan to earn this live, earn the right to have made it out of the world alive -- referencing his exchange with Sarge before he died and Miller was unsure of the mission after Ryan refused to leave. 

Horvath: What are your orders?
Miller: Sergeant, we have crossed some strange boundary here. The world has taken a turn for the surreal. 
Horvath: Clearly, but the question still stands.
Miller: I don't know, what do you think? 
Horvath: You don't want to know what I think.
Miller: No Mike, I do. 
Horvath: Well, part of me thinks the kid's right. What's he done to deserve this? He wants to go to stay here, fine. Let's leave him and go home.
Miller: Yeah. 
Horvath: But another part of me thinks, what if by some miracle we stay, then actually make it out of here. Someday we might look back on this and decided that saving Pvt. Ryan was the one decent thing we were able to pull out this whole G**-awful, sh***y mess. That's what I was thinking, sir. Like you said, Captain, we do that, we all earn the right to go home. 

The ending is when I cried. Miller and Ryan's moment as Miller died and my realization that the man in the opening of the movie is Ryan, not Miller as I had first thought. His speaking to Miller's grave got me, as I have done at my grandparents' graves at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery. 

I would absolutely recommend this movie to anyone. The opening battle scene isn't easy to watch, but it's worth it and it's real. It definitely gives you a sense of appreciation for what those soldiers did and a sense of understanding for what they go through. 


And Cpl. Upham? 

Yeah. That character sucked.

Up next: 
I will finish "Schindler's List" this week or this weekend. I have not yet decided which movie I will watch next. Have an idea? Send it to GMSAat9@ksat.com or tweet me @ellierosetx.

Thanks to MovieQuotesAndMore.com for help with quotes for this article.