Go see this film. "Saving Private Ryan" depicts a more accurate picture of battle (especially World War II) than Hollywood is accustomed to turning out.
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"The mission is a man. In the Last Great Invasion of the Last Great War, The Greatest Challenge for Eight Men was Saving... One."
Capt. Miller: Tom Hanks, Sgt. Horvath: Tom Sizemore, Pvt. Reiben: Edward Burns, Pvt. Jackson: Barry Pepper, Pvt. Mellish: Adam Goldberg. Directed by Steven Spielberg. Written by Robert Rodat. Running time: approximately 170 minutes. Rated R, a near NC17, (for intense prolonged realistically graphic sequences of war violence, and for language).
David Bruce, John Madvig,
Cristian Bruce, Geoffrey Davis.
Saving Private Ryan poster


Saving Ryan 1
What is the value of even one human life? What a story! In the midst of absolute carnage and "human waste" one human being and a mother back home has supreme value. What a paradox.
Saving Ryan 2.
There is built into all of us the will to survive and, yet, the amazing ability to sacrifice our own life for that of another. How amazing we humans are. We are indeed created in the very image of God.

I was surprised by the amount of spirituality, compassion and humanity this film exhibited in the midst of the worst forms of inhumanity. There was a sniper who prayed a psalm before killing. There was the American begging for his life as the German knife came slowly down and into his heart. There was the paralyzing fear of a new recruit who found it hard to kill another human.

My father fought in WW II and my grandfather fought in WW I. They never discussed their experiences with others. After seeing Private Ryan I think I understand why.

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It was important to me that my children see this film. I wanted them to understand World War II and what their grandfathers went through.  Jonathan is 8 and Matthew is 14. -David

Saving Private Ryan
File Review By
John Madvig

An elderly man is walking alone, slightly ahead of his family, into the cemetery at Normandy, France. It is evident that this man lived through the horrors of World War II that we, through his eyes, are about to recall. As he enters the cemetery, a massive sea of grave markers, he falls at the foot of the cross and begins to weep; remembering the sacrifice that was made many years ago in order to secure his salvation. Some of the themes found within Saving Private Ryan are those of salvation, grace, and the willingness to lay down one's life for the life of another.

A group of eight soldiers, having survived the carnage of the D-Day invasion at Omaha Beach (portrayed in 28 minutes of intense, graphic and gory detail), are called upon to find Private James Ryan (Matt Damon), who has lost all three of his
brothers in the battle. He is to be returned home to his family. However, due to some confusion in the invasion, it is not certain where he is to be found; Private Ryan is a "needle in a stack of needles". The soldiers, led by Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) are led reluctantly on their mission. Almost immediately, they begin questioning the worth of risking eight men's lives in order to save one. Honest, rational, and human responses-- and parallel to the situation in which Jesus gave an illustration of a shepherd's lost sheep. "If you had one hundred sheep, and one of them strayed away and was lost in the wilderness, wouldn't you leave the ninety-nine others to go and search for the lost one until you found it? And then you would joyfully carry it home on your shoulders. When you arrived, you would call together your friends and neighbors to rejoice with you because your lost sheep was found. In the same way, heaven will be happier over one lost sinner who returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven't strayed away." (Luke 15:4-7 NLT) Captain Miller rationalizes that each life lost in combat is supposed to save 10 lives. Within that paradigm, how can their current mission make any sense? The soldiers begin to detest their mission to save Private Ryan, even hoping to find his name on one of the dog tags taken from some dead soldiers. It is difficult to be called to rescue someone, to go beyond our comfort zone, and to do that which seems irrational in order to save that which is lost. God's plan sometimes seems irrational on a human level, but "This foolish plan of God is far wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God's weakness is far stronger than the greatest of human strength." (1 Corinthians 1:25)

Captain Miller is the Christ figure in the film. He is obedient to his orders (Father's will) in undertaking the mission, even at the risk of losing his life and the lives of others. He cares about the men under his command (disciples), even if they can't fully understand him. And he is willing to "leave the ninety-nine others to go and search for the lost one (Ryan)."

Private Ryan represents you and me. We are lost in the midst of a grand battle between good and evil, and our Father wants to return us home (to heaven). We are not being sought because of our own value, but because we are members of a family -we are God's children. Too many sons and daughters have already been lost. God (General Marshall) and his Son (Captain Miller) willing to do whatever it takes to get you and me (Ryan) home. Sometimes others around us (and unfortunately Christians can sometimes be most guilty of this) can't understand why God would want anything to do with the Private Ryan's of this world. They are content to leave them to their own devices, to let them "find their own way to the top of the mountain." But God has issued his orders in Matthew 28:19 to "go and make disciples of all nations."

At the end of the film we return to the eyes of the elderly man at the foot of the cross. Still in tears at the magnitude of the sacrifice necessary for his salvation, he looks back at his life. He wants to know that his life has reflected his knowledge of the sacrifice made for him, and that he has made a difference as a result of his redemption. He speaks at the cross, bringing his life before Christ, and hoping to hear the words "Well done, good and faithful servant." This is an important illustration of salvation and works. We do not do good in order to be saved, we do good deeds because we have been saved!

Saving Private Ryan pulls no punches in its graphic description of the violence of war. War is one of the most horrible results of sin, and blood is spilled. Let us also remember that the crucifixion was not a G-rated event. It was an ugly, bloody sacrifice made as a result of sin -in order to allow us to go "home." We ourselves were not worthy, but God showed his love for us by sending his Son into the world knowing that this gruesome death awaited him. God was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, and so we fall at the foot of the cross, asking his forgiveness and hoping to live changed lives as a result. "God saved you by his special favor when you believed. And you can't take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so that none of us can boast about it. For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago." Ephesians 2:8-10

A couple more things to notice in Saving Private Ryan:

The man's eyes at the beginning of the film are transformed into those of the Christ figure of the film, Captain Miller. At the end, these eyes are Private Ryan's. Might this symbolize Christ's resurrection and his continuing presence in the lives of those who believe?

Toward the middle of the film, we meet a pilot whose plane crashed mostly because a General who was attempting to protect himself had loaded down the plane with armor. The pilot stated the difficulty they had even in keeping the plane aloft, much less avoiding the anti-aircraft fire from below. The plane crashed, killing the General along with several others. Perhaps this is an illustration of Matthew 16:25: "For those who want to save their lives will lose them, but those who lose their lives for me will find them." (NIVI)


The Greatest Love.
No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. -John 15:13 NRSV.

One Lost Sheep.
What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray?  And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost. -Matthew 18:12-14 NRSV.


A Review by

I am 27. I have not had to go to war. I haven't lost any friends or immediate family in a war nor have I watched anyone leave to fight for this country. My generation (please don't call us Generation X) is the first to not have to deal with the threat or reality of war. The Gulf War doesn't count because it seemed to be more of a television show on CNN than anything else. It even had a scheduled starting time (Bush's deadline to Hussein). My generation doesn't have a Vietnam, a Korea, a W.W.II, or a W.W.I. The only knowledge I have of these conflicts come from movies, pictures, and documentaries. I have recommended "Saving Private Ryan" to all of my friends. It gives an accurate picture of what combat was like.

It is an important film in that it reminds us of the lives that have been laid down so that we can enjoy the many freedoms that we have. Too many of us take for granted (I know I do) everything that we enjoy in this country. W.W.II has always been portrayed as a very heroic war. Almost all W.W.II movies depict the soldiers as eager fighters, patriots, and with little to no fear to overcome. They knew what they were doing was right and they would put down their lives for their country without hesitation. Even though I have never been in a war, I know that "Saving Private Ryan" depicts a more accurate picture of battle (especially World War II) than Hollywood is accustomed to turning out. The seasick and frightened soldiers are vomiting in their boats on the way to Normandy. The fear in their eyes, the uncertainty of what awaited them, and the mass confusion that occurred when they hit the beach are elements that definitely rang true in Spielberg's war epic. 

Much has been made of the violence and gore in this film. People have been walking out of theaters (I spotted six people walk out when I saw it opening day) during the film's opening thirty minutes because they can't handle the intensity and carnage. This is a tribute to Spielberg's craft. He films the battle scenes in a documentary style. The camera jitters, confusion is rampant, and blood and water splatter the camera lens. This gives the audience the feeling that they are there alongside the soldier, perhaps even inhabiting the soldier's shoes. The violence and carnage that ensues in the first thirty minutes is almost never front and center. It is usually to the side and in the background. Sometimes you aren't quite sure what you are seeing and the closer you pay attention to the battle scenes, the more horrified you become. War isn't pretty and it isn't always heroic. It looks like hell on Earth. Every time the film appeared to be headed back into battle, the audience became uneasy (much like a soldier would) because we now know that no punches are going to be pulled and that violence and bloodshed are about to occur. 

Spielberg made this 27 year old forget that I was in a movie theater, what town I was in, and even what year it was. I was transported back in time to D-Day and from the amount of war veterans that I saw being moved to tears in the theater after the film was over, I would say that Spielberg may have achieved his goal of making one of the most realistic war movies ever put on the silver screen. I think I hear Oscar calling.

Cristian Bruce is my son. He has a degree in English with a minor in film. He is presently working on his teaching credentials at the California State University at Chico.


August 8, 1999. Even though I saw the film about a year about a year ago, I would still like to express my thoughts.  It was about a couple days after I first saw the movie that I read deeply into the real Omaha Beach  invasion. In it I found the unbelievable details of who those first waves of men really were. They were the 116th Regimental Combat Team of the 29th Division, mostly from Virginia (my state)!  I remembered the film's depiction of dying Virginian boys, and I became moved. Although I have no grandparents who went to Omaha Beach, I am still proud to live in a state that fifty years ago was lived in by some of the greatest people ever. I hope that Saving Private Ryan will earn the state of  Virginia some national recognition.

July 1, 1999, As a 28 year old, I was overwhelmed with the price these men paid for our freedom and couldn't help but notice the parallels for me as a Christian. This movie is a "must-see" for my generation that so easily takes for granted the sacrifices that were made for this country.
–Brian Rudesill

Themes in Saving Private Ryan
July 1, 1999.  There are several interesting themes I saw in the movie that really made me think. First of all, Pt. Ryan was lost and presumed dead by his comrades, not unlike some of God's army units today. Many times I hear of how our army shoots our own wounded down. We criticize and attack when we should be helping to clean and dress the wounds by loving counsel and prayer. We must call back the deserters, and train them again to be strong soldiers for the LORD. Another issue reminds me of my own walk with the LORD. The young translator was so determined to follow the rules, such as not wanting to kill the German soldier who surrendered during the little skirmish in which the Medic was killed. During the great battle at the end of the movie, he was scared to enter the battle. He held back and some of his comrades were killed for this hesitation. Then finally, he gave into the temptation like the rest of the soldiers when he kills the German soldier who surrenders with the group of German soldiers. In Christ's army today, many are willing to follow the rules, but may be hesitant to take action on what the LORD says for them to do, which may delay the salvation of another person. Today, instead of embracing the homosexuals, drug addicts and abortionists, many are killing and abusing them in the name of Christ. How can we expect others to surrender to the love of God when all they see is the hate of "godly" soldiers? Finally, the officer kept going after the lost Pt. Ryan. He continued to call out for him as he was searching. After he does find Pt. Ryan, he is sure to keep him safe and by his side during the battle at the end of the movie. At the end of the battle, when the officer was dying, he said to Ryan, "Earn this, earn this." The officer gave up his life to bring Ryan home. God never forgets the lost souls, but continues to call out for them. When we are found, the LORD protects us from the enemy, shielding us and keeping us by His side. He died in our place so we might safely return home to our Father in Heaven. Although there is nothing we can do to earn His salvation, He is calling us\ to live the best we can by doing His will for our lives. Just as Ryan received confirmation from his wife that he has lived a good life and is a good man, we too will receive confirmation from our Heavenly Father that we lived according to His will and are worth the price Jesus paid for us. ( I wrote this several months ago and just found this site. I hope you all enjoyed this essay.) –Tonya

June 9, 1999. I THINK its sad that today the terrible things going on in kosovo are an almost mirror of what these men died to preserve freedom from evil.

June 1, 1999. This movie shook the American people, it shook even me, the Russian immigrant (there were much more realistic WWII movies in USSR than in US). I think it needs to show this movie in schools to teach the children reality and the truth. In the same time you can multiply this movie to 365 and again to 4 and after that it will be approximately equal to what the people of USSR have borne from 1941 to 1945. –Leonid

March 26, 1999. My name is Joe Niland. I'm interested in finding out more about the family...wondering if there are any connections with mine....ideas or suggestions???

Feb 26, 1999. Best Movie I’ve ever seen !!! I was watching "The thin red line" the other day and that movie was a really bad one...can´t understand hat it has been nominated for Oscars !!! But as a former Soldier in the Croatian Army in the war in former Jugoslavia I really now that the scenes were very well done. If you haven´t seen Private Ryan then U should go and see it. Regards Andy from Sweden (former Volunteer in the Croatian Army 1993-94)

Jan 18 1999, It was gory, but showed you the reality of war.

Subject: Saving Private Ryan
Date: Wed, 30 Sep 1998 17:08:20 -0700
From:  "Geoffrey C. Davis" <>
To: <david_E-mail >

I wanted to forward another view on the movie. Recently, I wrote a letter to World magazine about the film. I felt moved to share the text with you. Here goes...
Subject: Follow-Up to the Saving Private Ryan Comments & Letters

Dear Chris (at WORLD Magazine, not HJ):
     I know you have received some inappropriate responses to your article on the movie Saving Private Ryan. I would like you to take a moment and hear some things that may encourage and bring context to your article and its varied responses. I am a West Point graduate, Army Ranger and former member of the 82nd Airborne Division.
     As a sinner saved by grace, it is always interesting to see how the church responds to issues of life. Often, we fail to recognize the Biblical verities that are so evident in the events of history. In particular, we do not have to look far to find violence, rage, envy, coarse language, cowardice, or idolatry. I am not a big advocate of movies or of having violence as a form of leisure entertainment. It is wrong to seek vicarious titillation in the suffering of others. On the other hand, few people are able to grasp what is truly an honoring portrait of what it is like to be a combat infantryman. Saving Private Ryan is an exceptional movie that is not for the faint of heart. To criticize the film in the way the readers did is to entirely miss the point be made in the film.
     I would like to comment on the disdain shown in some letters for the unflinchingly accurate portrayal of events on the Dog Green Sector of Omaha Beach. The authors of most of the letters had no understanding of the context of events.
     The first soldiers over the bluff at the Vierville Draw were not calmly strolling through the trenches. They had just participated in the event that had caused more casualties than any other Army unit had endured in World War II. The National D-Day Memorial is in Bedford, Va., home to the 116th Infantry Regiment of the 29th Division. That unit, along with the Rangers, assaulted the area around the Vierville draw.
      Those soldiers were anxious, fearful, grieved, filled with rage, nervous, jittery, elated to be alive and filled with gnawing guilt for surviving. A Mr. Wilson castigated you for portraying the soldiers as patriots, considering that surrendering Germans were killed during the consolidation on the objective. As a former Company Commander, I realize that those killings were wrong, but they happened. I would like to put it in perspective, Chris, so that you can understand a bit of what Mr. Wilson may never be able to.
      Put it this way. After a physically exhausting work out, a man has just indiscriminately murdered your father, mother, wife and children. One of your kids is screaming in agony while wallowing in the welter of his gore. By some quirk you don’t understand, you have survived and are in a position to respond to the offender. You are smeared with your children’s blood, body fluids and dirt. You are numb, empty, and exhausted. Your mind is filled with horror and disbelief, unable to make sense of what you are seeing. Your training tells you to seek order, maintain self-control, and not over react. Of course, we want to be good “witnesses”.
     Your nostrils are filled with the nauseating smells of blood, mixed with excrement, burnt flesh, and cordite. Your heart is pumping so fast that your world slows down into an almost dreamlike, mechanical state. This condition is further exacerbated by the shocks from explosive overpressure (kind of like the groggy feeling when you get your “bell rung” playing football).
     Then, as you come upon the killer of all that you loved, he throws down his weapon, puts on a sheepish smile, and says, “Don’t shoot, I surrender. I was only following orders.”
     Now, how calmly will you turn the other cheek in that split second of decision?
     The key is in understanding the context of events. I do not question the fact that such killings can enter the realm of murder. Neither did Mr. Spielberg. The Jewish soldier, Mellish, was killed with the same Hitler Youth dagger he took from a surrendering German soldier he had shot. Those who live by the sword…
     The most dangerous moments in an engagement come during the consolidation on an objective filled with unpredictable enemy soldiers and all those present still awash in the emotion and exertion of the just finished fighting.
     Sometimes the shootings are murder – a form of frontier justice. Sometimes they are accidents, no different than a policeman who inadvertently kills a bystander during the pressure of the moment. Sometimes they are justified because of aggressive language or motions that appear to be hostile. Many Americans were wounded or killed that day while taking prisoners, when a “surrendering” German had a “change of heart” and decided to attack his captors.
     What the movie captured was reality of painful moral dilemmas that can enter a soldier’s life.
     It is inappropriate to blithely reject an accurate portrayal of an actual event that gives the viewer a snapshot into what men have endured to preserve our freedoms. I would commend your readers to understand the history behind our heritage, rather than trying to caricature soldiering as some lark portrayed in Henty books. This movie was powerful enough to help many veterans from Korea and the Second World War confront the haunting memories buried deep in their pasts.
     Moreover, I would suggest to all readers that laying down one’s life for another’s freedom is not some clean, sanitary operation. Sound familiar? Indeed, the violence of Christ’s death, the profanity of the mobs, and the murder of innocents fill the pages of the New Testament. Why can we not seek to understand that there is nothing new under the sun? Despite His knowing what was about to happen, Jesus laid down His life…violently. His disciples fled. He faced death alone, finally relaxing to give up His Spirit when It Was Finished.
     An unflinching portrait of Christ’s death would probably not be “suitable viewing” for many subscribers to World. An old friend, a Chaplain who happened to be Special Forces qualified and a Master Parachutist, gave a powerful sermon one Sunday many years ago. He said you couldn’t appreciate what Jesus did by viewing Him the way most do…as a “clean Christ.” He exhorted us to see the “dirty Christ” on the Cross. He is the One who endured violent death, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of the Father. To know Him as Paul seeks in Phil 3:10 calls us to share in the fellowship of His suffering, becoming like Him in His death….
     It was THAT sacrifice which gives us eternal freedom. How can we not help but respect those who have served to preserve our temporal freedom? The Gettysburg Address was given on another field where over 50,000 Americans became casualties in three days. Were there scenes at Gettysburg similar to those played out 81 years later on Omaha Beach? Yes. But in 1863 we resolved that those dead had not died in vain. Perhaps we should look with similar eyes on the lives laid down on a distant shore so others could be free.
     When the movie ended I wept. Self consciously, I wondered if I were alone in my response. As the lights came up and the younger patrons filed out, I was mystified to see other older men also weeping. Some staring into other times. Others, heads down, were lost in their pasts. All were …Remembering.
     But for God’s grace, any of the readers who wrote to complain could have been in similar situations as the characters in the movie. All readers should look beyond the movie to the reality it seeks to portray.
     As an aside, perhaps one reason the good guys die in real life is to remind us that in the end, good works do not lead to salvation, only justification by faith through the grace of God.
     Thank you for having the courage to review the film as you did. If you are interested, I will email you some other information written by soldiers who viewed the film.
     Sincerely in Christ,
     Geoffrey C. Davis

P.S. You might find this interesting…

     The real "Private Ryan" was named Fritz Niland, of E-2/506 PIR, 101 Airborne Division. A rescue team did not go in to get him. Actually, he himself began to uncover the tragedy when he got permission from his Co. C.O. to visit a brother who was a Lt. in the 4th ID. He discovered that his brother was killed on the beach on 6 June.
     A second brother was a Sergeant in the 82d Airborne Division. He was a veteran of all their prior campaigns and met with his younger brother prior to the invasion to give advice on how to be successful in combat. The 101st Airborne soldiers had not yet been in combat and felt that Niland's brother had perhaps "lost his nerve" based on how he explained techniques that seemed to show a reticence to expose one’s self to unnecessary danger. (The 101st guys changed their opinions by the afternoon of 6 June.)
     Niland's brother in the 82d was found dead at his machine gun with 12 empty ammo cans and surrounded by piles of German dead. His third brother was a pilot in the China Burma Theater and had died the week before the invasion. The official Notification of Next of Kin (NOK) took place all at one time. Although the movie portrayed all of this happening in the space of a couple of days for dramatic license, the actual situation unfolded over several days. Niland was cycled out once the chain of command had word of the tragedy and the situation was stable enough for administrative communications to resume.