The D-Day film that changed how we see war

But Spielberg is too sentimental a filmmaker to dwell for long on such human frailty. At the film’s denouement, as a tearful, elderly Ryan salutes the grave of his fallen comrade while Williams’s score reaches a gently manipulative swell, a cynic might be tempted to roll their eyes. In spite of this old-fashioned sentimentality, or perhaps because of it, it’s hard not to surrender to the awesome power of this film.

Those looking for a historical account of what happened on D-Day might be better served by The Longest Day or any number of documentaries. But Saving Private Ryan communicates the experience of war – the physical sensations, the responsibilities, and the mental scars – with unprecedented honesty. There’s bravery, camaraderie and sacrifice, yes, but also fear, horror and shame. On the 80th anniversary of D-Day, as these experiences slip painfully from living memory, Spielberg’s hymn to the fallen is more resonant than ever.


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