One of the biggest blockbuster war films is being re-released for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day Normandy invasion of France. Steven Spielberg’s classic “Saving Private Ryan” is being brought back in 600 theaters nationwide for just two days, June 2 and June 5 at 3 and 7 p.m. on those days to commemorate the Normandy landings.
It is hard to believe that Spielberg’s masterpiece is turning 21 this year. Released in 1998, the film had an absolutely stellar cast including Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Tom Sizemore, Barry Pepper, Edward Burns, Giovanni Ribisi, Vin Diesel, and Adam Goldberg. The gritty and graphic filming, especially during the opening minutes showed the ugliness and realism of the awfulness of real combat.
The film begins with the Rangers of the 2nd Battalion coming ashore at Normandy. They were in the worst possible position in any of the beaches, code-named Omaha. The Germans held the high ground on the beaches and had plenty of prepared positions manned by a seasoned, well-trained and led division.
“Ryan’s” opening beach sequence which takes about 28 minutes was brilliantly filmed where the absolute chaos of combat meets up with coherence of the troops trying to complete their assigned missions. This was no sanitized Hollywood version of the invasion. Spielberg spared no details as bodies and body parts were flung in the air from mortar rounds, machine guns ripped bodies to shreds and entrails were strewn about from the German guns.
Spielberg takes the audience out of their seats as just bystanders and puts their asses right in the surf of the Channel. They are instantly transported to 1944 and put right in the action with the infantry. So intense was the filming of this sequence, that many World War II veterans who had been to Normandy for the actual invasion, got symptoms of PTSD from watching the film and triggering memories of their own experiences.
That opening sequence was filmed in Curracloe, Ireland over 15 days and cost over $12 million dollars to film.
Spielberg’s story begins after the Rangers led Hanks and Sizemore survive the opening day of the invasion and get tasked to venture far inland to find a paratrooper (Damon) of the 101st Airborne, who lost all of his brothers in combat and to be sent home. As Hanks’ men die one by one while attempting to find and then rescue Ryan, they’re left wondering if all of that sacrifice for the purpose of saving one man’s life is worth it.
Saving Private Ryan was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and ended up winning five, for Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing. It made $481 million dollars in 1998. In today’s dollars, it would equate to earning nearly $750 million. In 2014, the film was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.
For more information about the re-release and to find out the times and locations for “Saving Private Ryan” is playing on the 2nd and 5th of June, visit the Fathom Events website.
Our only wish is that the re-release would be extended to cover Memorial Day as well.
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Photo: Paramount Studio Still