The release of "Saving Private Ryan" generated a massive hype due to Steven Spielberg having also directed that other Second World War opus, "Schindler's List". Now that Hollywood has moved on and the fuss has subsided, it's clear that an important movie remains.
Much has been written and gasped about the opening 20 minutes as the GIs land on the beaches, only to be mown down by the Germans. Some recoiled at the graphic violence, others praised the realism, while some questioned whether war is really like that at all. The percentage of an audience who can accurately comment is surely small.
What is abundantly clear is that in the massive body of films that deal with World War II, this is one that pulls no punches. It consistently explores the unpredictable and random violence that engulfs and blinds the men within it.
The plot serves only to drag a squad of characters through uncharted peril with few fitting the normal pre-determined 'hero' tag of war films. They're off on a PR mission to find a Private James Ryan and take him home to his mother, who is shortly to learn that her other three sons are dead.
While the men are constantly under threat from the Germans, they are not engaged in a key battle that will help win the war. Without a major event to eclipse proceedings, a greater examination of each man's personal fears is allowed to shine through.
This is not a film that will please everyone and quite rightly so. But no movie about any war can seek to provide answers to every question. What Spielberg does is create a world of frightening carnage in which a small story is played out. As such, this is an important film that deconstructs war machines into separate, frightened men as it so likely was.