“Saving Private Ryan” has, arguably, the best opening sequence of any war or action movie ever made. It is relentless, authentic, dramatic. It takes a 21st century audience back to the Normandy beaches with the all the terror of bullets whistling past ears, spitting in the sand or tearing the flesh of your neighbour. Director Steven Spielberg takes an intricate and realistic view of the American experience of infamous Omaha beach. It was here that the allied army lost so many men due to badly executed and organised pre-battle planning. The paratroopers sent in earlier were either dead or lost somewhere in northern France, while early morning bombing had missed it targets. That meant American soldiers, slowly making their way to the beach – code named Omaha – were sitting ducks to well-fortified German positions and heavy armour. It was the most terrifying morning of these soldier’s lives. For many, it would be their last day alive. Spielberg presents this momentous event as it actually was: brutal, frightening and life changing. At its core, however, is a tribute to those courageous men who would ultimately turn the war back in favour of the allies.
The Germans have the beach heavily fortified. Anti-tank obstacles lay strewn across the beach.
The American soldiers – making their way to the beach in Higgins boats – are sitting ducks to the German guns. Some soldiers are hit immediately, others try to jump over the sides of the boat to avoid the gun fire but are drowned by the weight of their heavy equipment. Those that get on the beach then have to make their way to the beach head.
The beach is full of dead American soldiers.
The lucky few have to now fight back. Their mission – to destroy the German gun emplacements and fortified positions.
Tom Hanks, as Captain John Miller leads his team into battle.