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Following the Allied invasion of Normandy, a squad from the 2nd Ranger Battalion of the 29th Infantry Division go behind enemy lines to retrieve Private James Francis Ryan whose brothers have been killed in action.
The film is directed by Steven Spielberg, and breaks new ground in content and style. It merges some of the most realistically disturbing battle footage ever included in a feature film with a touching human story.
Calling it the greatest war movie ever made does a disservice to other, equally worthwhile, lower-profile films. But it's still an excellent movie, as effective in battle scenes as it is in that of soldiers ruminating on an Edith Piaf song.
This is Spielberg's way of showing that these warriors were ordinary men -- men who, if they survived, became the grandfathers and great-grandfathers who, these days, pass largely unnoticed through life.
If Steven Spielberg's emotional intelligence matched his visual genius, his harrowing, passionately felt and honorably flawed new film might qualify for one of the greatest American movies ever made about World War II.