Updated: Nov 12, 2019
Nominee #15 - Saving Private Ryan (1998)
A troop of American soldiers venture beyond enemy lines to rescue a lone survivor.
June 6, 1944: American soldiers land on Omaha Beach as part of the largest amphibious invasion in history.
Steven Spielberg's 5-Academy-award winning war movie, Saving Private Ryan (1998) opens with the depiction of this scene; ranked consistently as amongst the best battle scenes of all time. As they near the beach, Captain John H. Miller (Tom Hanks) tells his men, "I'll see you on the beach." But what followed - in its unflinching depiction of the horror and chaos of war - became such an intense realisation of actual events that this scene triggered post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms in some of the veterans who watched it.
"I'll see you on the beach."
First shot. Giant ‘defensive’ metal structures on the beach. They look like crucifixes lined up on a hill – as if the Romans punishing mutinous Jews had moved the crosses from the hills to the beach. Then landing boats heaving on unruly waves, packed with men shivering, chewing, drinking, spitting, vomiting to keep the courage up, their insides in. The camera moves searchingly from face to face. Some are lost in the present, others have just arrived into their future and still others are only just leaving their past. All haunted.
As the boats strike land, the ocean quickly tries to wash itself off them and anything to do with them – past, present or future. Dutifully the first line of men getting off boats die instantly struck by a hail of bullets from enemy positions on the beach. The ocean reluctantly claims them, their arms and legs flailing underwater, their blood signalling to the second line of men to get on with it. The camera on water bobs, the one underwater ducks and weaves, as bullets create water volcanoes bursting around the wading men, on them.
The camera on shore shudders with pounding guns alongside- they don’t have to pick targets because there are so many getting off the boats, the barrels just need to point, swivel, point, swivel, point, spray, spray, spray. Incoming soldiers have to get past the ‘crucifixes’ but also the crucified – the dead bodies of their friends now strewn on the beach. The shells come down like invisible hacksaws, shearing off arms, legs as the dismembered men walk around dazed, others cowering not knowing whether the blood streaming down their faces is theirs, still others screaming in agony. The air is thick with smoke, spraying water, muddy beach sand and the men can barely hear the orders being barked at them above the din.
Those 8-9 mins packed in so much human drama, brimming with superlative acting, camerawork, editing, sound, and the most haunting images - some only a few seconds on screen.