The film causes viewers to reflect upon the power, horror, and meaning of war. In an interview published in USA Weekend, Tom Hanks says of WW II, "This is the price you pay for living in a moral universe." In his view, WW II was an instrument of justice. If war is an instrument of justice (and in my view, it sometimes is), it is a blunt and imperfect instrument.
One of the best synopsis of the meaning of the movie was that written by Jack Garner in his review for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: "...in the story of the need to save one man Spielberg and screenwriter Robert Rodat have created a perfect metaphor for the effort to save all of us whose way of life would be preserved. The stunning, heartfelt realization of this great film is this: We are all Private Ryan."
In the end, Private Ryan was saved, but all his rescuers gave their lives in the effort. The last words spoken by a dying Captain Miller to Private Ryan were: "Earn it!"
As a Christian, I could not help but think of the sacrifice made on Calvary for all of us. I also could hear the words coming from the cross of Christ, "Earn it!" There is no way that Private Ryan or you or I can earn the sacrifice made for us, but we can try.
©1998 C. David Hess