It took me 20 years to decide to watch this, due to my general aversion to Tom Hanks alone or in combination with Steven Spielberg (who, as a director, often veers toward heavy-handedness). However, this war movie is visceral and gripping enough to overcome the inevitable weaknesses associated with its star and auteur director. So, yes, we are strongly encouraged to endorse Spielberg's view of the "greatest generation" as uniquely courageous and noble, overcoming horrific obstacles and bonding together as a team, with John Williams' soundtrack sweeping us along and Hanks' central Captain modelling bravery as a do-no-wrong caring and sympathetic but ordinary guy thrust into an impossible situation. Maybe the war really was like this for some and I offer all of the veterans my thanks and gratitude. Fortunately, the film isn't all glorification - we do see moments of fear, cowardice, dissent, and cruelty from the Americans that probably better reflect the width of human experience in this sort of crucible. However, critic Jonathan Rosenbaum argues that Spielberg hasn't offered anything new that past war movies haven't also shown and perhaps that is true. But this production added a level of grotesque "realism" and "you are there" action/violence that might not have been possible before 1998 - it led to Spielberg's subsequent involvement with WWII based video games and you can see the influence (bi-directional, most likely). The central plot conceit, that Hanks and his small band (of soon-to-be known young actors) must find Private Ryan (Matt Damon) whose three brothers have already been killed in order to send him home to his grieving mama, allows the characters to reflect on the meaningfulness of their actions and adds another dimension to the film, a focus on the guilt and sadness of those who survived. Although the film doesn't seem to contain any anti-war messages (perhaps because the moral justifications were so strong in that particular war), thinking about the post-traumatic stress of the former combatants (after seeing the visceral and brutal re-enactments here) is enough to ward anyone off from promoting war as a way to resolve differences. That said, a case could be made for the film as an army recruitment campaign for those who love action, maybe.