John Miller (Tom Hanks), army officer (pictured right).
James Ryan (Matt Damon), soldier.
Timothy Upham (Jeremy Davies), army translator.
Along with his family, James Ryan visits the war grave of Captain John Miller who saved him
during World War Two. Filled with emotion, he looks back to the D-Day invasion of June 6, 1944.
Anxious American soldiers (some of whom are vomiting from fear and seasickness) land from their boat on
Omaha Beach, Normandy in Northern France.
They are mown down by German machine gunfire. The carnage and roar of the battle are horrific, but a small group
of soldiers, led by their commanding officer, Captain John Miller, manage to
At the American army headquarters in Washington, it is discovered that three brothers of the
Ryan family have been killed within days of each other.
Inspired by President Abraham Lincoln’s
compassionate letter to a bereaved mother in the American Civil War, General George Marshall
(pictured right ) orders the fourth remaining brother (Private James Ryan) should be:
taken from France.
Captain Miller is told to carry out this mission three days after D-Day, helped by:
a non-combatant translator (Corporal Upham).
After finding another soldier called Ryan, one of the group (Doc Wade) is killed by a German
machine gunner, whom they capture and want to kill. But Miller decides to blindfold him and let him
They eventually find Private Ryan (pictured right), but he:
refuses to leave his comrades.
helps them defend a vital bridge.
Reluctantly Miller also stays to help. American casualties are high from a German attack led by two tanks.
fails in his duty to provide extra ammunition.
later captures a squad of Germans (killing the gunner who has just killed Miller).
Ironically it is the soldier Miller released earlier.
Before he dies, Miller gives Private Ryan a mission for life - to “earn” the lives lost in
saving him (pictured right).
The film finishes with the old Ryan at Miller’s grave. He is reassured by his wife that he has:
lived a good life.
successfully carried out Miller’s wishes for him.
Lessons for success, leadership and ethics
1. Some things are worth dying for
The Americans are fighting and dying for freedom from Nazi tyranny and barbarism.