Saving Private Ryan captured $215 million in U.S. theaters in 1998. Now Steven Spielberg's World War II epic has been honorably discharged to home video. And while the gore factor of its 24-minute opening scene on Omaha Beach will be less intense on the small screen, bullet-riddled bodies, severed limbs, disemboweled torsos, spurting arteries and decapitations will still upset most viewers. Should Spielberg's noble intentions and Ryan's proclaimed "educational value" sway families? Consider first a few of the film's non-violent, yet troubling, particulars.
Foul language includes over 30 f- and s-words. On the battlefield, soldiers reminisce about sexual exploits back home (one young man recalls trying to have sex with an "ugly" schoolgirl in his father's barn). As for respecting faith and God, Ryan wobbles on both sides of the fence. It shows soldiers praying sincerely, but depicts one sniper as mentally unbalanced (he prays each time he kills a man).
As family-night entertainment, Ryan is a casualty. But as a morality tale underscoring the horror of armed combat, it accomplishes its mission brilliantly. It reveres the ultimate sacrifice made by young soldiers who paid with their lives for our freedom. The bottom line? Young children should never view these atrocities. As for teens, parents must weigh the significant negatives—extreme violence at the forefront—before letting adolescents enter the killing fields of Saving Private Ryan.