Saving Private Ryan review war epic still hits with sledgehammer force

The trauma of war is made viscerally clear in Steven Spielbergs dazzling fusion of audacity, action and poignant human drama A present participle in the title usually promises a film with light, ironical flavour: Driving Miss Daisy, Being John Malkovich, Breakin 2: Electric Boogaloo. Not here. Screenwriter Robert Rodat imagined this colossal second world war blockbuster with absolute seriousness, loosely inspired by the real-life case of Sgt Frederick Niland, recalled to the US from the Normandy campaign on emergency compassionate grounds because all his brothers were believed (wrongly, as it turned out) to have been killed in action. With this movie, re-released 21 years on, John Williams, candidly inspired by Elgars Nimrod. And it was based on a redemptive, quietist …