Saving Private Ryan (1998, directed by Steven Spielberg): In addition to being an action movie set in World War II, this film is a meditation on the nature of war and morality. It displays conflicts between four perspectives: that of the individual soldier, who wants to get home alive; that of the member of a small group, duty bound to protect the others; that of the member of a nation-state, dedicated to the pursuit of victory; and that of the member of the universal human community, committed to the dignity of all human beings. Spielberg shows these perspectives in tension, but offers no resolution of them. This suggests that the morality of universal human dignity is essentially at odds with the morality of war. Private Ryan is “saved” from this conflict only by being removed from the context of war. For the protagonist, Capt. Miller, the attempt to preserve his humanity while pursuing the aims of his mission proves tragic. [recommended by William J. Prior, Santa Clara University]

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