The first and more orthodox World War II war film of 1998, Steven Spielberg’s heroic yarn Saving Private Ryan follows a troop of assorted all-American types through the European theater on what seems to them to be a fool’s mission: retrieving a soldier (Matt Damon) from battle after his brothers are killed elsewhere. Tom Hanks rings true as an unlikely macho commander, and the opening D-Day sequence is justly famous for being gut-twisting. With Edward Burns and Tom Sizemore.
An overproduced Oscar bid for both director Sam Mendes and star Tom Hanks, the gangster saga Road to Perdition (based on a Max Allen Collins graphic novel) about a mobster and his son taking revenge on his own clan is rather stale, but again, the money spent on recreating a rainy, sepia 1930s pays off.
There’s Romance with a capital R in so many aspects of this movie that you can overlook some of the more toxic Nora Ephron–esque things about it, including insufferably precocious children and scenes that seem to be built entirely of one-liners. Sam (Tom Hanks) and Annie (Meg Ryan) are both adorable and lovable: he, a grieving widower raising his son alone, bravely, on the watery banks of Seattle; she, beautiful, smart, and not quite willing to give up every woman’s fantasy that “there’s one guy out there for me, and he isn’t a man who wears a bow tie.” The homage to 1957’s An Affair to Remember can only mean we’re bound to see the Empire State Building sooner or later, but, arguably, the most memorable scene (stolen by Rita Wilson, the real-life love of Hanks’s life) is a bright exchange about our attachments to certain movies and the way we love to shamelessly weep over them.