TNT has been on a Tom Hanks kick lately, and it occured to me…in Saving Private Ryan, it’s never explained why Captain Miller’s hand shakes. He mentioned it started as he was embarking to Europe (I think.)
Do we assume it was the start of Parkinson’s Disease?
His hands are unsteady at the end because he has been shot multiple times.
The other times he is being overcome by fear. Although this does not happen in battle, because there is a break in the action, then the emotion can come forth. During the battle he doesn’t have time to be afraid.
It’s not actually stated in the movie. However, the symptom is wholly consistent with shell shock/post traumatic stress disorder.
It’s clearly noted in the film that the character, Capt. Miller, has already see a very great amount of combat in Africa and Italy (as has his sergeant.) A soldier can only see so much combat before nerves begin to wear away and symptoms begin to emerge; there’s no such thing as “getting used” to combat, so far as any major study done by any army has ever found. Beyond a certain amount of exposure to combat a soldier loses effectiveness.
Writes Gwynne Dyer in War, citing a US Army study,
Dyer goes on to note that periods of rest could extend a soldier’s effectiveness but that studies show the symptoms would invariably show up sooner or later.
The shaking hand isn’t immediate fear, because he shows the symptom on several occasions when he isn’t in danger - when holed in in the church, or when poring over the map after they find out roughl;y where Ryan is. So it’s just likely that he’s beginning to show physical signs of PTSD.
But didn’t it start when he was shipped over to Europe? I think that’s what he says to his sergeant in the church, when the sergeant notices it. If that’s the case, then it started before he saw any combat.
No; he says it started in Portsmouth, before the landings. That would have been one of the Allied marshalling points for the invasion force. He would therefore have participated in the African and Italian campaigns before being assigned to the force that invaded France. (This may be historically incorrect, however. Their unit, 2 Ranger Battalion, boarded at Weymouth, though it’s possible Miller himself had previously been in Portsmouth.)
One of the guys notices it while Miller is the road, waiting on news regarding the German tanks advancing on the town. I want to say while the men are listening to the Edith Piaf record. I don’t remember if it happened during the actual combat.
Of course, unlike in the church and while viewing the map, Miller has plenty of reason to be immediately nervous while waiting on the tanks.