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Saving Private Ryan - Blu-ray Review


Saving Private Ryan

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Twelve years out from its initial release, Saving Private Ryan still stands as a powerful memorial in honor of all those who fought in World War II. Steven Spielberg's epic manages to balance its quasi-homage titillations (don't think we didn't notice that Kelly's Heroes bit, Mr. Spielberg) with real-world scenarios that are both human and harrowing; this is a true testament to the many confusing emotions of war – no matter war's rationale.

Dutifully written by Robert Rodat, the narrative follows Captain John H. Miller (Tom Hanks) and his band of brothers (notably Tom Sizemore, Vin Diesel, Edward Burns, and Jeremy Davies) as they search the ravaged countryside of Normandy for the missing Private James Ryan (Matt Damon), who, it is revealed, is the last surviving male of his family line. Their mission? Send Private Ryan home immediately. Even if the film's first half hour is its finest and most dynamic, Saving Private Ryan follows a tense arch of storytelling with tight suspense-filled moments that rival even the best moments of Hitchcock. The end result is one of Spielberg's most violent and his passionate works of art.

Although the film was inspired by a Civil War story, the search for one family's final son certainly resonates well against the starched-grey backdrop of WWII. Shot in Normandy and Ireland, the film's recreations of the famous battle scenes of WWII are meticulous and awe-inspiring and, certainly, renowned cinematographer Janusz Kaminski's hand-held techniques add exquisitely to the affect of battle upon the audience. Kaminski's shell-shocked handling of the camera in Saving Private Ryan captures the gruesome details of war and captures humanity at its worst and its finest. Altering the camera's shutter time from the standard 180 degrees provides a certain amount of hardness to the action on-screen and invites immediacy. Transcending the limits of the screen, this is a film that is felt by its audience – especially its first thirty minutes – and manages to remain engaging despite its length and its inherit weariness felt by the film's characters.

What remains a contention with the film is its use of the narrative framing device; the old man reflecting at the beginning and end is certainly a hokey plot device and the only obvious distraction from the true heart of the film. It comes across as an act of childish handholding and adds little to the film's narrative - besides an obvious before-and-after structure. Even to this day those scenes scream out as an obvious ploy for attention and nearly renders the film void of any real emotion with its assumptions involving the old man's remembrances. Sure, the bookends can be forgiven by the overall beauty and tones of the film, but it's a side-effect that doesn't need to be experienced by intelligent audiences.

Narrative complaints aside, Saving Private Ryan, complete with real performances from its actors, sharp camerawork from Kaminski, and an intelligent director by the name of Spielberg certainly motivates its audience to remember their history and to honor the people who fought bravely for their country. And now, with its release on Blu-Ray, the momentous epic continues to be celebrated for the monument to war and war movies that it is.


Component Grades
Movie
DVD
5 Stars
3 Stars
DVD Experience
4 stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese (less)
Language and Sound: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; French: Dolby Digital 5.1; Portuguese: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1

The Special Features are on the 2nd disc of the Blu-ray and are in both HD and SD quality with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound (unless otherwise noted below). The Special Features are essentially those found on the previously released "60th Anniversary of D-Day Edition" version and because it does not come with a digital copy of the film, this release is a tad of a let-down.

Supplements:

Featurettes:

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:16, using Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround)

Re-Release Trailer (HD, 2:05, using Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround)

Number of Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc Two-disc set (2 BDs)

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