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Saving Private Ryan - 4K Blu-ray Review

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Saving Private Ryan

I don’t cry in movies. It’s just not my way. But I have to confess that twenty years ago, upon sitting down to watch Steven Speilberg’s World War II magnum opus, the recreation of the Normandy invasion put a lump in my throat and fogged my eyes with tears for its 30-minute duration. The word hero is far too often used in these times to describe celebrities or sports people. We’re now 75 years past June 6, 1944, and need to be reminded what heroism really is.

"Now 21 years old, it has lost none of its potency and effectiveness"


 

Normal, everyday folk achieved this moment in history: bakers, teachers, gardeners, the middle-aged and the very young. They stormed into a hail of gunfire to stop tyranny and oppression with nothing more than basic training and desire to see the world remain free. Many—far, far too many—paid the ultimate price for that goal. And we are here now, fortunate and free for that toll they paid. THAT IS THE DEFINITION OF A HERO TO ME.

Speilberg often is the recipient of accusations that he is too saccharine and sentimental. I have always maintained that he has a unique ability to touch the universal truths of our connection to things, whether they be fantasy or reality based. He can paint an intimate, almost simple, story on any massive canvas and have it hit you where it will in most. He knows what is to be human. That has always been his gift.

Ryan tells the story of a group of American Rangers who survive the slaughter that was the Normandy landings on Omaha beach, only to be sent on an equally perilous mission to find one man. Turns out this young man, Ryan (Matt Damon), is the last of four brothers that has survived the war. The government has decided his family has paid too much blood for their country and he is to be sent home.

That is the entirety of the plot. But each scene, each moment, each battle, each frame, is so masterfully constructed that you will run through the disparate emotions, virtues and flaws of this small band of men and be glued the entire time. They are genuine (of the period) men who have been, are, and are going to go through more hell with each new step. The bookended battles of both Normandy, and a fictionalized siege at Ramelle, perfectly encapsulate why there are so many disagreements within the group and hammer home why sticking together mattered most. The stakes were the highest they could possibly be.Saving Private Ryan

Characterization is flawless. Tom Hanks’ Cpt. Miller plays a gentle leader, desensitized by war but desperate to hold onto his humanity. I really thought this performance was going to land him his third Oscar statue, but sadly he lost out to a very deserving Robert Benigni. Tom Sizemore also delivers his finest performance. The entire cast, including Vin Diesel, are top shelf and solidify the film. That support characters affect you deeply as they are eliminated through the film speaks to the effectiveness of this cast.

The action is copious at the bookends of the film, but instead of being a thrill ride, it evokes fear (as it should) and revulsion at what men were asked to do to each other then. It isn’t simplistic in its portrayal of the human condition either; showing both Americans and Germans crosses the lines of decency or breaking the rules of war. It effectively shows the toll of this traumatic environment on both sides, though admittedly sticks close to the Americans for the duration. In no way does this film glorify anything, and is matter of fact to the point of needing a sick bag from beginning to end.

Now 21 years old, it has lost none of its potency and effectiveness, and is, to this reviewer, the finest WWII film ever made. These men they honor in this fiction were heroes, one and all, and this honors them properly.

Lest We Forget.

5/5 stars

Saving Private Ryan

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Commemorative 20th Anniversary Edition / 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital HD

Home Video Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Available on Blu-ray
- May 8, 2018
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles
: English, English SDH, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish
Audio:
English: Dolby Atmos; English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1; English: Dolby Digital 5.1; German: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1; French: Dolby Digital 5.1; Italian: Dolby Digital 5.1; Japanese: Dolby Digital 5.1; Portuguese: Dolby Digital 5.1
Discs: 4K Ultra HD; Blu-ray Disc; Three-disc set
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

Unfortunately I have to begin with a massive slap on Paramount’s wrist. This 4K disc I was sent pixilated and jammed as Tom Hanks went to try the broken coffee machine at Ramelle. And that was all she wrote. I couldn’t get the disc to go beyond that point for love nor money. I hope this is just an unlucky bad one in the batch but I haven’t seen shit like that since DVD rot back in the 90s.

VIDEO:

I revere this film, so I am chuffed to write that this presentation is immaculate. Ryan’s cinéma-vérité is deliberately gritty, marred by (not JJ style) lens flares and obstructions, but is spectacularly captured in this 4K native scan. Being that this is set in 1940s war torn Europe and follows military personnel, you aren’t gonna see a lot of pretty colors. What you do get is an impressive lift in textures and fine detail from the blu-ray. The pores and dirt on the actors’ faces look so real you could almost reach out and touch them. The infinite layers of each scene from the foreground to the background have never looked so immersive, and show just how accurate and brilliantly detailed the production design was. This truly feels like stepping into that era.

AUDIO:

Also a flawless honor to this film. The 7.1 ATMOS mix ups the ante on the DTS-HD 5.1 blu-ray mix with bone shattering heft and oppressive detail. It is frighteningly realistic. You want to dodge bullets and canons tear through the speakers at the rate of knots. The subtle environmental sounds, from gently falling rain to Ryan’s mom washing her dishes in the sink are just as convincing. As good as it currently gets in home entertainment. Perfection incarnate.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • None

Special Features:

Sigh… but with a caveat. The blu-ray, which is included in this set I was sent, as well as a digital copy, had a large and generous amount of supplemental materials that are all ported over to the new version. But I will not reward anything higher than a 3 unless the studios offer contemporary content to their anniversary releases. If you’re a film buff you already know Spielberg doesn’t like audio commentaries, so the 4K disc delivers bupkis.

  • An Introduction
  • Looking Into the Past
  • Miller and His Platoon
  • Boot Camp
  • Making Saving Private Ryan
  • Re-Crearting Omaha Beach
  • Music and Sound
  • Parting Thoughts
  • Into the Breach: Saving Private Ryan
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Re-Release Trailer
  • Shooting War

Blu-ray Rating:

  Movie 5/5 stars
  Video  5/5 stars
  Audio 5/5 stars
  Extras 3/5 stars

Overall Blu-ray Experience

4.5/5 stars

Saving Private Ryan

MPAA Rating: R for intense prolonged realistically graphic sequences of war violence, and for language.
Runtime:
169 mins
Director
: Steven Spielberg
Writer:
Robert Rodat
Cast:
Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Tom Sizemore
Genre
: War | Military | Action
Tagline:
The mission is a man.
Memorable Movie Quote: "You want to leave? You want to go off and fight the war? All right. All right. I won't stop you. I'll even put in the paperwork. I just know that every man I kill the farther away from home I feel."
Theatrical Distributor:
Paramount Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
May 10, 2019
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
July 24, 1998.
Synopsis: Following the Normandy Landings, a group of U.S. soldiers go behind enemy lines to retrieve a paratrooper whose brothers have been killed in action.

Saving Private Ryan

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