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Schindler's List (1993) - Blu-ray Review

{2jtab: Movie Review}

Schindler's List - Blu-ray Review

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5 Stars

Imagine Steven Spielberg's film career without direction.  What would that look like?  Well, as a survivor of his output in the mid-to-late 80's, I can tell you it isn't very pretty.  The adult fantasy material he churns out is Always paper-thin and fails to Hook you with its largely forgettable antics and his dramas, while mostly well-received by the critics, are not large enough for their Empire of the Sun intentions. Maybe it is a case of arrested development; the dewy-eyed boy who once found inspiration in the story of Pinocchio refuses to come to terms with the realities of Mister Geppetto’s world, a world he now lives in.

With those films - Always, Empire of the Sun, and Hook - one could argue that the subject matter was certainly all over the place and not very confident in execution.  In fact, after The Color Purple in 1985, he has one commercial success and that is with a tried and true formula with friend George Lucas.  Of course, it's Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and the public eats it up.  But that's 1989.  Yes, the once water-soaked well is seemingly running dry.  They are dark days indeed but Steven Spielberg is about to bounce back in very big and very brutal way with the one-two punch of Jurassic Park and Schindler's List.  The dinosaurs prove he's s still king of the popcorn world but, with Schindler's List, Pinoccio grows up to face a stark and naked world full of human suffering.

Inside a constant battle of shadow and of light, director Steven Spielberg breaks our collective heart with his stylized look at the realities of the Holocaust.  Schindler’s List, recipient of seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Score, and its brutal look at the Nazi extermination of Europe's Jews during World War II isn’t Spielberg restrained; it’s Spielberg at his least commentative. He allows the images – and the idea of killing as a mercy – to soak in as honestly as a world covered in shades of gray can allow.

And it will hurt you to speak after it ends.

Schindler’s List is the most powerful Spielberg will ever be at the helm of a motion picture.  He will never be able to top this transformative look at the German business man – wonderfully played by Liam Neeson – who exhausts his fortune to save 1100 Jews from death.  It’s beautiful poetry from Spielberg and the company responsible for its production.  It’s also a mind-numbing motion picture experience due to its subject matter (and certainly only viewable by this review once every ten years or so).  And now, under direct supervision from Spielberg himself, Schindler’s List is finally made available on blu-ray.

With a rhythmic almost machine gun-like precision, Speilberg’s film opens with Jew after Jew registering at the train station at Krakow, reciting names for the Nazi clerks.  Names forgotten soon by the clerks but not by us; we are not allowed that mercy.  Not when we know their collective fate.  How could we?  This opening list – those who are to die – is in direct juxtaposition with the movie’s final list – Schindler’s List – of those Jews spared due to the businessman’s own change of heart as a member of the Nazi party.  It’s this juggling act, occurring throughout the movie, which provides a wonderfully rich landscape of emotion and confusion for Spielberg, Neeson, writer Steven Zaillian, and cinematographer Janusz Kami?ski to explore.

SS-Lieutenant Amon Goeth (a blistering Ralph Fiennes who was virtually unknown at the time) arrives to oversee the German death camp ghetto and, most certainly, complicates matters for Schindler who, until now, has seen own the profits of war.  Goeth’s arrival and his brutal steely-eyed tactics awakens the ugliness of war; he’s both attracted to the Jews and repulsed by them.  His evil is of a subconscious one and, after taking potshots at random Jews from his villa balcony, never acknowledged by his immediacies.  Suddenly, Schindler sees what we see and, due to his human nature, is confused by it.

Leave it to the accountant then, Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley), to make sense of it.  The Jews are good for Schindler’s business.  While Goeth picks them off, Schindler sees them liquefied and, finally, as he watches a girl in a red coat walking unescorted while ghetto dwellers are executed in the street around her, he is able to witness the truth of the matter.  It’s what the rest of the world never wanted to admit at the time.  The world is not immune from this level of sadism.  Schindler must act.  The world must act.  And they do but only one is the subject of the film; the other is peripherally felt.

Schindler’s List – in spite of its “the world will never be the same” and “there’s hope yet” fable tale bookends – is a powerful film.  And, I suppose, it has to end on the gravestone of hope.  Hope has to shine through.  To not end so would be pointless for a film as crushing as this.  So what if it's a falsehood?  Sometimes we need a little lie to make us believe.  The result is one of the greatest films out there and certainly - let’s give thanks to this fact - Spielberg's film isn’t likely to ever be remade by a money-hungry studio.  (Poltergeist anyone?  Really?  You think you can make that film better?  Doh.)  There’s something to Schindler's List that makes its tragedy and its epic scope completely untouchable.  Schindler’s List, both in subject and in execution, is timeless and that alone should give the world ... pause.  Because the events will happen again.  Hell, they already have.

{2jtab: Film Details}

Schindler's List - Blu-ray ReviewMPAA Rating: R for language, some sexuality and actuality violence.
Runtime:
195 mins.
Director
: Steven Spielberg
Writer
: Steven Zaillian
Cast: Liam Neeson; Ben Kingsley; Ralph Fiennes; Mark Ivanir
Genre: Biography | Drama | History | War
Tagline: The List Is Life.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Look, All you have to do is tell me what it's worth to you. What's a person worth to you?"
Distributor:
Universal Pictures
Official Site:
www.universalstudiosentertainment.com/schindlers-list
Release Date: December 15, 1993
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
March 5, 2013

Synopsis: Schindler's List is Steven Spielberg's epic drama of World War II Holocaust survivors and the man who unexpectedly came to be their savior. Unrepentant womanizer and war profiteer Oskar Schindler uses Polish Jews as cheap labor to produce cookware for the Third Reich. But after witnessing the violent liquidation of the walled ghetto where the Krakow Jews have been forced to live, Schindler slowly begins to realize the immense evil of Nazism. When his employees are sent to a work camp, they come under the terrorizing reign of sadistic Nazi Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes). With the help of his accountant, Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley), Schindler creates a list of "essential" Jews. Bribing Goeth, Schindler manages to get 1,100 people released from the camp and brought to the safety of his munitions factory in Czechoslovakia. Spielberg's glorious film is wondrously evocative, visually stunning, and emotionally stirring.

{2jtab: Blu-ray Review}

Schindler's List - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades
Movie

Blu-ray Disc
5 Stars

5 Stars



Blu-ray Experience
5 Stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

DigiPack / 20th Anniversary Edition / Blu-ray + DVD + UV Digital Copy

Available on Blu-ray - March 5, 2013
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles
: English SDH, French, Spanish
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; French: DTS 5.1; Spanish: DTS 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Three-disc set (1 BD, 2 DVDs); UV digital copy; iTunes digital copy; DVD copy; BD-Live
Region Encoding: Region-free

For its twentieth anniversary, Schindler's List was given a restoration that was overseen by Spielberg. The results on this 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer are right up there with those of his recently released Jaws and E.T. Without pause, this is an absolutely breathtaking remastering job.  Janusz Kasminski's cinematography is crisp and deep and authentic to the era without going in for neeedless artifices.  Black levels are remarkably deep, the picture detail is spot on and there is fine layer of grain throughout. Even the most troublesome aspect of the theatrical prints, the sequences with that featured The Girl in the Red Coat, have been handled with the utmost professionalism. The DTS HD-MA Audio is strong even if it is largely a front speaker affair.  Rear-channel surrounds and LFE channels are used quite sparingly.  Still, this is stunning work.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • The movie speaks for itself.  No commentary needed.

Special Features:

While Universal held Schindler’s List out of the blu-ray market forever, that doesn’t mean it’s because they were working on new supplemental material.  It just means they gave the remastering job a bit more attention.  The bonus materials that accompanied the 2004 DVD release have been ported over to this edition. The powerful documentary, Voices from the List, is a collection of interviews from real-life Holocaust survivors who knew Schindler and, as it says, gives them the time to be heard.  This is followed by a brief look the Institute for Visual History and Education that Spielberg established at USC.  Rounding out the collection is a rather short look at the formation of a well-received and highly-regarded website concerning recorded testimonies about the survivors.  The DVD edition has been included in the set with the extras housed on disc two.  So, there’s a bonus for all those classrooms without blu-ray players.

  • Voices From the List (80 min)
  • USC Shoah Foundation Story (5 min)
  • About IWitness (4 min)

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