The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: PBS - 2006
MPAA Rating: NR
Feature running time: Approximately 15 hours
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 1.78:1
Audio Format(s): English Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH
Directed by: Ken Burns & Lynn Novica
Music by: Wynton Marsalis
Written by: Geoffrey C. Ward
Region Code: A
Blu-ray Disc release Date: May 15, 2012
"In extraordinary times, there are no ordinary lives"
The Second World War was fought in thousands of places, too many for any one accounting. This is the story of four American towns and how their citizens experienced that war.
The War is a seven episode series, produced by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, that examines the myriad of ways in which the Second World War touched the lives of every family on every street in every town in America. By telling the stories of ordinary people in four quintessentially American towns - Waterbury, Connecticut; Mobile, Alabama; Sacramento, California; and the tiny farming town of Luverne, Minnesota - the series portrays this enormous worldwide catastrophe on an intimate, human scale. The War intertwines vivid eyewitness accounts of the harrowing realities of life on the front lines with reminiscences of Americans who never left their home towns, and who tried their best to carry on with the business of daily life while their fathers and brothers and sons were overseas. The film honors and celebrates the bravery, endurance, and sacrifice, of the generation of Americans who lived through what will always be known simply as The War.
I am a fan of Ken Burns work and consistently find his documentaries to be compelling, poignant and enlightening. Narrated by Keith David and featuring voiceovers by Tom Hanks, Josh Lucas, Bobby Cannavale, Eli Wallach, Samuel L. Jackson, Ernie Hudson and Adam Arkin The War paints in fine strokes that vividly portray the cataclysm of the second world war while honoring and bearing witness to what happened both at home and in battle. As I sat and watched I went through a range of emotions as the atrocities recounted through eye witnesses, and captured via photos and filmed footage left me shocked, disturbed, perplexed, angry, sad, adulated and proud. I tend to enjoy documentaries of this type as I often learn facts that I previously never knew. Unfortunately much of what I learned about this necessary but terrible conflict surrounded the intimate details of how so many perished in the wake of battle. As Americans we were fortunate in that the war wasn't fought on our home soil. 85 million people died during the war, the majority of them were civilians.
In addition to the accounts of the war's effect on families at home, fighting men, and on the nation as a whole (including our phenomenal industrialism and integral civilian efforts/contributions) it touches on the plight experienced by the Japanese Americans who were displaced and sent to interment camps as well as the men of the 442nd, a Japanese regiment (some of whom were from those internment camps) that distinguished themselves in the war. I can't imagine how tough it must have been for the young black men that went off to war hoping to make a difference only to be relegated to duties other than fighting. Those that got the opportunity distinguished themselves only to return home and face the same racial prejudice they left. The stories of gallantry, bravery and sacrifice by the young infantrymen, sailors and pilots that encountered unimaginable horror are astounding. Six years in the making The War is a powerful, moving and compelling documentary film that left an indelible impression on me. It astonished me, it saddened me, it angered me, but above all it made me proud to be an American.
The War's seven segments are spread over six BD-50 Blu-ray Discs with the bonus features located on disc six. The segments, labeled episodes, cover 1941-1945 and consist of the following:
- A necessary war: December 1941 - December 1942
- When things get tough: January 1943 - December 1943
- A deadly calling: November 1943 - June 1944
- Pride of our nation: June 1944 - August 1944
- FUBAR: September 1944 - December 1944
- The ghost front: December 1944 - March 1945
- A world without war: March 1945 - December 1945
This film contains graphic images, language and content that would be inappropriate for young viewers.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
The War comes to Blu-ray Disc from Paramount Home Entertainment featuring 1080i AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 32 Mbps and lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 channel audio that has a constant bitrate of 448 kbps.
This is a solid looking encode that has a grainy visual aesthetic and dialed down contrast that appears to hold true to the filmmaker's vision. This documentary style film is made up of large amounts of archival black and white footage, vintage photographs and filmed interviews. The interview segments don't offer any visual stimulation but appear natural enough. The full framed still photography looks terrific and is clearly the star of the show. White and black levels are consistent which lends balance to the variable nature of the presentation. This isn't the type of film that is going to shine in high definition but this appears to be a faithful rendering that capably represents the conglomeration of it elements and looks fine.
This presentation doesn't contain a lossless audio track but I must say that didn't keep it from being one of the best documentary surround mixes I have heard. This presentation makes full and involving use of the entire platform to reproduce the sounds of battle which constitute a good portion of the film. The narrated dialogue, voiceovers and interview segments have appreciable intonation and clarity which allows even subtle changes in vocal pitch to be discernible. Dynamic range is excellent and the soundstage has an open expression that allows its elements to extend well into the room. Rear channel activity is prevalent and provides an enriching level of immersion which is generated by an active sound field. The LFE channel is frequently engaged and reproduces large weapon fire and exploding shells with visceral impact that has excellent tactility. I would have preferred a lossless audio option but I have to admit that I didn't find this presentation to be disappointing in the least.
- Audio commentary with Ken Burns and Lynn Novica
- (HD) Making The War - 36 minute featurette
- 17 Deleted scenes
- 14 Additional Interviews
The War is a seven episode series, produced by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, that examines the myriad of ways in which the Second World War touched the lives of every family on every street in every town in America. By telling the stories of ordinary people in four quintessentially American towns - Waterbury, Connecticut; Mobile, Alabama; Sacramento, California; and the tiny farming town of Luverne, Minnesota - the series portrays this enormous worldwide catastrophe on an intimate, human scale. This is a powerful, moving and compelling documentary film that astonished me, saddened me, angered me, and made me proud to be an American. The War comes to Blu-ray Disc in this six disc offering that features satisfying high definition video quality, involving lossy surround sound and nearly two hours of bonus material. No matter what you think you know about World War II seeing The War offers a perspective that is sure to enlighten. PBS is offering repeat airings of The War on May 20th and May 27th. If you haven't already seen it, it's well worth your time. For those that would like to own it this Blu-ray offering from Paramount Home Entertainment is the ticket.
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It is a fine series. Just want to put a plug in for what is, in my opinion, the finest documentary on WWII - the superb BBC production of the World at War. It is fascinating and compelling viewing with everything about it being first class. They even have Sir Laurence Olivier narrating it.
I agree, the World at War documentary series was excellent - I watched that show with my dad on PBS each week (way back in the 70s). To this day, when I see it airing, it is still very compelling - it was produced and narrated extremely well.
Thanks Ralph -as always, great job. I will definitely check out the new Ken Burns BD - as has been stated, his other work is top notch (I especially like the National Parks).
All things considered, a good and thorough review as usual, Mr. Potts. While this title is somewhat narrow in scope in the sense that its the war seen through an Ameri-centric lens, if anyone really wants an epic and arena-sized WWII documentary box set, check out "The World At War" -- a 9 disc Bluray set, over 34 hours of material that really is far broader and big-picture in its examination of the war. Unfortunately many people limit their understanding and perception of the war to romanticized Saving Private Ryan and Pearl Harbor type views and that really misses out.
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