The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: DreamWorks/Paramount - 1998
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 169 minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 1.85:1
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, French/Spanish/Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Starring: Tom Hanks, Edward Burns, Tom Sizemore, Barry Pepper, Adam Goldberg, Vin Diesel, Matt Damon, Giovanni Ribisi, Jeremy Davies,
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Music by: John Williams
Written by: Robert Rodat
Region Code: A
Blu-ray Disc release Date: May 4, 2010
Seen through the eyes of a squad of American soldiers, the story begins with World War II's historic D-Day invasion, then moves beyond the beach as the men embark on a dangerous special mission. Captain John Miller must take his men behind enemy lines to find Private James Ryan, whose three brothers have been killed in combat. Faced with impossible odds, the men question their orders. Why are eight men risking their lives to save just one? Surrounded by the brutal realities of war, each man searches for his own answer - and the strength to triumph over an uncertain future with honor, decency and courage.
The story opens with a prologue in which a veteran brings his family to the American cemetery at Normandy, and a flashback then joins Capt. John Miller (Tom Hanks) and GIs in a landing craft making the June 6, 1944, approach to Omaha Beach to face devastating German artillery fire. This mass slaughter of American soldiers is depicted in a compelling, unforgettable 24-minute sequence. Miller's men slowly move forward to finally take a concrete pillbox. On the beach littered with bodies is one with the name "Ryan, S" stenciled on his backpack. Army Chief of Staff Gen. George C. Marshall (Harve Presnell), learning that three Ryan brothers from the same family have all been killed in a single week, requests that the surviving brother, Pvt. James F. Ryan (Matt Damon), be located and brought back to the United States.
Capt. Miller gets the assignment, and he chooses a translator, Cpl. Upham (Jeremy Davis), skilled in language but not in combat, to join his squad of right-hand man Sgt. Horvath (Tom Sizemore), privates Mellish (Adam Goldberg), Medic Wade (Giovanni Ribisi), cynical Reiben (Edward Burns) from Brooklyn, Italian-American Caparzo (Vin Diesel), and religious Southerner Jackson (Barry Pepper), an ace sharpshooter who calls on the Lord while taking aim.
Having previously experienced action in Italy and North Africa, the close-knit squad sets out through areas still thick with Nazis. After they lose one man in a skirmish at a bombed village, some in the group begin to question the logic of losing more lives to save a single soldier. The film's historical consultant is Stephen E. Ambrose, and the incident is based on a true occurrence in Ambrose's 1994 bestseller D-Day: June 6, 1944.
I saw Saving Private Ryan in the theater when it was released. I have vivid memories of the effect that it had on me as I watched, especially the opening D-Day segment. I had never seen anything like it which left me transfixed as I watched. We learned of the devastating losses on D-Day but seeing it depicted with such visceral realism made quite an impression. That segment served to get our attention and left us vulnerable and open to the events that were to come. The screenplay quickly establishes the core group of eight that will begin the long journey. It then lets us see them as individuals, each noticeably different, yet as a whole rendering a composite of the young men that went to war, many of whom would never return.
Saving Private Ryan is a powerful, emotive, and epic style film that tells a compelling story that engages us both visually and emotionally. It is made up of a series of evocative segments that together form an incredibly descriptive narrative that is built around the characters in the story. Here is my list, in no particular order, of some of my favorite moments :
- Caparzo and the little girl
- Jackson and the German sniper
- The Abraham Lincoln letter
- Captain Miller and griping Reiben
- Sgt. Horvath and Reiben - standoff
- Wade’s passion on Omaha Beach
- Horvath’s loyalty to Capt. Miller
- Upham’s decision
- Wade’s story about how to fall asleep
- Capt Miller’s moment alone
- Mellish’s fight to the death
- Remembering Vecchio
- Sticky bombs
- Jackson in the bell tower
- “Earn this”
- Ryan and Reiben – the unspoken look
- The wrong Ryan
- “Did I live a good life?”
- “Tell us how to fix you”?
The clever dialogue, wartime action, drama and insightful exchanges that either overtly or subtly drive the story are superbly crafted and interwoven. The result is one of the best and most memorable American films ever. Outside of the superb young cast that supports star Tom Hanks there are several cameos that are worthy of note. They include Dennis Farina, Paul Giamatti, Ted Danson, Bryan Cranston, Harve Presnell, Leland Orser and of course Capt. Dale Dye. Saving Private Ryan was the highest grossing film of 1998 and garnered 11 Oscar nominations. It won five including Best Cinematography, Best Sound and Best Director for Steven Spielberg. It is a classic and one of my all time favorites.
I have owned it on DVD since 1999 and have been anticipating its release on Blu-ray since the formats inception. I am thrilled that it is finally here and glad to see that Paramount/DreamWorks has ensured that it comes to us intact and unadulterated. See below.
The rating is for intense prolonged realistically graphic sequences of war violence, and for language.
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.**
- 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:
Saving Private Ryan comes to Blu-ray Disc from Paramount featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 32 mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 3.6 mbps.
Similar to my review of Minority Report, another stylized film from Director Steven Spielberg, I would like to reiterate my opening comments pertaining to the visual style used in Saving Private Ryan.
Let me start off by saying that in my opinion this presentation appears to faithfully reflect the film’s original elements and director Steven Spielberg’s vision. Having said that it is important to understand that the way the film was shot does not necessarily reproduce the highly polished, three dimensional, and clearly resolute imagery that typically evokes the wow factor. That shouldn’t be strictly construed to indicate that it doesn’t look good in high definition. I have taken this into account while trying to provide an accurate depiction of my opinion in this review. Read on.
The film was shot utilizing a visual style that gives it a distinctively monochromatic look that imbues it in bluish gray or beige hues that permeate the presentation. Colors are primarily limited to various stages of gray, green and sepia tones that represent the uniforms and machinery of war. There are elements of richer color such as those seen in office sequence or at the Ryan farm but even then saturation is noticeably held in check. Images are firmly resolved but perceivable resolution can be scene dependent due to the nature of the photography. Close ups fare better than wide angle shots and offer respectable detail and appreciable refinement. White and black levels achieve good balance so that detail/gradations are visible in brighter elements while dark sequences have a rich, delineated and dynamic quality that makes them pop. The sequence shot in the dark church with its flickering golden candles and streaming moonlight has excellent depth of field and discernible low level structure in backgrounds. Contrast spikes here and there however it doesn’t negatively impact fidelity.
The sequence shot in the bombed out village (where Caparzo encounters the little girl) is among the best in the film in terms of depth dimension and finely rendered detail. There are a handful of instances where innate softening crops up. One example can be seen when Colonel Anderson (Dennis Farina) gives Capt. Miller the assignment to find Private Ryan. When the camera angle switches to the close up of Colonel Anderson when he informs him that the assignment “comes straight from the top” the background blooms and the shot is momentarily lacking in detail and looks a little fuzzy. The video has a notably grainy aesthetic that tends to interfere with depth but also lends the presentation an enriching filmic texture. I have seen this film many times and have never been bothered by its unique presentation actually my feelings are quite to the contrary. I think its limited use of color and gritty texture appropriately sets the mood of the film and draws us into its elements. Saving Private Ryan isn’t necessarily the type of film that will outwardly shine in high definition which some may find disappointing. The fact is this Blu-ray presentation from Paramount accurately reproduces it and the result is a faithful and rewarding viewing experience. We certainly can’t ask for more than that.
The original lossy DTS soundtrack on the DVD always sounded great. I think that most of us at some point have used the opening sequence to show off our surround sound systems. This lossless DTS-HD Master Audio presentation has similar attributes and offers a noticeable improvement although the differences aren’t night and day which probably says something about the quality of the original DTS encoding. I think the most discernible improvement comes in the detection of low level detail. Listening to the quiet scene that takes place in the church I was impressed with the subtle but appreciable level of immersion which is something I hadn’t noticed before. As Capt Miller and Sgt. Horvath’s dialogue anchors the front soundstage there is spatial/reverberant ambience that realistically simulates the diffuse expanse of the church. Simultaneously the rumble of exploding bombs in the distance revolves around the room at the right level so that it can be clearly heard and felt but never encroaches upon the audibly delicate balance created by the venue’s unstable acoustics.
The orchestrated elements in John Williams’ music score sound smooth, airy and refined. This award winning sound design is supported by a well executed surround mix that makes frequent use of the entire platform. Seamless front and rear channel integration keeps the active battle segments tightly focused and on point. There are a plethora of panning and discretely placed sounds that use the sidewalls and rear of the room to convey the aggressive menace of battle. The Omaha Beach and standoff in the finale are completely involving as the sound field brims with flying/ricocheting bullets, exploding landmines, heavy weaponry, immersive atmospherics and room energizing frequencies. The extended dynamic range provides the action based elements and music with palpable support and concussive impact. Those expecting the ultra low and gut punching low frequency effects that are found on many of today’s big budget action films may be disappointed. That isn’t to suggest that there is a lack of high quality bass because there is plenty to be found here. Dialogue is reproduced with crystal clear intonation and prominent soundstage position so that it is always intelligible. This is a demonstration level audio presentation that excels at creating a supremely balanced, dynamic and immersive surround experience.
The Bonus features are located on Disc 2 which is a BD-25 Blu-ray Disc.
- An introduction with Steven Spielberg – 2 minutes
- Looking into the past – 5 minute featurette
- Miller and his platoon – 8 minute featurette
- Boot camp – 7 minute featurette
- Making Saving Private Ryan – 22 minute Production featurette
- Re-creating Omaha Beach – 18 minute featurette
- Music and sound – 16 minute featurette
- Parting thoughts with Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg
- Into the breach: Saving Private Ryan – 25 minute documentary with cast/crew
- Shooting war – Documentary on WWII photographers narrated by Tom Hanks – 88 minutes
- (HD) Theatrical and Re-release trailers
Saving Private Ryan is one of the most renown and exalted World War II films ever. It has justifiably attained classic status and is a significant and truly powerful cinematic work that transcends genre lines. Like many of you reading this I have been a fan since seeing it in the theater and have owned it on DVD since it became available. It is one of the most highly anticipated titles coming to Blu-ray and I am happy to report that it features faithful high quality video reproduction, and stellar lossless surround sound. The bonus supplements are identical to those found on the 2004 D-Day 60th Anniversary DVD commemorative edition, and offer insights from the filmmakers/cast and includes several documentaries related to the production/subject matter. This is a must own and belongs in every Blu-ray collection. Highly recommended!
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