Ralph Potts reviews Saving Private Ryan , one of the most renown and awarded World War II films ever, which is making its debut on Ultra HD Blu-ray from Paramount Home Distribution.

The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5)

Audio/UHD Video total rating:
(Max score: 100)


Studio and Year: Paramount/DreamWorks - 1998
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 169 minutes
Genre: War Drama

Disc Format: BD-100
Encoding: HEVC
Video Aspect: 1.85:1
Resolution: 2160p/24

Audio Format(s): English DolbyAtmos/TrueHD7.1, English, Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Danish, Dutch, French, Finnish, German, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish
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
Release Date: May 8, 2018

"Earn This…."
My Take:

I reviewed Saving Private Ryan’s 2010 Blu-ray release, and have included my comments from that review here. Ratings for film, and bonus content will be the same, as they are identical to that release. New comments and ratings for the Ultra HD video and Dolby Atmos sound mix are below.

Note: There are spoilers contained below. 

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 home video since 1999 and have been anticipating its release on Ultra HD Blu-ray since the format’s 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.

Replay Value:
Parental Guide:

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.**

UHD Presentation(HDR-10): 96
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
  • HDR: Dark Highlights:
  • HDR: Bright Highlights:
  • HDR: Expanded Color:
  • Resolution: 
  • Visual Impact: 
UHD Presentation (Dolby Vision): 96
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
  • HDR: Dark Highlights:
  • HDR: Bright Highlights:
  • HDR: Expanded Color:
  • Resolution: 
  • Visual Impact: 
Dolby Atmos Rating: 94
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
  • Level of immersion: 
  • Soundstage integration: 
  • Audio object placement: 
  • Effectiveness: 
  • Entertainment factor: 
Saving Private Ryan comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from Paramount Home distribution featuring 2160pHEVC encoded video and lossless Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 channel sound.

Saving Private Ryan was shot on 35mm film, and Its presentation in Ultra HD is derived from that source. I was unable to determine if it was rendered from a 2K or 4K Digital Intermediate. It's important to note that the ultimate goal for any release on home video is to present a film in the highest possible quality based upon its original elements. A film like SPR has an aesthetic that incorporates film grain and the use of optics that won't result in the type of high gloss, tack-like sharpness of a film shot using digital cameras. This isn't a problem and shouldn't be seen as such.

This is a period specific and stylized film that strives to recreate the look and feel of director Steven Spielberg’s vision. The Blu-ray rendering offered faithful reproduction and looked excellent in 1080p, but this Ultra HD rendering is something to behold. Saving Private Ryan is a beautifully crafted film, both in narrative, and scope. It’s not an overtly bright film, although there are bright elements. Director of Photography Janusz Kaminski’s terrific cinematography benefits from the enhanced resolution and emboldened contrast. The Normandy Beach landing sequence retains the gritty aesthetic that it always has, with no unnecessary additions. Beyond that, beginning with the opening of chapter 5 (the close-up of Captain Miller), then image looks stunning and provides a glimpse of what lies in store.

Copious amounts of detail can be seen, both in wide-angle and close-up perspectives, imparting a discernible increase in depth/dimension. Shot on 35mm film, using anamorphic lenses, film grain and some innate softening are present. Neither are compromising, even during special effects shots, or those laden with minutia, such as falling rain, smoky, light filled backgrounds or drab interiors lit only by candle power.

The use of HDR is spot on, driving the story’s use of visual cues offset by gleams of brilliant light that illuminate the war-torn landscapes and gray skies. The beautiful use of sepia stands out in stark contrast to the gradational blacks, grays and green, that make up the look of wartime featured in the story. There are elements of richer color seen in the office sequence or at the Ryan Farm which look terrific. The film’s shadow laden environs, such as the one that takes place in the church, have never looked better, offering increased interstitial details that promote depth of field. Blacks are inky without compromise to fidelity.

The finale, beginning in chapter 15, brings all of the presentations best elements together and looks terrific. As impressed as I was with the 1080p rendering of Saving Private Ryan, I found the Ultra HD presentation takes it to the next level, allowing its attributes to be fully realized in a way that it hadn’t been before. Video enthusiasts are sure to appreciate it.

Dolby Vision vs HDR-10:

I utilize the TCL 55P607 UHD Dolby Vision HDR flat panel in my review system to enable me to compare the visual quality of titles that contained the Dolby Vision metadata versus its HDR-10 counterpart on the same disc. All titles are first watched via my JVC front projector. I then select specific scenes which are watched on the TCL, first via HDR-10 then via Dolby Vision. The TCL isn’t among the top tier flat panels with DV, however it came recommended by AVS Senior Editor Mark Henninger, and calibrates/performs extremely well for a set at its price point.

* The cumulative A/V score will still be based upon the HDR-10 rating, with the DV rating serving as informational only for now.*

Comparing the DV and HDR-10 presentations for Saving Private Ryan, I found the HDR to be extremely close. In fact, I would go so far as to say they were negligible. Again, I want to emphasize that this film’s predominating elements aren’t necessarily lent to the engaging type of HDR that makes the format shine.

I think that most of us at some point have used the Normandy Beach landing sequence in Saving Private Ryan to show off our surround sound systems. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio soundtrack bested the original lossy DTS track on the DVD and guess what? The Dolby Atmos mix takes it up a notch as well.

In listening to the Dolby Atmos surround mix I found it to be of the active variety that made steady use of the platform. This soundtrack has always been excellent, with its primary set pieces being chapters 2 through 5 and 16 through 20. Neither has ever sounded so good as the use of audio objects placed above successfully expands the depth of the soundstage. I appreciated the fact that the sound designers utilized the freedom of object-based mixing, making this a fairly active Atmos track that retains much of its original essence while adding a noticeable increase in scope.

When called upon everything comes together, placing you inside the action as sounds rotate and revolve around the soundstage from both above and at ear level. Aside from the aforementioned opening/closing set pieces the film features a series of scenes that show off the immersive effect as the blend of music, weapon fire and smaller object sounds effectively support the story’s thematic elements. I enjoyed the balance of atmosphere and integration of discrete object placement. I think that each complimented the source material and made for a complimentary and entertaining listening experience. Kudos to Paramount…

For those not familiar with the details regarding Ultra HD Blu-ray you can refer to my article that includes some pertinent data on the subject. Here is the link:

Ultra HD Blu-ray Has Come to AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Bonus Features:
  • Disc 1: Saving Private Ryan Ultra HD Blu-ray
  • Disc 2: Saving Private Ryan Blu-ray
  • Disc 3: Bonus Features Blu-ray
  • An introduction with Steven Spielberg
  • Looking into the past
  • Miller and his platoon
  • Boot camp
  • Making Saving Private Ryan
  • Re-creating Omaha Beach
  • Music and sound
  • Parting thoughts with Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg
  • Into the breach: Saving Private Ryan
  • Shooting war – Documentary on WWII photographers narrated by Tom Hanks
  • Theatrical and Re-release trailers
  • Digital Copy
Final Thoughts:

Saving Private Ryan is one of the most renown and awarded 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 home video since it became available. It is one of the most highly anticipated titles coming to Ultra HD Blu-ray and I am happy to report that it features faithful, high quality video reproduction, and a terrific Dolby Atmos sound mix. The bonus supplements are identical to those found on the 2010 Sapphire Series Blu-ray release, 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 Ultra HD Blu-ray collection. Highly recommended!

Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:
JVC DLA-RS500 3D/4K Ready High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6-HDR Meter from  Spectracal )
Stewart Filmscreen - Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16x9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Electronic Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV7704 Audio/Video Processor
Sherbourn Technologies - 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
B&K Reference 200.7 Series 2 Seven Channel Amplifier
Oppo UDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player
System Controller: Apple iPad /iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton "Ergo" and Canton In-Ceiling Series Speakers
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
Dual SVS PC4000 Cylinder Subwoofers
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
AC Infinity Aircom T8 Component Cooling Systems

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