Saving Private Ryan: 2-Disc Special Edition (Blu-ray) (1998)
Featurette-Behind The Scenes
|Year Of Production||1998|
|RSDL / Flipper||
Dual Disc Set
|Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Steven Spielberg|
Paramount Home Entertainment
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (640Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (640Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (640Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (640Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.85:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
PLEASE NOTE : This review is NOT of a locally released disc but rather is of the UK Region B release which has now been withdrawn from sale. We are publishing this review as it is of interest to our readership.
††† It's hard to believe it's been 12 years since I saw Saving Private Ryan in the cinemas. I still vividly recall my shock at the graphic and enveloping carnage of the opening scenes - even after I had been warned. Expertly written by Robert Rodat,†and brilliantly directed by Steven Spielberg, Saving Private Ryan has been an astounding critical and commercial success. This is a film that has left an indelible imprint on movie-going audiences world-wide. From the brutal and shocking cacophony and chaos of its opening to the demoralising and crushing mission finale, Spielberg has created a searching, philosophical film, through the crafting of unforgettable film images and sound.
††† Growing up in Arizona, Steven Spielberg had made his first amateur film, an 8-minute Western (The Last Gun) at the age of 12. Spielberg funded the project with a tree-planting business. Charging local kids admission to see his films, by 14 Spielberg had become more ambitious, and had made a 40-minute war film, Escape To Nowhere, shot on 8mm, and another short, Battle Squad, which mixed WW2 footage with sequences he'd shot at Phoenix airport. Buoyed by his success, Spielberg began work on Firelight, a 140-minute sci-fi epic, based on a story his sister had written about a UFO attack. The themes of aliens and WWII were to appear frequently throughout Spielberg's later work. Another recurring theme is the semi-autobiographical one of a child (often a young boy) in distress, with a remote or absent father. Spielberg's notable films set in WWII include Empire of the Sun (1987), Schindler's List (1993), Saving Private Ryan (1998), and the original Indiana Jones trilogy. Furthermore, Spielberg produced Letters from Iwo Jima and Flags of our Fathers, and teamed with Tom Hanks to produce the big-budget WWII television epics, Band of Brothers and The Pacific.
††† "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers, for he who sheds his blood with me today shall be my brother". These bold and moving words are delivered by King Henry V on the eve of a battle in Shakespeare's magnificent play Henry V. The sentiments expressed in this passage capture the themes of Band Of Brothers and The Pacific: the intimate bonds of camaraderie and brotherhood that develop between men in combat - men who place their lives in each other's hands. This is also a strong sentiment of Saving Private Ryan, but the film's running time limits its exploration, as compared to the afore mentioned television series.
††† Saving Private Ryan undoubtedly presents the most violent, realistic, graphic, intense, and terrifying depiction of war that I have ever seen on screen. In the opening, and unforgettable, D-Day sequence, the enemy never meet eye to eye, but are faceless armies of men, with orders to blast away at each other until no-one is left standing. The terrified Allied soldiers storm Omaha Beach, and face a withering wall of mines, gunfire, and artillery. Employing seamless SFX and advanced film-making techniques, the horrors of battle carnage are splattered onscreen. Audiences find themselves totally immersed in the terror, with the dizzying and expert use of a variety of techniques, including hand-held cameras, the speeding up of the often unrelated images, frantic editing, and varying film stock. Spielberg's gifted Oscar-winning cinematographer, Janusz Kaminski, (Schindler's List), brings a compelling war-newsreel look to a lot of the images.
††† In the following scenes, we see the gulf between those who plan and direct the war, and those who fight it. In the peaceful Washington office of Army Chief George C. Marshall (Harve Presnell), war is a noble (and political) affair and he carefully quotes Abraham Lincoln at length. A mother is about to get three telegrams telling her that three of her sons have been killed in action. She has a fourth son, a paratrooper lost in Normandy. Like a statesman, Marshall exclaims "If the boy's alive we are gonna send somebody to find him, and we are gonna get him the hell out of there."
††† So Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) must lead a group of men to find "a needle in a stack of needles."
††† The three-act structure of Saving Private Ryan is pretty straightforward. The movie is bookended by two major battle sequences, and in between, there are smaller skirmishes and relatively subdued, character-building moments to flesh out the story and the characters. As opposed to the intentional chaos and confusion of the D-Day sequence, the closing battle is clearly presented. The audience understands their plan of action, and the positions of the soldiers. We watch, totally absorbed, as their plan unfolds.
††† Apart from the wonderful writing, cinematography, directing, editing, SFX, and art direction, Saving Private Ryan provides excellent acting performances from the ensemble cast, including Tom Hanks, Tom Sizemore, Matt Damon, Edward Burns, Jeremy Davies, Vin Diesel, Adam Goldberg, Barry Pepper, and Giovanni Ribisi. The philosophical focus of the story rests with the character of Cpl. Upham; the naive and frightened interpreter, who has never seen combat, delicately played by Jeremy Davies. Like us, he is an outsider who penetrates this world of camaraderie and death. His journey through this film is ours, and we follow his character's transformation throughout the story arc.
††† "Where's the sense of risking the lives of the eight of us to save one guy?"
††† In Saving Private Ryan, there is no particular human villain. Even the cruel ideology and inhumane beliefs of Nazi Germany are not presented as the evil to be overcome. Rather, war and the blistering and cruel impact it has on the citizen soldiers who have to fight it is the real enemy. Is saving Private Ryan worth risking the lives of eight others? This question is not answered in the film, but leaves the answer to the individual viewer.
††† Overall, the transfer is excellent, and this is the best this film has ever looked at home.
††† The transfer is presented in high definition, having been authored in 1920 x 1080p. It has been encoded using AVC MPEG-4 compression, and presented in a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1, in a native 16x9 frame. This is the film's original theatrical ratio.
††† While lacking the razor-sharp definition of some recent BDs, such as Avatar, the BD's transfer is noticeably sharper than the previous DVD release, and recreates the grainy 'look' of WWII. This is often a very dark film, and fortunately the black level is excellent throughout, and despite the often high contrast level and harsh lighting, the shadow detail is also surprisingly good, albeit sometimes subtly and intentionally limited. There is also some intentional blurring of the image at times for artistic effect.
††† The film's set, costume, and overall production design are all fantastic. The colour palette is intentionally muted, and at times even looks a little washed out as intended. The skin tones are accurate. At times, just about everything is grey and gritty. The BD accurately reflects the colour palette of the source material.
††† The film intentionally has a very grainy look at times, but there are no problems with MPEG artefacts, such as pixelization. There are also no problems with Film-To-Video Artefacts, such as aliasing or telecine wobble. A few small film artefacts, for example, tiny black or white flecks, appear infrequently throughout, but these were never distracting, and indeed, they were hard to spot.
††† 10 sets of subtitles are provided, including English and English for the Hearing Impaired. The English subtitles are accurate.
††† The feature is presented on a BD-50 (50 GB) Blu-ray disc. The feature is divided into 20 chapters. There is a second BD-25 (25 GB) Blu-ray disc to house the extras.
††† As the 1998 Oscar winner for Best Sound and Best Sound Effects Editing, Saving Private Ryan provides one of the most aggressive and dazzling displays of a discrete audio mix for both DVD and Blu-ray.
††† There are five audio options on this BD: English dts HD Master Audio and German, Spanish, French, and Italian language dubs encoded with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (640Kb/s). The default dts HD MA is a wonderful audio track with both intricate subtleties in the quieter moments and a awesome dynamic range, with a full, but not over-powering bass.
††† I personally had no problems with the dialogue quality and audio sync, but please read this whole section: Firstly, obviously during the chaotic battle scenes, a lot of dialogue is lost or inaudible, but this was intended, as it helps present an environment of frustration and confusion. Secondly, there is extensive use of ADR throughout this film, and some of the looped dialogue has always been noticeable, but not distracting. Finally, please note, on May 13, a press release stated: "Paramount Home Entertainment today announced that it is recalling the Sapphire Series Blu-ray edition of Saving Private Ryan recently released in North America, the United Kingdom and the Benelux countries due to an audio synch error that occurred during Technicolorís authoring process." All discs were recalled, but it seems that while all discs were affected, the issue does not seem to affect all Blu-ray players equally. For example, before publishing my review I checked a few other reviews. It seems that other reviewers who also used a Playstation 3 to review the disc were also unaffected by the syncing issues. Apparently, a test scene is 124 minutes into the film, when Ryan tells the story of his brothers in the barn. Those with affected players (and discs) will find this section out of sync. Two brief sections where I thought there might have been a slight problem was when Upham translates the song's lyrics - but there is no close-up on any speaker so its difficult to be sure, and secondly at the end of the film when Ryan's wife says "you are" and there appears to be a slight delay. I watched both these scenes about 15 times on the BD and DVD to compare. If I wasn't studying it, I wouldn't even comment on it, so as I mentioned, I personally did not have any problems with it, but others with different discs/players or more sensitive eyes, might think differently.
††† The musical score is credited to the great John Williams, who is perhaps best known for his brilliant compositions for the Jaws, Star Wars, Superman, Jurassic Park, Harry Potter, and Indiana Jones movies. Williams has crafted an understated and moody score that carefully creeps beneath the non-battle scenes.
††† As with the DVD, this film provides one of the very best surround sound experiences for home theatre. The audio range stretches from silence and quieter moments, to the deafening surround presence and activity which is staggeringly awesome. The frighteningly immersive sound-stage features a great many rear directional effects, and panning between speakers throughout. Perhaps the best example of aggressive surround sound starts with the cacophony of the D-Day landing scene. For about 20 minutes the rears burst to life in what can only be described as a withering aural assault.
††† This movie has one of the very best LFE-heavy audio tracks that I have ever heard. From booming explosions, to the rumble of tanks, to the thunder of distant artillery, the subwoofer is used very extensively and effectively throughout.
|Surround Channel Use|
††† This BD comes loaded with a number of genuine and interesting extras on a second disc, almost all of which have been ported from a previous DVD release - the Two-Disc, Saving Private Ryan: D-Day 60th Anniversary Commemorative Edition
††† As with other BDs, the menu can be accessed while the film is playing.
††† Steven Spielberg provides a short introduction for the film, but (again) no audio commentary.
††† As with any decent film based on a real event, this looks briefly at the research into this period of history.
††† This is a quick look at the main characters in the story and the actors who play them.
††† A look at the platoon and their physical training to give the fatigued appearance of genuine combat veterans.
††† With plenty of behind-the-scenes footage, this 'making of' featurette covers a lot of aspects of the production in its relatively short running time.
††† A very informative behind-the-scenes featurette on shooting one of the most elaborate and famous scenes in recent film history.
††† Including an interview with John Williams, this is a look at the film's sound and the importance of the score to underline the emotion of the film.
††† Spielberg and Hanks share some of their thoughts about the film.
††† This featurette includes newsreel footage, and letterboxed clips from the movie. There are also comments by actor Tom Hanks, director Steven Spielberg, historian Stephen E. Ambrose, and by Spielberg's father, and WWII veteran, Arnold Spielberg. A few veterans, and the Niland family (who in part inspired this story), also add their comments.
††† Interestingly, about half of Spielberg's movies are set during or around WWII, and he discusses his fascination with the era. There are also a few clips of some of Spielberg's early (home-made) WWII movies.
††† The film's original theatrical trailer.
††† This trailer focuses on the critical acclaim the movie received. Along with the previous trailer, it is the only HD content on the Extras Disc.
††† This is easily the highlight of all the extras. Produced by Spielberg, this is a genuine documentary looking at WWII combat cameramen and the incredible images they captured in harsh and dangerous conditions. There is plenty of WWII newsreel and archival footage included.
††† This is a review of the Region B edition of Saving Private Ryan imported from the UK. I understand that all regions will have the same content, and it has been reported that the disc is region free, but I cannot confirm that myself at this stage.
††† I have owned both R1 and R4 DVD versions of this film, and even originally owned the VHS video. You might recall that frustratingly, Australian consumers had to wait many years before Saving Private Ryan was released locally on DVD (indeed, as a result it was one of my very first R1 DVD imports). Then we had to wait years to get a dts DVD version like the R1. Now, the film has been released in high definition, and yet again Australian consumers are waiting for a local release!
The video quality is excellent.
The audio quality is also excellent.
The extras are genuine and interesting.
|DVD||Sony Playstation 3 (HDMI 1.3) with Upscaling, using HDMI output|
|Display||Panasonic High Definition 50' Plasma (127 cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Amplification||Samsung Pure Digital 6.1 AV Receiver (HDMI 1.3)|