Blu-ray Review: Saving Private Ryan

One of these days, when I’ve had more experience, I will have to sit down and make a list of top ten World War II films. Would Saving Private Ryan make the list? Before you answer take a look at this list of films: From Here to Eternity, Au Revoir, Les Enfants, The Thin Red Line, Schindler’s List, Casablanca, Stalag 17, The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Dirty Dozen, Mrs. Miniver, Patton, The Big Red One, The Great Escape, Das Boot, The Train, The Best Years of Our Lives, The Guns of Navarone, The Longest Day, A Walk In the Sun, The Pianist, Europa, Europa, The Diary of Anne Frank and To Hell and Back.

Obviously, just asking whether or not Saving Private Ryan would make a top ten list of WWII films means it’s pretty damned good and Paramount’s Blu-ray release of the film serves to verify that. The storming of Omaha Beach has got to be one of the best filmed war scenes ever and the combination of high-definition picture and the DTS-HD audio will surely blow you away. Paramount has not only presented this film in an amazing HD transfer, but it has done so on one single double-sided Blu-ray disc saving all of the special features for a second disc making sure to pack as much of this 50GB BD with the film as possible.

Above all else, the audio is the true winner here. Your home theater will truly rumble as bombs blast and tanks roll. Bullets whiz by from the front to rear speakers and ricochet off metal facades. It makes for an “at home” experience you dream about when you shell out that extra dough to make sure you get the very best out of your movies.

Outside of having the greatest experience with this film I can remember the other thing that came to mind was to wonder just where exactly this Steven Spielberg has gone as of late. I know Munich has its defenders but it bored me. I seem to be one of the few people that gave Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull a bad review before everyone jumped on the band wagon after it had already earned a 76% rating at Rotten Tomatoes and was considered “Certified Fresh”. War of the Worlds was decent, but we’re still not talking classic Spielberg sci-fi and The Terminal was decent, but again, not the best considering the director behind the camera.

In the early Oughts, Spielberg was still challenging himself with A.I. and the hit-and-miss Minority Report and I personally enjoyed Catch Me if You Can, but that film seemed to be the start of a slow decline. Will The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn signify a return to form and remind us of the man that brought us Jaws, Close Encounters, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T., Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan? Doubtful, and War Horse doesn’t sound like it will either.

So, for now, it would appear we’ll have to continue holding on to the past and this release of Saving Private Ryan makes it very easy to do.

I almost bought the two-disc special edition DVD release back in 2004, but at the time I hadn’t seen the film for some time and wasn’t sure if it was worth the investment. It would have been, but I’m glad I held off as it made watching this Blu-ray all the better. Along with the film, this set includes everything that was available in the 2004 release as well as the excellent feature length documentary “Shooting War” (2000) featuring a bearded Cast Away Tom Hanks narrating.

The featurettes are broken into two sections, the first simply called “Saving Private Ryan” and including nine separate featurettes detailing the making of the film from the actors, set, production design, sound and score. Also included are the theatrical and re-release trailers. The second is the already mentioned “Shooting War” taking a look at the men that captured World War II in video and photos and you won’t believe some of what you will see. Most staggering was the image of a dead infant floating in the sea after being tossed off a cliff by its mother in a last ditch effort as well as the bashed in and pummeled face of Benito Mussolini. Gruesome, yet staggering stuff.

I can’t stress enough how much I believe you should add this disc to your collection. The movie looks and sounds phenomenal and it includes any and all of the features you would have wanted from prior releases. Of course, the addition of an audio commentary would have made it an absolute knock out, but what is offered should be enough to make this a no-brainer release for any one yet to have this title in their collection.

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