If you haven't seen Saving Private Ryan here is a brief description - Saving Private Ryan is about a team of U.S. Soldiers, led by Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) sent to locate and return James Francis Ryan (Matt Damon, Invictus) whose three brothers died on D-Day. Ryan a member of the 101st Airborne Division (whose story is told in the HBO Miniseries "Band Of Brothers) is lost behind enemy lines. Along with his team which includes - Sergeant Horvath (Tom Sizemore, Heat); Corporal Upham (Jeremy Davies, Rescue Dawn); Medic Wade (Avatar) and Privates Reiben (Edward Burns, The Incredible Hulk); Jackson (We Were Soldiers), Mellish (Adam Goldberg, Deja Vu) and Caparzo (Vin Diesel, XXX, The Fast and the Furious) they must survive rough landscapes, hidden enemies, fighting amongst themselves and must overcome their own fears to find and save Private Ryan.
Right away on the opening action scene where the soldiers land on Omaha Beach, the audio stands out and is crisp, clear and amazingly active. Bullets whiz by with a sound that is sweet until you see and hear them hitting bodies, grenades and land-mines explode with a harsh reality that is only worsened by the screams of young soldiers dying and calling for their mothers and splashing fills the air as soldiers jump over the side of boats to escape the bullets. Saving Private Ryan is filled with non-stop audio that overwhelms your hearing. If any Blu-ray is to be a "show-off" for your sound system Saving Private Ryan is it!
Visually, Saving Private Ryan is stunning and light-years better in comparison to previous releases. The color is more alive, though still as intended: which is to show the grittiness, the dirt, blood, sweat and tears of actual war. Throughout the film you notice that each soldier is covered with grime and are visually and mentally exhausted. As with the audio, the visuals stand out in the Omaha Beach landing. When soldiers explode in a fire-ball the color comes amazingly alive as it does when a soldier uses a flame-thrower to weed out Germans from their hiding place. Grasses are greener and the landscapes are filled with far more detail that previously looked far less impressive.
Director Steven Spielberg masterfully takes you through the opening of WWII for this group of young soldiers. Much like he did with JAWS when he kept the camera at water-level through much of the water scenes, he lets you know what it feels and looks like to be a victim, a participant in this environment and it's not pretty. The camera is usually somewhere among the soldiers, rarely leaving their sides to show landscapes and the soldier's point of view. Spielberg does a wonderful job of never glamorizing the war but keeping it as real as he could showing that war may not be pretty, but when there is a just cause it can be necessary.
Actors are in top form here with none doing a more impressive job than Tom Hanks. He shows leadership & fearlessness early on by standing out of his hiding spot to provide distraction for his team to get in place to get rid of enemy shooters. Throughout the film he also shows his fears through his uncontrollably shaking of his hands. Other stand-outs are Matt Damon as the surviving Ryan brother. Most of the soldiers bitterly complain about sacrificing their own lives and the lives of their comrades for one soldier. Damon proves worthy of the task as he is willing to sacrifice his own lives to stay with his brothers-in-arms to defend a crucial bridge from the Germans. Ed Burns literally becomes Reiben so much that I didn't even know he was in the film until this release. Tom Sizemore gives the performance of his career as a solid side-kick for Hank's Captain Miller.
Saving Private Ryan on Blu-ray comes in a 2-disc set. Disc 1 being the movie without any extras or commentaries. Disc 2 has all the special features. All the extras are in 480p (standard) except the Theatrical & Re-Release Trailers which are 1080p (High Definition). Shooting War clocks in at 1:28:05 and is narrated by Tom Hanks. It is a fascinating documentary about WWII and the cameramen who shot footage of the war which was a first. It features several disturbing and graphic scenes for those of you who are sensitive. Definitely a good compliment to the movie and worth a viewing. The other main features is Saving Private Ryan, the tab opens with a long list of other extras. Introduction (2:35) features Director Steven Spielberg sharing scenes from WWII films her shot and his views on Saving Private Ryan. Looking Into the Past (8:23) has Spielberg discussing the research he did for the film, the reality of which it was based on and his version on making the war movie real vs. glamorous. Miller and His Platoon (8:23) looks at the collaboration of Spielberg & Hanks and also delves into the supporting characters. Boot Camp (7:37) looks at the contributions of Military Advisor/Actor Dale Dye (who works on many war movies and helps make them more real). Dye prepares the cast with physical and military training in preparation for the film.
Making Saving Private Ryan (22:05) examines the process of constructing the film, Spielberg speaks on his style, authenticity with the sets, props wardrobes. Re-Creating Omaha Beach (17:58) has a brief historical overview of the invasion and authenticity of the scene, the stunts. Music and Sound (15:59) features Composer John Williams and discusses the history of Spielberg/Williams films while Sound Designer Gary Rydstrom talks about the lack of music for the battle scenes. Into the Breach: 'Saving Private Ryan' (25:01) is a behind-the-scenes must-see extras with cast, crew, WWII vets and Historian Stephen Ambrose and much more. Parting Thoughts (3:43) features Tom Hanks & Spielberg on the movie's themes & importance.
Overall: Saving Private Ryan should be a must-see in all schools with those at an age to understand. I saw Schindler's List my senior year and feel Saving Private Ryan should be given the same treatment as it teaches more than the history books that cover the same exact thing every school year, this movie teaches more and shows the depth of how life was back then and demonstrates more than words could ever do. Saving Private Ryan is not for those who hate war movies. Everyone else, from Spielberg to Hanks to Matt Damon fans and fans of WWII movies should all see this movie. It holds up over ten years after it's initial release and dare I say, it even improves on it's theatrical release. You won't regret buying/renting this movie!
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