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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  • Andrew

    Great Review Brad, just picked this up the other day and haven't gotten around to watching it yet. But after hearing how good it looks and sounds I plan on watching it in the very near furture

  • Chris

    I remembered reading on other review sites the first discs had an audio sync problem. Do you know if this has been corrected?

    • Brad Brevet

      Yes, I reviewed the corrected version, which was the reason for the delay of my review.

  • Dave

    Yes the audio sync issue has been corrected. If the UPC label on the back is yellow it is the 'fixed' version. I never had any issues with my disc though.

  • Oleksiy

    The Pianist is best War War 2 film

    • Nick

      It's a Holocaust film / character study. Not a WW2 movie, really.

      • Oleksiy

        Holocaust is a part of WW2. really

      • Nick

        I'm saying that Pianist is not strictly a WW2 film. There isn't *any* actual WAR shown in it. The Holocaust films have long become their own genre, you might as well call Schindler's List a WW2 film. Doing that, you practically place it in one row with Private Ryan and other films like it, which is simply wrong.

  • Nick

    I loved every movie Spielberg has put out in the last decade except for War of the Worlds. Minority Report will be a sci-fi classic, Munich is a great piece that showed Steven still hasn't lost his dramatic touch, Indy IV was a great homage to crappy cheap adventure/sci-fi movies and serials of the '50s (that was always the whole point of Indiana Jones and original Star Wars), and Catch Me If You Can was the most entertaining and enjoyable movie he's ever made outside of Indy films, and his best in the last decade. Yet, I'd agree that there are reasons to not be confident in Tintin and War Horse. The former has all it needs to be great, but it could turn out mediocre like WotW, and the latter sounds completely unnecessary and uninspired. We also still don't know if he believed TF2 to be a fantastic movie or only said that 'cause he wanted to please Michael Bay (he's the producer after all). So on one hand he seemingly is more or less the same old great Spielberg, yet something feels a bit off, lol. Gotta hope for the better.

    And Saving Private Ryan is a war masterpiece. Near-perfectly directed, shot, written and played. The images of waving American flag did bother me just a little bit (I'm neither American or into pathos like that), and the final scene tried too hard to get the point across, when it was already obvious. Other than that, it's an amazing film, and the first 30 minutes and the final battle scene and the whole build-up to it were brilliant. Not one of the greatest films ever because of the little flaws I mentioned, but a masterpiece nonetheless. Just my opinion, of course.

  • oldskool138

    You forgot "The Longest Day" in your list.

    John Wayne + an All-Star cast + Normandy = awesome!

    • Brad Brevet

      Actually, it's on there... "The Guns of Navarone, The Longest Day, A Walk In the Sun"

  • Jack

    Top Ten greatest WWII films:

    10. The Thin Red Line

    9. Windtalkers

    8. Flags of Our Fathers

    7. Tora, Tora, Tora!

    6. The Dirty Dozen

    5. The Great Escape

    4. The Bridge on the River Kwai

    3. Inglourious Basterds

    2. Patton

    1. Saving Private Ryan

  • Azreal71

    Im really disappointed in all of you, you have to make one exception here in your list, I know Band of Brothers wasnt a "film" but to put Casablanca(Brad) or Inglourious Basterds(Jack) on this list and NOT include Band is an insult to what actually happened during WWII, so what Band was a television series, it stands as the most accurate of all films and TV series depicting the war yes even more so than SPR! Don't get me wrong SPR is an amazing film, This was the film I saw right before I headed off to bootcamp(so I know) But if you leave off mentioning B.O.B in any WWII film convo you dishonor those men who gave so much of themselves for those years during and after the war.