Yes, another re-issue of a film previously released on DVD. While I am usually turned off by existing DVD editions being usurped with such catch phrases as "Ultimate Edition" or "Super Duper Special Collector's Edition", in the case of a Saving Private Ryan, the original release was truly short changed in terms of the backup material we now expect. Coordinating with (some, I admit, would say capitalizing on) the 60th Anniversary of D-Day, Universal has finished what some saw as an incomplete DVD.
Saving Private Ryan (SPR)
The story begins with World War II's historic D-Day invasion, then moves beyond the beach as it follows a squad of American soldiers who embark on a dangerous special mission. Captain John Miller must take his men behind enemy lines to find Private Ryan, whose three brothers have been killed in combat. Faced with impossible odds, the men question their orders. Surrounded by the brutal realities of war, each man searches for his own answer - and the strength to triumph over an uncertain future with honor, decency and courage.
SPR is one of those movies where if you have not seen it, we must ask where you've been for the past 6 years. It is pointless for me to review the film. We all know about the brilliant directing, the remarkable cinematography, compelling acting, and brutal honesty. With it, Spielberg created a looking glass for us into the horrors of D-Day and the campaign which followed.
That's about all I will say about the movie itself, except perhaps that the home theater community should take it a little more seriously. It has saddened me to see select scenes from SPR Ryan used at trade shows such as CES and CEDIA as a tool to show off a speaker set or projection system. It does the subject matter a huge disservice I think when we use the D-Day landing scene as a way to impress our friends with that shiny new subwoofer we got.
If you are not going to sit down and watch the movie through to the end, then leave it on the shelf until such time as you can give it your full attention for the duration.
All of the supplemental material is on Disc 2.
An Introduction to the Film consists mainly of interview material with Steven Spielberg as he talks about the genesis for the film and his coming to be involved with it.
Looking Into the Past discusses the historical research which took place to get the authentic feel the film is renown for.
Miller and his Platoon deals with the actors development and research into the character of their individual parts.
In Boot Camp we finally see and hear about the famous "basic training" many of the cast went through in order to better develop their characters
Making Saving Private Ryan is the most substantial piece of this set. In it we get many behind the scenes looks at various shots and learn some very interesting things about the films creation. For example, I did not know they had special lenses made for them by Panavision which lacked the usual protective coating. This is what gave the excessively flared look during certain scenes. Also discussed is the visual design of achieving the "documentary" film look which included lots of handheld camera work and desaturation of the color.
Re-creating Omaha Beach focuses on what it took to create the long, violent, difficult, yet pivotal sequence of the movie.
The first half of Music and Sound is John Williams discussing what little music was used in the film. The second half is the film's sound designer relating to us the motivation and processes that built up the final sound product of the movie.
Parting Thoughts is simply some closing remarks, mostly from Steven Spielberg.
On the whole this set has a goodly set of documentaries. Half point off for the fact they are not formatted 16:9, and another half off for redundancies (there are documentary elements which are reused in several of the above sections). A single comprehensive making-of documentary could have been created here.
The video transfer appears in every respect to be the same used in the previous DVD edition. Much of this therefore is common knowledge.
One of the first high profile jobs to use the then relatively new C-Reality Telecine product, Saving Private Ryan is one of those rare DVDs with abundant detail and an unusual depth. The picture is very dynamic and preserves all the effort put into the film. Head and Toe room are as good as we could ever ask for but . . .
There is still some ringing/edge enhancement in evidence. It is not pronounced or particularly distracting but on today's high fidelity playback systems, it is noted and is in fact the only reason we cannot give this movie our highest video quality score.
Again, it is identical to the previous AC-3 DVD release, and the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is one of those rare gems. Perfect in every aspect, it reaches for the very limits of current multi-channel technology. Beyond just being of high quality, the artistic merit can only be described as remarkable because you are never aware of the soundtrack, despite its subjectively aggressive nature. It is only at the end, when you emerge from the emotional and sensory workout which this film is, that you note such things as the prodigious low end, the sensitivities of the surrounds' use, and the clarity that permitted you to digest the film unhindered.
- Brian Florian -