In Short: The best movie of 1998 is also the very best DVD of 1999 and one of the most breathtaking ever released to DVD.
Steven Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan" is a masterful epic; a haunting portait of the sheer horror that was experienced on the beaches of Normandy. The famed opening of the picture is one of the most devastingly realistic and terrifying sequences ever, with incredible camerawork by cinematographer Janusz Kaminski taking us into the middle of battle, with an incredible amount of gore and horror. The images that are presented here are ones that will stick in memory for a long time to come.
The film is bookended by flashback scenes of an older man visiting the graves of fallen soldiers. From that point, we are thrown into the opening battle and then, taken through the rest of the events. We learn that three brothers from one family have died in the war and that the army is looking to send a group to find the remaining brother, James Ryan(Matt Damon).
Captain Miller(Tom Hanks) and his men are at first against going to find the lost soldier, but we are absolutely drawn into these people from the very begining: these are very human, very wonderfully written characters and what happens to each of them tears the audience apart emotionally. Each decision has enormous impact and even in the film's quieter moments, the tension is overpowering.
The crew ventures across the countryside in a long and tough journey to try and find the missing soldier. The performances throughout this journey are truly fantastic, especially Ed Burns(known previously as the director of "The Brothers McMullen") and Tom Sizemore. Sizemore is really impressive, with a powerful and outstanding performance. Also quite good are Adam Goldberg("Ed TV") and Jeremy Davies("Ravenous"). Hanks leads the film like a master, with a performance that is absolutely top-notch. Throughout the film, each of these characters builds and grows and the audience is there for every moment.
Spielberg does not manipulate. He doesn't need to. We are moved(I cried often throughout this picture) by the sheer power and emotional impact of what is shown here. The cinematography by Janusz Kaminski(who graduated from the college I go to) is phenomenal; the gritty, intense, bleak images are breathtaking and horrifying. There are a few camera and film styles used and they add to the terror of the film.
"Saving Private Ryan" must be seen to get the full impact: this is an intense, devastatingly brutal picture that contains many phenomenal performances and a fantastic screenplay. Steven Spielberg has simply made a classic that people will be moved by for a long, long time.
VIDEO: I have now seen perfection. Dreamworks recently came close to it with their edition of "Prince Of Egypt", but I must say, the image quality of "Saving Private Ryan" is as flawless as it gets. Dreamworks has used the new C-Reality process for this transfer and the results are simply jaw-dropping. I haven't ever seen images this clear, this sharp or with this level of definition before. I have to be perfectly honest here: the image quality looks better on DVD than when I remember seeing it in the theater. It's that good. It's so good that, in my opinion, it takes DVD to another, higher level altogether.
Colors are absolutely crisp, natural and accurate. The sort of desaturated color palette looks much better, at least to me, on this DVD. Black level is excellent and shadow detail is fantastic. There are absolutely no instances of pixelization or shimmering. The images on this disc are consistently pure and crystal clear; absolutely clean throughout. As the soldiers walk through the countryside, practically every branch and leaf of the trees are visible. The greens visible are goregous and absolutely natural. Images throughout the film look three-dimensional on this DVD.
Even the darker sequences contain a very good amount of detail. There are no flaws here to be found. Dreamworks has brought forth this fantastic film on what I consider to be the most beautiful image quality I've ever seen on DVD. People will be absolutely amazed when they see how perfect the image quality is on this disc. Dreamworks gets the highest image quality grade I've given. An additional note: the layer switch is at about 1 hr 33 minutes and 35 seconds into the movie.
SOUND: This is really one of the most incredible experiences out there in terms of sound. The opening battle scene is absolutely enveloping as bullets fly in every single direction throughout the sequence. I ducked plenty of times during this sequence, as the sounds of gunfire seem so real it amazed me. This is simply a force; agressive and haunting, a totally breathtaking presentation. There is some serious bass during the action sequences, enough so that I could literally feel the thunderous sound. The final battle is just as amazing as the first one, with gunfire coming from all directions and some very powerful explosions. The John Williams score sounds excellent as well, rich and clear. Dialogue is clear and easily understood, never sounding thin or compressed. This is absolutely an outstanding listening experience that I think many will find unforgetable.
MENUS: Dreamworks has put together some very subtle menus with slight animation. These keep with the tone and mood of the film and I think not going with explosive menus was an excellent choice. Scene selection is also animated. These are really well-done menus.
Trailers: Both the theatrical trailer and the trailer for the re-release of the film. Both look and sound outstanding.
Into The Breach: "Into The Breach" is a wonderful and informative documentary that takes a look not only at the making of this marvelous motion picture, but at the history behind this war. There are interviews with the cast and crew as well as others, and I found what was said informative and very, very interesting. The interviews are really quite good and all involved give their viewpoints about not only war, but the production itself.
The documentary also includes quite a lot about the history of the war, including some footage of the war and interviews with former soldiers. The documentary also includes some footage of the films that Spielberg made when he was younger, and the results of his early efforts are really fun and interesting to watch. "Into The Breach" is a really well-done documentary feature and it runs about 25 minutes.
Message From Steven Spielberg: This is also at the end of the picture, but you can also find it in the special features section. This is a brief message from the director that lasts a couple of minutes. It's a great addition to have the picture end with this message from the director, which summarizes his feelings about the film and the history behind it.
Where To Find It:
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