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Saving Private Ryan (Commemorative 20th Anniversary Edition) (4K Ultra HD)
Twenty years in, Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan remains powerful, affecting cinema. I remember my grandpa telling me he had seen the film in theaters and had to step outside for a few minutes during the opening D-Day sequence. He did not serve in France, but saw for the first time the stories of his friends come to life in graphic, unsettling detail. This nearly half-hour sequence is one of the most technically accomplished in cinema history, and has not lost its intensity two decades later. Saving Private Ryan came five years after the director's impressive Schindler's List, and showed audiences the king of popcorn entertainment had turned over a new leaf. If there is anything to criticize, it is that the characters and plot are somewhat thin, but Saving Private Ryan is so involving and masterfully crafted that these concerns float away. You may not know the extensive back-stories of these characters, but you feel connected to them in the foxholes and trenches of war.
The titular Private Ryan is played by Matt Damon, and is the young solider Captain John H. Miller, of the 2nd Ranger Battalion, is tasked with saving. James Ryan's mother collapses as a Casualty Notification Officer and chaplain approach her porch to inform her three of four sons have been in killed in action. James parachuted in somewhere over Normandy but has not been located. General George Marshall (Harve Presnell) orders James found, which trickles down to Capt. Miller, who gathers six men (portrayed by Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Vin Diesel, Adam Goldberg, Barry Pepper, and Giovanni Ribisi) to move from Omaha Beach, Normandy, into the French countryside to look for Ryan. Between the huge opening and closing battles are tighter, tense bouts of violence and moments of character development. Save the unnecessary present-day bookend scenes, Saving Private Ryan is surprisingly economical throughout its 169 minutes.
The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, which it infamously lost to Shakespeare in Love. Spielberg did take home the trophy for Best Director, which many saw as a pale conciliation prize. I have seen this film a dozen or so times since its release, and it remains as gripping, entertaining and dramatically satisfying on each subsequent watch as it did on the first. Paramount seems to be making up for its disastrous Blu-ray roll-out a decade ago by releasing top-tier 4K Ultra HD titles out of the gate, and Saving Private Ryan is no exception. For home-theater aficionados, this is the best release to date of Spielberg's masterful war epic.
THE 4K ULTRA HD:
The nearly 100GB 4K disc houses the film with a 1.78:1/2160p/HEVC/H.265 transfer from a native 4K source. The image is presented with HDR10 and Dolby Vision, for those with capable setups. Shot by Janusz Kaminski on 35mm, Saving Private Ryan is gritty, with purposely blown-out highlights and chaotic photography, particularly during combat scenes. Paramount completed a new 4K scan of the elements for this release, and the results are evident. This feels like a theatrical presentation. Although the colors are muted and the film has occasionally soft focus, the image is rock-solid stable, with beautiful inky blacks and powerful highlights. Clouds and sky that were once blurred into an indistinguishable glare are now separate, impressive entities. Carnage and blood glare red, and the fabrics of uniforms pop on screen. Facial details and grit and grime are intimately portrayed, and amid the gloom of war are beautiful, lush landscapes, blazing sun and stone-heavy architecture. There is a noticeable improvement in detail from the HD release, and the grain structure is filmic. Overall, this is an excellent presentation.
The film has always benefitted from excellent audio mixes on home video, and the 4K release offers a Dolby Atmos soundtrack, which I sampled as a 7.1 Dolby TrueHD mix. Calling this mix immersive is an understatement. It is absolutely earth shaking. From the whizzing bullets, screams of agony and crashing waves of the D-Day sequence to ambient noise of weather and wildlife, viewers are completely surrounded by the elements. The LFE is in near-constant use, and directional effects and dialogue panning are frequent. Range and clarity are excellent, and quiet, dialogue-heavy scenes are as clear as the bigger battles. Element separate is also impressive; these chaotic sequences never become muddled or overly harsh. John Williams' memorable score is rich and perfectly integrated. The disc also includes an English 5.1 Dolby Digital track, an English DVS track and lossy 5.1 dubs in German, Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese and Portuguese. Subtitles are available in English, English SDH, Danish, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese, Dutch, Norwegian, Brazilian Portuguese, Finnish, and Swedish.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This three-disc set comes in a hinged, black 4K Ultra HD case that is wrapped in a slipcover. The 4K Ultra HD disc only contains the movie. The remaining two discs are Blu-rays and replicate the content from the previously released Sapphire Series Blu-ray release, including a 90-minute production documentary that covers all aspects of the filmmaking process and offers excellent interviews and behind-the-scenes footage.
Steven Spielberg's powerful war epic Saving Private Ryan remains effective 20 years after its initial release. Meticulously crafted and shot, with intense combat and solid performances, Saving Private Ryan is fast becoming a classic film. This new 4K Ultra HD release offers a native 4K presentation from a new scan of the elements, blistering Dolby Atmos audio, and solid carry-over supplements from previous releases. It earns the DVD Talk Collector Series badge.
William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.