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Saving Private Ryan: Limited Edition (Dolby Digital)

review by Ren C.

 

Rated R

Studio: Dreamworks

Running Time: 169 Minutes

Starring Tom Hanks, Matt Damon

Written by Robert Rodat

Directed by Steven Spielberg

 

Retail Price: $34.99

Features: Theatrical Trailers, Director's Message, Making-of, Production Notes and Bios

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround, English Subtitles

This is one of those movies that words, quite simply, do not do justice to. This has to be seen to be believed. Set during World War II, the plot of the movie revolves around the search for Private James Ryan, who has been given a way home by virtue of the fact that his other brothers have been killed in combat. Given orders to undertaker this mission is a squad of soldiers led by Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks).

The movie opens on the storming of the beach at Normandy on D-day. This is without question one of the most moving opening scenes that I have ever witnessed. It is unbelievably violent, but not for the sake of violence, but to illustrate the sheer horrors that were part and parcel of World War II.

From there, the men learn of their new mission, and set out on the French countryside to look for Private Ryan. Along the way, they come across other events, and bond as a unit. But more importantly, they wonder why they are the chosen ones to find Private Ryan, and why he should have a way home and not them.

With a cast of actors that includes Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Tom Sizemore and Vin Diesel, and being directed by Steven Spielberg, this was almost guaranteed to be a blockbuster. It didn't disappoint, although with a story like this, I think that it could have succeeded with less talent. That is definitely not a knock against the cast though, as each one fills his role admirably, and never does the movie seem like a Tom Hanks vehicle.

I'm generally not a fan of war movies, but this one is anything but a war movie. Instead, it comes across like a movie to establish that despite everything, we are all still human.

Picture-perfect. There is no sign of any grain, or anything of that nature, and the movie comes across dynamically and vibrantly. The movie tends to be a bit gray, and somehow, even these grays seem vibrant. I wouldn't mind if all new releases were delayed by a few months if they were able to look this good when they were released.

Again, this is definitely a movie where your sound system will get a workout. The opening twenty-five minutes or so, especially, are filled with action where the sounds of bullets will literally be whizzing by your head, splashing across water, and generally making it seem as though you are at Normandy Beach. The sound is well distributed, and stays consistent, even through the slower, more dialogue-driven portions of the midsection of the movie.

Although not a full-blown special edition, the features are more than adequate. The most substantial of these is the almost half-hour long documentary, "Saving Private Ryan-Into The Breach." Refreshingly, this is not the typical, studio-driven promotional feature, but instead, a very in-depth look at both how the movie was made, and a historical look at the time. Very interesting to me were the clips of movies that Spielberg made when he was a teenager that looked surprisingly polished for such an initial effort. The documentary incorporates interviews of the cast and crew of "Saving Private Ryan," along with veterans of World War II who actually served during the time period that "Ryan" is set in. A very compelling documentary, that actually serves a purpose other than to sell the movie.

Next up is a special message from Steven Spielberg that is included both after the main feature, and is selectable on the special features menu. Basically, Spielberg gives us a little more background on D-day, and why he made the movie. Not really the most in-depth feature in the world, but nice to see Spielberg involved nonetheless.

Two trailers are included, one from the original theatrical release, and the second from the re-release of the film shortly before the 1999 Oscars. Both trailers are compelling, although the second doesn't convey the story so much as it conveys the accolades that the movie (deservingly) received.

The final two features are the standard cast and crew bios, and production notes about the movie. The same production notes are included in the booklet for the movie, along with a separate insert for the National D-day Museum.

This is undoubtedly going to be remembered as one of the modern classics, and certainly as one of Spielberg's best films. The audio and video are both of reference quality, the movie is top-notch, and the features, while not jam-packed, are a nice companion to the movie. No question in my mind, this is a movie that belongs in everyone's collection. Highest recommendation.

(4.5/5, NOT included in final score)

(5/5)

(4.5/5)

(2.5/5)

(4.5/5, NOT an average)

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