Saving Private Ryan [Blu-Ray]

Steven Spielberg

BY Mark CarpenterPublished May 13, 2010

Saving Private Ryan, now available on Blu-Ray, must stand as one of the most influential movies of the last 15 years. At the time, its shockingly intense depiction of D-Day brought unprecedented levels of graphic violence to the onscreen representation of WWII. Since then, its grainy, desaturated images, and its brutal immediacy have provided the visual palette for countless war movies, particularly those focusing on the Last Good War, ranging from Flags Of Our Fathers to possibly (and most audaciously) the Nation's Pride segments in Inglourious Basterds. There is a curious disconnect, however, between the audacity of the combat scenes, which surely rival Peckinpah in their intensity, and the patriotic sanctimony of much of the rest of the film. The story "hook" (which drew Spielberg to the project) is the mission assigned to Captain Miller (Tom Hanks) and his battered, exhausted squad in France, post-D-Day: to bring Private Ryan (Matt Damon) home to his mother following the deaths of his brothers in combat. As is typical with Spielberg, the potential moral complexities are blurred and elided, in this case by paroxysms of the Greatest Generation sentimentality. However, there is much brilliance. There is the great, scarifying rendering of combat throughout, the finely etched camaraderie between soldiers and what may be Hanks' finest performance to date, as the haunted everyman at the eye of the storm. The transfer to Blu-Ray is astonishingly vivid and the sound mix overwhelming on a proper home theatre system. The second disc of extras is crammed with featurettes on every aspect of the film's making, which are detailed and informative, though with a notable air of self-importance, as if the package had come wrapped in Old Glory itself. The highlight here, though, is a terrific documentary, Shooting War, on the work of the Signal Corps in the Second World War, with fascinating clips from John Huston and John Ford, and other less-famous, but no less death-defying, filmmakers.
(Paramount Pictures)

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