Time sure does fly, as it seems like just a few years ago it was 1998 and Steven Spielberg was dominating the box office and the world with Saving Private Ryan. As with most classic movies, this too has undergone the 4K process for its 20th anniversary to look and sound better and become more intense than ever, which makes sure this epic will move and inspire fans and newcomers who can make it past the brutal yet realistic violence.
The story is a simple but deep one, in which we follow some U.S. soldiers landing on Omaha Beach during World War II. One of these groups of men making it past one of the most horrific and violent moments in history is led by Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) who receives orders to find and bring back a lone paratrooper, Private First Class James Francis Ryan (Matt Damon) as to spare his mother the agony of losing all her sons to the war as he’s the only one left. Miller and his squad head deep into enemy territory in France to find Ryan and bring him home, but we all know this won’t be easy as Miller and his men will risk everything to complete this seemingly pointless and hopeless mission while becoming brothers in the process.
As with most epics I’ve seen, to say any more would ruin a great film that everyone should experience if they haven’t already. This movie is well known for being one of the best and most brutal depictions of WWII, and I’m glad Spielberg didn’t hold anything back here. Thanks to being remastered in 4K, the visuals and sounds are even better and really make you feel like you’re in the trenches with the soldiers. Watching the first twenty minutes or so is still a hard experience to sit through, but one that demands attention as hundreds of soldiers are slaughtered on Omaha Beach in gruesome ways that will surely make most turn away or hide behind their seats in horror.
All of the cast members (even some before they became big such as Vin Diesel, Giovanni Ribisi, Paul Giamatti, Nathan Fillion, and Bryan Cranston to name a few) do a perfect job in making their characters believable as they come to grips with their mission and each other as they make it through the hell that is war.
Once you’ve made it out the trenches, you can take a look at the special features, starting with an introduction to the film by Steven Spielberg who explains being fascinated with WWII, sharing memories of his father during the war, and more. “Looking Into the Past” is a small look into the crew doing historical research for the movie, “Miller and his Platoon” has the actors discussing their roles, filming, and working with an amazing crew with some nice behind the scenes footage thrown in. “Boot Camp” is a nice look into how the actors had to train for their roles by doing actual military training in order to be mentally and physically capable of portraying a soldier.
“Re-Creating Omaha Beach” has the iconic scene broken down as cast and crew go behind the scenes in showing how this brutal part of the film came to be. It was pretty cool seeing how they hired amputees for some of the parts to really give viewers the chills of how war really is hell. What would any Spielberg film be without “Music and Sound” as this extra goes into one of John Williams’ most powerful soundtracks of his career. One of the best extras is undoubtedly “Into the Breach: Saving Private Ryan” as it features interviews with actual WWII veterans along with some of the cast as they share stories and their experiences that’s easily a must-watch.
Lastly there’s the feature-length extra “Shooting War”. Running at nearly 90 minutes, this feature takes viewers deep behind the scenes of the making of the film while also showing historical footage from World War II mixed into how they went about recreating iconic moments from the war. As with the previous extra, this too is a must-watch as it’s easy to see why it goes on for as long as it does, and will probably make some wish it went on even longer.
Picking up Saving Private Ryan on 4K UHD Blu-ray is a no-brainer for any serious movie watcher and collector out there. It’s one of the world’s greatest films for a reason, though it can be hard to stomach the brutal opening scene. It pays off in troves though, as the story is as dramatic and moving as it is simple, and everything looks and sounds crisp as though you’re in the middle of the war with John Williams’ music at your back, and few things in life are as epic as that.