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4K UHD Review: Saving Private Ryan: Commemorative 20th Anniversary Edition

June 26, 2018

By John Corrado

Last month, Steven Spielberg’s classic 1998 World War II epic Saving Private Ryan got a brand new 4K Ultra HD release from Paramount, in honour of the film’s 20th anniversary.

The film saw Steven Spielberg returning to the war five years after his Oscar-winning masterpiece Schindler’s List, this time putting us right on the front lines of battle and focusing on the camaraderie that forms amongst soldiers.

It begins with the now famous opening sequence on Omaha Beach, a harrowing section of of filmmaking that remains one of the most visceral and disorienting depictions of active combat ever put on screen, introducing us to Captain John H. Miller (Tom Hanks).

When the army gets word that three brothers have been separately killed in action, Miller is tasked with leading a team of seven soldiers behind German enemy lines to track down the fourth brother, Private James Francis Ryan (Matt Damon), and bring him safely home to his mother.  Through this, the film becomes like an encapsulation of the war as a whole, exploring the sacrifices made by multiple men who are risking and even giving their lives in order to save one man, so that his family doesn’t have to deal with any more loss.

The graphically realistic battle sequences thrust us right into the terror and panic of war, as Janusz Kaminski’s riveting cinematography puts us up close and personal with the soldiers on the ground, but Saving Private Ryan is equally compelling in the quiet moments between the characters, when the extent of the sacrifices that they are making really hits home, and we see the bonds that have formed between these soldiers.

The film became a huge hit with both critics and audiences when it was released in the summer of 1998, ranking as the highest grossing movie of the year in the United States, and going on to win a total of five Academy Awards out of its eleven nominations.  While Steven Spielberg very deservingly took home his second Best Director trophy, the film itself lost Best Picture to the highly overrated Shakespeare in Love, a choice that looks even more embarrassing two decades later.

Bolstered by thrilling action, involving performances, and a powerfully absorbing story, Saving Private Ryan remains both an exceptional blockbuster and one of the finest war movies ever made.  It’s a film that still holds up in every single way, feeling like it could have been made yesterday despite coming out twenty years ago, and this spectacular new edition absolutely does justice to it.

The 4K disc includes no additional content, but the set also comes with a regular Blu-ray of the film, as well as a secondary Blu-ray disc devoted entirely to bonus features, including an excellent selection of featurettes ported over from the 2010 release that offer a deep dive into the making of the film.

Saving Private Ryan: Commemorative 20th Anniversary Edition is a Paramount Home Media Distribution release.  It’s 169 minutes and rated 14A.

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