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Remembering D-Day – June 6, 1944 – in Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan”


Right, Tom Hanks stars as Captain John H. Miller, the U.S. Army commanding officer of C Company, of the 2nd Rangers Battalion. Before World War II, Miller had been an English composition teacher at Thomas Alva Edison High School in Addley, Pennsylvania. Omaha Beach was lined with large steel obstacles by the German military.

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4K Ultra HD & Blu-ray; 1998; R for intense, prolonged, realistically graphic sequences of war violence, and profanity; Digital copy Amazon Video (4K), Apple TV (4K), Fandango (4K), YouTube (4K)

Best extra: A 90-minute documentary, “Shooting War,” highlights the heroic efforts of World War II combat cameramen

TODAY, the world remembers the 80th Anniversary of Operation Overlord – the codename for the Allied invasion of Normandy, France, with more than 150,000 troops. The pivotal battle on June 6 against Nazi forces began the campaign to liberate Europe. “Without the invasion, the Axis forces would never been beaten,” C. Barry Savory, Squadron Leader of the RAF Unit, says in the 2004 featurette “Recreating Omaha Beach” included on the Special Edition disc.


Steven Spielberg’s brutal D-Day masterpiece is still one of the ultimate 4K home theater experiences. It’s disturbing. It’s powerful. It’s touching.


The director has been obsessed with World War II since he was a teenager in Phoenix, Arizona, making two 8mm war films with his neighborhood buddies. His father fought during WWII as a radioman aboard a B-25 during the Burma campaign. “I had access to my dad’s medals and leather jackets for those movies. I guess, I’ve been fascinated with the 1940s.” During the filming of “Private Ryan” Spielberg said, “I don’t think I’ve ever done anything closely resembling the war that we’ve attempted to bring to life.”

(1-3) An American WWII veteran arrives at the Normandy American Cemetery with his family. The 172.5-acre facility contains the graves of 9,388 military dead, most of whom lost their lives in the D-Day landings.


“This movie is about the veterans. It’s for the veterans of World War II. If it weren’t for those veterans, none of us would be having the lives we’re having today.” – Steven Spielberg, director, producer  


“The opening sequence is one of cinema’s most daring and graphic. “Omaha Beach was a slaughter,” Spielberg says. The beach had the heaviest defense along the Normandy coastline and the Allied bombing missed most of the fortified bunkers stocked with heavy-duty weaponry. During the first waves, Americans suffered 2,400 casualties in the units of the U.S. 29th and 1st infantry divisions. Many drowned during the approach or were killed by Germany’s formidable defenses above the beach.

“So, I tried to be as brutally honest as I could with what we had,” Spielberg says.


The complete production was filmed in continuity – the first time since Spielberg captured “E.T.” – including the 24-minute Omaha Beach sequence, which was shot in three takes, using two to five cameras. That scene alone cost $11 million and included over 1,000 extras.



The invasion was filmed in newsreel style by Oscar winner Janusz Kaminski (“Schindler’s List”) and looks flawless on 4K, especially when the camera uses Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) POV; it gives a glimpse into his soul. Paramount kept every single ounce of the gritty film grain for superb sharpness and depth sourced from the original 35mm camera negative, which has been mastered in TRUE 4K.

Oddly, the aspect ratio was changed from the theatrical 1.85:1 to 1.78:1 aspect ratio, which gives a little more vertical depth to the frame. Everything was encoded onto a 100 GB disc to provide the highest bitrates for the video and audio.


HDR toning (Dolby Vision & HDR10) expands the visual depth providing a much deeper black level, while the highlights are brighter and controlled for a true lifelike picture – especially in natural facial toning. Spielberg purposely desaturated color during the combat scenes, but the 4K pict


The eight-channel Dolby Atmos soundtrack is quite active from the front, sides, and height speakers. Once you hear the opening sequence (ranging nearly 100 decibels) with bullets whizzing and mortars exploding from speaker to speaker, you’ll quickly realize why “Saving Private Ryan” won an Oscar for Best Sound.



A third Blu-ray disc contains all of the extras found on the previous 10th Anniversary set including ten featurettes breaking down the production filmed in Ireland for the carnage of Omaha Beach, and a former British aerospace factory transformed into a small French village for the showdown.


The biggest surprise from the “Shooting War” feature narrated by Hanks: All of the real combat footage from D-Day was accidentally dropped into the English Channel except for one roll that generated less than 10 seconds of raw action.


Don’t miss one of Mr. Spielberg’s finest works.


— Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer



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