Saving Private Ryan is a very gritty movie. It's meant to appear raw, grainy, rough around the edges. And the UHD handles its complexities masterfully. The 2160p true 4K image boasts remarkable detailing. Textures on helmets are tangibly rough. Every bit of sand is accounted for on Normandy, and every bit of war-torn rubble in Ramelle reveals each rough edge and pebbly remnant with enough sharpness to cut the viewer, particularly as it gets tossed about by the fight but also even as it's merely lying on the ground in a state of war-torn ruin. Grain is certainly very pronounced and an integral part of the viewing experience. Smoke-filled scenes do see it rise in intensity to the point of appearing more noisy, but the film's bulk does see it present with excellent adherence to a natural, even, well distributed field. Detailing extends beyond environments, of course,. Characters are complex, particularly considering gritty, war-weathered faces, often under a fine layer of grime. Dust, water, and blood are often more prominent than pores, stubble, and wrinkles, though each is handled with a very nuanced and accurate level of revelatory complexity and inherent source sharpness. There's a significant boost in sharpness and clarity compared to the Blu-ray, again now about eight years on the market. It still looks fairly good, but the add in definition and stability prove critical and reveal a leap in the image's overall presentation.
The 12-bit Dolby Vision color presentation brightens the image without sacrificing its gritty, desaturated intent. Colors are a little less dour to be sure, but the increased push certainly proves a more significant transformation to the image than does even the often striking boost in resolution. Whites are much brighter for one. The film's opening titles and a few cards throughout the film look comparatively dreary on Blu-ray whereas there's an unmistakable pop and cleanliness on the UHD. It's a difficult sell on a movie like this; the denaturation, the emphasis on beiges, greens, and grays are critical to defining mood and atmosphere, but the Dolby Vision transformation -- it's more a transformation than it is a compliment -- brings a life to the movie that accentuates its style rather than marginalizes or minimizes it in any way. There's a new intensity to even the rather dour palette. Clothes and helmets, beige and green, largely, enjoy much more vitality within the film's color parameters. Take a look at a shot of Captain Miller's helmet at the 27:09 mark (which is a great shot to showcase the increase in raw clarity and detail, too, not only the helmet's bumpy texture but also the drastic increase in facial definition as the camera slowly zooms in on him. On the UHD, small hairs growing out of pores on his right cheek are plainly visible). It finds new boldness and intensity to its natural color. It's very drab on the Blu-ray, but not showy or shiny on the UHD. It's just more realistically saturated without altering the scene's emotional tone. There is a noticeable increase in brightness to fire -- several men are aflame in the movie's bookend action scenes, and the fire's vitality is strikingly more intense on UHD. The same goes for some natural greenery seen through the film's middle stretch as Miller and his men seek out Ryan in the French countryside.
In short, the movie leaps off the screen with its 4K/Dolby Vision presentation. It's not a fundamentally different experience, but it's a departure from the Blu-ray, texturally to be sure with a significant add in sharpness and clarity but also in terms of color. Dolby Vision has been carefully applied to give the image a brighter, more vibrant sheen without sacrificing the movie's core color integrity. It's very refined, more showy where it needs to be, still bleak when it must be. It looks amazing, holds up to scrutiny with only a few inherently softer focus shots in play and a couple of scenes showing some cracks when thick smoke and heavy grain create a mildly processed look, but overall the movie looks strikingly good on UHD.
Saving Private Ryan previously released on Blu-ray with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack that seemed to be all the movie needed. Enter the UHD's Dolby Atmos audio presentation, which expands the track naturally and gracefully (and also forcefully as necessary), complimenting the presentation with a grand sense of terror, immersion, and authenticity. Waters approaching Normandy splash through the stage, waves crash all around with fearsome force, and the top channels, while not discrete, add to the atmosphere of running watercraft engines and splashing water drenching the men and the boat's interior. German machine guns open on disembarking Allied soldiers with frightening vigor and intensity, ripping through the stage and, subsequently, human bodies and metal boat hulls. The gunfire is never loud for the sake of bering loud, never over engineered for effect. Instead, there's a precision to its cadence, clarity behind every shot, and depth to each impact of striker on primer. Bullet zip and ricochets are terrifyingly intense. The stage transforms into the bloody beach; every inch of the theater is impacted by explosions, gunfire, and chaos. But what's amazing isn't necessarily the primary, stage-dominant effects but rather the opportunity to hear with legitimate clarity distant cries for ammo, shouted orders, screams for medics, and other chaotic calls as the soldiers maneuver their way through the deadly labyrinth of high velocity lead. It's also not over engineered, as noted. Bass is prolific but never overly pronounced. Gunfire is loud but not cranked up. Each weapon's cadence is perfectly clear, every vocalization precise -- even shouted with a hard edge -- and the general environmental din is as key a component to drawing the listener into the film as are the visuals, which themselves convey a sense of terrifying madness.
The film's climactic battle at Ramelle offers much of the same, though the dynamics are certainly different. Piles of rubble and what's left of various buildings create a more enclosed space. There's much more opportunity for condensed explosive dynamics and less opportunity for ricochet. Gun thumps hit hard, whether clanking rifles or much more powerful crew-operated weapons. Tanks rumble with intensity and each with their own unique sonic signature as they traverse the rubbly terrain. The movie's most haunting sound comes in the lead-up to the battle as German armor grows ever closer, the sounds pushing through the streets and into the theater, signaling a foreboding battle but also creating an absolute sense of fear and dread at the approaching enemy, which greatly outnumbers and outguns the men tasked with defending the position. With the Dolby Atmos track, those sounds are more open, and the distant rumbles, the grinding gears, the treads rolling over debris seem to enter the stage with more clarity of fine detail and sense of distance and space, adding to the effect of coming war. The track handles other elements beyond action very well. Music is wide and filling, playing with exceptional fidelity across large-area stage positioning. Environmental details, like falling rain or distant pops and explosions, seem always perfectly positioned; no matter the place, the listener always feels certain of the sonic world around the movie. Dialogue is clear and true with natural front-center positioning.
4K Bluray details
Codec: HEVC / H.265 (52.12 Mbps)
Resolution: Native 4K (2160p)
HDR: Dolby Vision, HDR10
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
Original aspect ratio: 1.85:1
English: Dolby Atmos
English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
English: Dolby Digital 5.1 (640 kbps)
German: Dolby Digital 5.1 (640 kbps)
Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 (640 kbps)
French: Dolby Digital 5.1 (640 kbps)
Italian: Dolby Digital 5.1 (640 kbps)
Japanese: Dolby Digital 5.1
Portuguese: Dolby Digital 5.1
Note: English DD 5.1 = Original audio mix. Spanish España y Latinoamérica, French Parisian, Portuguese Brasil
English, English SDH, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish
4K Ultra HD
Three-disc set (1 BD-100, 1 BD-25, 1 BD-50)
Digital copy expired
Slipcover in original pressing
4K Blu-ray: Region free
2K Blu-ray: Region free