Band of Brothers—HBO (Blu-ray)

Video: 4/5
Audio: 4.75/5
Extras: 4/5

Based on the bestseller by Stephen E. Ambrose, the epic 10-part miniseries "Band Of Brothers" tells the story of Easy Company, 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, U.S. Army. Drawn from interviews with survivors of Easy Company, as well as soldiers' journals and letters, "Band Of Brothers" chronicles the experiences of these men who knew extraordinary bravery and extraordinary fear. They were an elite rifle company parachuting into France early on D-Day morning, fighting in the Battle of the Bulge and capturing Hitler's Eagle's Nest at Berchtesgaden. They were also a unit that suffered 150 percent casualties, and whose lives became legend.

One of the best mini-series of all time finally finds its way to Blu-ray. Coming just shortly after Saving Private Ryan and boasting a production value that was nearly its equal, Band of Brothers is a phenomenal series about the paratroopers in “Easy Company” and their experiences in World War II. The film follows this group from training and up to the drop into occupied France and throughout the war in Europe including the Battle of the Bulge and gaining control of the Eagles Nest. This series excels on every level with great characters, production values and scope. Now we just have to wait eagerly for the rumored The Pacific that is supposedly being done by the same people for HBO.

I never had the opportunity to see this on HBO in HD but I was one of the few that sucked it up and imported the HD DVD release from Japan so I could have it in HD early. This Blu-ray is a bit different from that release in overall picture quality but it isn’t a drastic difference. The import release was a bit grainier at times whereas this release seems to waver in how much grain it retains from the original. This series was highly stylized and the grain played a big part in the look of the film. Contrast was also a big part with deep blacks and slightly overblown whites. Colors are a bit desaturated at times or take on a darker look than normal. This release looks a bit cleaned up compared to the HD DVD but that doesn’t serve the original intent quite as much. Detail doesn’t suffer too much but there were times when some of the facial features looked a bit soft in direct comparisons. Without having the other source to compare it would be hard to say how noticeable the effect would be. This is still a very dimensional HD image but it fell just a tad short of import release.

The soundtrack is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and is probably one of the best sound designs you could ever hope for from a made for cable miniseries. Dynamic range is incredible and the sound design does an outstanding job of putting you in the firefight throughout the entire show. Subtle infrasonics and deep bass lend an eerie quality to the mix and surround use is outstanding with front to back panels and discrete channel use. If you loved the sound of Saving Private Ryan, you won’t want to miss this one. A spectacular soundtrack presentation!

This Blu-ray release features some great extras that the original DVD boxset didn’t include. Each episode features a picture-in-picture commentary with some of the surviving members of Easy Company and an interactive field guide that gives insight into the episode and the real moments covered. The great documentary on Easy Company is also included and gives even more insight about the regiment and their experiences during the war. A feature on the production of this series and the premiere in Normandy are also included.

I think a lot of people have been eagerly awaiting this one to get an HD release here stateside. I was a bit disappointed to see the video take a hit compared to the import HD DVD release but it is still a strong offering. The Master Audio soundtrack is incredible and the supplemental package is a nice step up from the previous DVD release. Considering the price this one is going at, it is a must own in my opinion. Highly recommended!!