‘Saving Private Ryan’ Review

Last month I explored a different way of experiencing movies at home — one that doesn’t involve spinning 4K Blu-ray discs or streaming movies from Netflix and other services. I’m talking about the server-based movie system Kaleidescape introduced way back in 2001. The system, which is available only through custom integrators, has evolved over the years yet I never had the opportunity to experience it firsthand until recently when Kaleidescape loaned me the company’s Strato C Movie Player with a companion server, the 48-terabyte Terra. (You can read my impressions of the system in A Marriage Made in Movie Heaven.) To further explore the Kaleidescape ecosystem and what it brings to the home theater party, I will be reviewing movies available through the Kaleidescape store every other week or so. Here’s my second installment. (You can read my first review here.)

Kaleidescape Scenes
After surviving the near suicidal assault on Omaha beach, Captain Miller (Tom Hanks) and his band of brothers receive orders from the desk of General Marshal to find and bring home Private James Francis Ryan, a paratrooper lost in action behind enemy lines. Sadly, Ryan’s three older brothers lost their lives in the war effort so Miller and his team of eight men must risk their lives to save the Ryan family from further heartache.

Over the past 100 years, movies have portrayed war in varying ways. John Wayne appealed to American patriotism while Oliver Stone exposed the uglier, behind-the-scenes aspects of war. Steven Spielberg, on the other hand, aims to recreate the barbarism of war with every horrific detail intact. One can’t watch the opening battle scene as the troops storm the beaches of Normandy without feeling the terror those brave young men must have felt in that pivotal moment in history. I was fortunate enough to visit Normandy about eight years ago and it was a truly humbling experience.

There are only four “Kaleidescape Scenes” bookmarked in this presentation — Top Gun: Maverick had eight — but all are impactful in their own way:

“Carnage on the Beach”
“Orders Are Given to Bring Private Ryan Home”
“Fight for the Town”
“Captain John H. Miller Dies Saving Private Ryan”

Though the three battle scenes showcase the film’s outstanding audio track, don’t dismiss the more dramatic aspects of the second bookmark. While it’s a dialogue-intensive scene that will tug on your patriotic heartstrings, pay particular attention to the background sounds of the Military H.Q. and the “being there” experience they create.

Saving Private Ryan has been available on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc for a few years but just recently landed in the Kaleidescape store in glorious 4K HDR with a reference-quality Dolby Atmos audio track. Since the days of DVD — the movie came out in 1998 — the storming of Omaha Beach scene has been one of the best demos for showing off an A/V system, but the conclusion to the film is in some ways even more impressive as it couples battle action with quieter scenes that really capture the subtle nuances of war.

Like on the 4K UHD disc, a veil of grain throughout the movie evokes the look of the WWII era. The landscapes of the French countryside look fabulous in 4K and there’s a noticeable a step-up in the fine details of clothing and facial pores versus the 1080p version, previously available from Kaleidescape and presented with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio versus the 1.85:1 available here.

I’m still puzzled as to why it took Kaleidescape so long to give this modern classic the high dynamic range (HDR) treatment, but thankfully the wait is over. Comparing the Kaleidescape version of the movie with the 4K UHD disc I own revealed no discernable difference on my JVC RS2000 projector. Saving Private Ryan is a reference presentation through and through, in terms of both audio and video, and it’s a film I can and do watch over and over to ensure I never forget the sacrifices the Greatest Generation made to ensure our freedoms. Highly recommended.

Studio: Paramount 1998
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Download Size: 105.5GB (4K UHD)
HDR Format: HDR10
Audio Format: Dolby Atmos
Length: 169 mins
Director: Stephen Spielberg
Starring: Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Tom Sizemore, Vin Diesel, Edward Burns, Barry Pepper