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Forrest Gump: Sapphire Series
Release Date(s)1994 (November 3, 2009)
As most of you know by now, director Robert Zemeckis’ Best Picture-winning tale tells the story of an unlikely hero: a seemingly dim-witted fellow named Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) who, while perhaps a little slow between the ears, is nonetheless a very wise man indeed. For while his physical and intellectual gifts might at first glance seem less than generous, he makes the most of them and so finds himself living a far fuller and richer life than most people.
Having seen Gump a few times now over the years since its initial release in theatres, I’m not quite sure it lives up to all its hype. And yet it’s undeniably charming and it remains one of Zemeckis’ best works. The film was famous (read: infamous) for its overused trick of using (then) state-of-the-art visual effects to insert the title character into the most unlikely of events, including much real historical footage. But the film features a number of superior performances, including those of including Robin Wright Penn, Gary Sinise (nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role), Mykelti Williamson and Sally Field. These, along with Hank’s own Oscar-winning turn, have helped the film age quite well indeed – certainly better than I expected at the time.
Paramount’s new 2-disc Sapphire Series Blu-ray upgrades the film with an excellent 1080p transfer. Colors are vibrant and accurate, with very good contrast, and there’s terrific fine detail in the image. Subtle textures of skin, fabric and more just look wonderful. My only issue with the transfer is that the brighter scenes occasionally have a slightly ‘digital’ appearance to them. I don’t think its an artifact of the original production (and the digital processing/effects used at the time), but it’s hard to pin it down on anything related to the HD mastering either. It’s not a big deal though – it’s only noticeable occasionally and it’s seldom distracting. The upgrade over the DVD image is still tremendous. Audio-wise, the new DTS-HD MA mix is wonderfully clean, clear and natural sounding, with active but smooth surround play and abundant bass. Best of all, Alan Silvestri’s stirring score has rarely sounded better.
In terms of extras, both audio commentaries from the previous DVD edition are available, including one with Zemeckis himself. Several of the SD video extras have also carried over, including the Through the Ears of Forrest Gump: Sound Design, Building the World of Gump: Production Design, The Magic of Makeup and Seeing Is Believing: The Visual Effects of Forrest Gump featurettes. Sadly missing from the previous DVD are the photo gallery and the 30-minute Through the Eyes of Forrest Gump documentary. Fortunately, though, several new documentary featurettes (presented in full HD) are intended to cover much the same ground and more. These include Musical Signposts to History, the Greenbow Diary, The Art of Screenplay Adaptation, Getting Past Impossible: Forrest Gump and The Visual Effects Revolution, Little Forrest and An Evening with Forrest Gump. All are quite comprehensive and worth your time. There’s also at least one Easter egg available on this set.
Forrest Gump is a classic feel-good story, featuring one of Tom Hanks’ best performances. Thankfully, if you’re a fan, it’s a story well worth re-experiencing on Blu-ray. The set’s audio and video improvements are substantial and, while it’s missing a couple things from the DVD, on balance you’re gaining a lot more than you’re losing by the upgrade. So I would say that this makes Paramount 2 for 3 with their new Sapphire Series BD line. Now if only they’d go back and fix the Gladiator Blu-ray transfer, they’d really be in business.