Shot and presented in 2.35:1 wide screen, the MPEG 4 AVC transfer is not the cleanest when compared to current releases. The picture exhibits very high contrast levels and a slightly dark palette. Whites look a little murky at times with chroma noise evident. Film grain is ever present and combined with the transfer noise is a little intrusive. At least a 24Fps frame rate has been used. There is some smearing of detail even in slow moving scenes and a few edge enhancement issues as well. Skin detail is also much lower than we have come to expect these days, but I am sure the actors were not complaining about that! Skies look bleached in a high number of shots, including the opening credits and there are also motion issues to contend with as well. Low level detail is generally pretty good, with plenty of subtle information in the shadows. The CGI is excellent for the era with the main use around the Vietnam battle scenes. Here additional explosions, bullets and napalm canisters were all added in and actors were also moved closer to the action with supporting wires and even legs digitally removed. Camerawork is superb throughout, though with a much deeper depth of field in some shots than we often see today. This does make some of it look a little “TV” at times – not helped by the colour palette. This would actually make a good 3D conversion, with very little frenetic action or wild hand held camerawork. For the most part though, it’s pure cinema and extremely absorbing. The CGI around the archive footage that Hanks and others are inserted into is on the whole extremely good and stands up quite well even today. There are a few scratches and dust marks, but these are very minor and you have to look quite hard for them. On the whole fine for a 2009 transfer, but struggling to compete with the best today.
The DTS-HD Master 5.1 soundtrack is well mixed and stands up well. The surround information is best described as limited! Don’t forget that back in the early 90s, most surround systems had much lower powered rear channels, often quite frequency restricted. It would be too much to expect this to come up to modern standards therefore. The ADR and sound effects are all well implemented and rattle along nicely. The explosions in the battle scenes are satisfyingly huge, but do overwhelm some of the dialogue at times. The thud of the helicopter rotors would have been better if it flew overhead but still has the capacity to surprise, coming out of a much quieter scene. The music score is made up of excerpts from American songs of the period and an extensive classical score composed by Alan Silvestri. This is another triumph of the movie in terms of content, but the different levels used to fit some tracks around other elements of the film does not always feel totally integrated. With the notable exceptions of the battle scenes, dialogue is generally clean and crisp but a bit too “mono” by some modern standards. The Low Frequency Effects channel is well used all the way down to 30Hz or so and is never booming or unpleasant. For the most part, it’s just a really good stereo plus centre mix with the surround speakers popping in just now and again to reassure you they are still working.
On the main disc we get a couple of commentaries to listen to. To be honest, they are pretty standard fare and the audio from producer Wendy Finerman is particularly poor, with lots of thumps and crunches. Bob Zemeckis, Steve Starkey and Rick Carter signpost the film pretty well, but it’s not a difficult film to understand anyway. Some of the production notes they make about the CGI and locations are quite interesting though. You can also select the various music tracks and find out little more about them. The second disc contains the vast majority of the extras, although only the first few are in HD. A couple of notes about the menu structure: The Top Menu button is disabled and the Pop Up menu button actually brings up the main menu screen. When it does arrive though, it is superb quality and much cleaner than the movie transfer.
- Greenbow Diary is the de-rigour behind the scenes video diary. Nicely made and quite informative, it runs to almost 30 minutes with very little repeated footage. The quality is on a par with the main movie, but again chroma noise is an issue.
- The Art of Screenplay Adaption is another 30 minute documentary that follows the journey from the original book to the screenplay that became the final film. Following the fall out between the studio and Winston Groom, his responses are quite measured and he seems quite relaxed bearing in mind he was effectively scammed out of quite a few million dollars!
- Getting Past the Impossible is also 30 minutes long and concentrates on the various digital effects and CGI used throughout the film. Some were more obvious than others, so this is a good starting point for the FX spotters! It does talk a little too much about various other films as well, but just treat this as a bonus.
- Little Forrest is the last HD featurette and includes footage shot when the film was made and a more recent interview with Michael Conner Humphreys who played both Junior Forrest and Forrest Gump Junior! Despite being excellent in this role, he has not gone on to do much more, a pity really. The obvious chemistry between Humphreys and Hanks is clear from the documentary, even though they only shot a couple of scenes together. It is well known that Hanks based his accent upon Humphreys’, who admits to hamming it up just a little bit!
- Building the World of Forrest Gump is one of the original LD / VHS shorts, along with some screen tests and other featurettes covering various aspects, including sound, set design and another movie video diary. They do to a certain extent duplicate the newer documentaries and are all in 4:3 and not of great technical quality. There is over an hour of them, so they are worth a scan through. It was a good idea to include them, but sensibly they have all been grouped under an “Archival” sub menu.
- The slightly disappointing feature is a recording of a live interview held at a university theatre and featuring Tom Hanks, Gary Sinise, Robert Zemekis and Eric Roth. Technically quite poor and not that interesting, it does feel a bit like padding and is quite unnecessary in view of the rest of the extras. Very little new information is given and it feels over long. Although I am sure the University were proud to host the event, it feels sterile and boring without any cut in footage to highlight the discussion and no attempt made to dress the stage. Pretty much the only extra I did not enjoy.
For a 2009 release, this is a good set of extras and holds its own against the current crop of releases.
This film feels as fresh today as it did when it was made. The originality of the plot coupled with the timeless locations and historical references makes for a great feel good film. Younger children might struggle with the plot and occasional bad language and sexual content, but this is not an overbearing aspect of the movie. The beautifully innocent portrayal by Hanks is clearly the main driver of the movie, but none of the supporting cast put in a bad performance either.
The original quality of the movie sometimes struggles to shine through the fairly average transfer. It is not bad, but just not as good as we see today. There are simply too many small niggles that all build up to make the technical presentation quite poor. Hopefully the film will be re-issued at some point having undergone a full re-master. Ridiculous as it seems, but even films as comparatively young as this do benefit from a full resotoration
Still a brilliant movie and well worth purchasing.
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