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February 3, 2010
Forrest Gump - Sapphire Series Blu-Ray Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
8/5/19982/12/2009ParamountRobert Zemeckis
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1MTom Hanks

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Forrest (Tom Hanks) and Jenny (Robin Wright).

When a movie wins six Academy Awards and is nominate for a further seven you know this is a truly brilliant movie, and indeed the worldwide gross of $US677 million just shows how much of an impact this movie had around the globe. If you haven't seen this Best Picture Academy Award winner then you're in for a treat, but we would have to think that almost everyone has seen this movie by now.

Forrest Gump tells the story of Forrest (Tom Hanks), a shy Southern boy in love with his childhood best friend (Robin Wright) who finds that his ability to run fast takes him places. As an All-Star football player he meets John F. Kennedy; as a soldier in Vietnam he's a war hero; and as a world champion Ping-Pong player he's hailed by Richard Nixon. Becoming a successful shrimp-boat captain, he still yearns for the love of his life, who takes a quite different and much sadder path in life.

As Robert Downey Jr's character Kirk Lazarus said in Tropic Thunder "it's about the emotionality" and that is exactly how I feel about Forrest Gump. There are so many emotions that run through me when watching it. From the sadness when young Forrest is picked on as a kid, when characters such as Jenny die, or when he gets picked on by some of Lieutenant Dan’s ‘lady friends’. I always choke up when he's talking to Jenny at her graveside. But it's not all sad. There's the sheer delight when Forrest succeeds at shrimpin', the humour when he touches a woman for the first time, and the sheer joy of watching him move through the pages of history and meeting presidents, celebrities and getting mixed up in historic events such as Watergate. It's a true roller coaster from start to finish.

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Young Forrest Gump with leg braces.
Acting in this movie is absolutely stellar across the board. Of course Tom Hanks is now in the history book for his deserving win for Best Actor in the Academy Awards, and Gary Sinese was nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting role too. But it's the supporting cast including Robin Wright as Forrest's life-long friend Jenny, Mykelti Williamson as Bubba, and Sally Field as Forrest's mother that hold this movie up so well too.

So this movie is entirely fictional, but this movie is almost a documentary in that it covers so many of America's political, social and entertainment events during much of the 20th Century. Even today, some 15 years after the movie hit cinemas the visual effects, and in particular the integration of Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump, into archival footage is spectacular. There are some minor things that wouldn't pass today, Forrest running from the napalm in Vietnam and certainly John Lennon's lip synching was average at best, but this movie remains a visual effects treat too.

Forrest Gump is one of my all-time favourite movies. It's an engrossing tale with superb acting, near seamless visual effects and a soundtrack which virtually chronicles the times as well as any other movie. To have this movie on Blu-Ray is a complete joy and its a movie which I will continue to revisit on a regular basis.

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Forrest Gump playing football.
Forrest Gump is the first release in Paramount's Sapphire Series of Blu-Rays which basically means their very best in terms of transfers and extras. Needless to saw the AVC MPEG-4 encoded video, at the films original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, is quite superb with a level of sharpness, colour reproduction and shadow detail that far surpasses the DVD which in itself was very impressive.

As a part of the "Sapphire" series this is a fantastic release and certainly better then the vast majority of Blu-Ray releases to date, but we did notice some very slight edge enhancement in a few places. Still you're going to be picky to spot it, and criticise. Overall this is one of the best transfers we've seen on Blu-Ray and fans of the movie will be thrilled by this upgrade.

It must be said that the audio on this disc is phenomenal and certainly a massive step up from the already solid effort on DVD which was a Dolby Digital 5.1 track at 448kbps. The extra clarity and fidelity in this track makes it worth the price of upgrading alone but, to us, it's the music which really comes to life. Spanning several decade the music tracks in this movie are simply unforgettable. The Academy Award nominated orchestral score from Alan Silvestri is a cracker and sound brilliant. Can you really get that lovely opening theme music out of your head? It's one of the most memorable tracks ever.

Other audio tracks on this Blu-Ray include German, Spanish. French and Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks each encoded at 640kbps. We only sampled them briefly and they sounded pretty solid from brief tests. Subtitles are provided in Danish, German, English, Spanish, French, Italian, Dutch, Norwegian, Swedish, Polish and English for the Hearing Impaired. Sampling the English track didn't demonstrate any issues. Subtitles in German, English, Spanish, French and Italian are also provided for the two commentary tracks.

Forrest Gump comes to Blu-Ray as a 2-disc set with the majority of extras placed on the second disc in the set. There's an extensive amount of content here so let's get to it...

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Forrest Gump's visual effects are stellar.
Commentary With Robert Zemeckis, Steve Starkey and Rick Carter: Ported over from the DVD release is this commentary with the director, a producer and the production designer is actually quite a decent effort with plenty of detail about various aspects of this movie from the actors to the sets, the visual effects and the set design.

Commentary with Wendy Finerman: This second commentary, also ported from the DVD, sees the producer of Forrest Gump flying solo and while there are gaps at times this is still an interesting listen as she tends to focus on the numerous screenplays and getting it to the screen.

Greenbow Diary (25:59/HD): This is a visual diary from the set of Forrest Gump which shows the filming of various scenes around South Carolina and includes interviews with director Robert Zemeckis and Tom Hanks among others. There's some great stories here, not least of which is filming the Ping Pong scene.

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Before CSI:NY Gary Sinese was in Forrest Gump.
The Art of Screenplay Adaptation (26:58/HD): This featurette looks at Winston Groom who authored the book working on the screenplay and Paramount also having someone else, Eric Roth, working on the screenplay. It's interesting in that Winston Groom shows some grievances including the line "Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get" which isn't in the book which he wrote. It's great to see this little promoted piece of the movie chain getting such a decent, and interesting, featurette.

Getting Past Impossible - Forrest Gump and the Visual Effects Revolution (27:04/HD): Visual effects in this movie were certainly a highlight which are pretty much seamless. This featurette looks at creating the visual effects at ILM with some of the first digital effects, and certainly some of the most extensive at the time. With details about early ILM and also early visual effects, this is a fantastic featurette especially with regards to the scene with the Ku Klux Clan.

Little Forrest (14:48/HD): This featurette looks at the casting of Michael Conner Humphreys as the young Forrest Gump and includes a recent interview in which he recollects on his casting and the filming of the movie. The only disappointment is that Hanna R. Hall who played Young Jenny isn't also interviewed.

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Doing a spot of fishing on the lake.
An Evening with Forrest Gump (55:08/HD): While we've already gone through a lengthy series of extras this one is probably the most impressive with a discussion with director Robert Zemeckis, screenwriter Eric Roth, and actors Tom Hanks, Gary Sinise. This was filmed at the University of Southern California only a year or so ago and they discuss the creation of Forrest Gump, the movie industry today and visual effects.

Archival Special Features (1:15:26): This section includes the features included on the DVD release from several years ago. Featurettes include "THe Make-Up of Forrest Gump" (8:03), "Through the Ears of Forrest Gump - Sound Design" (15:34) which is broken up into sections called Bike, Crowds, Vietnam, Rain and Ping Pong. Next up is "Building the World of Gump - Production Design" (7:18) which is a brief look at the art and production design and finding locations for the film. Next up is the extensive "Seeing is Believing - The Visual Effects of Forrest Gump" (30:23) which is split up in to nine segments covering many of the effects heavy scenes such as Vietnam, Ping Pong and Richard Nixon to name a few as well as a deleted scenes with Martin Luther King and George Bush Sr. Next up is "Screen Tests" (9:12) with Michael Connor Humphreys & Hanna R. Hall together, Robin Wright, and Haley Joel Osment. Finally we have Theatrical Trailer (3:50/HD) and Remember Trailer (1:06/HD).

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Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) in Vietnam.
Easter Egg (0:57/HD): Press left when on the Getting Past Impossible feature and you'll find this Easter Egg where Winston Groom discusses coming up with the Forrest Gump name.

Forrest Gump is one of my all-time favourite movies and this Blu-Ray transfer looks absolutely spectacular with the biggest improvements over the DVD being to the stunning audio. The extras too are extensive with plenty of new content for this Blu-Ray release. An essential purchase if ever there was one.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyright© Paramount. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.