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The title character leads viewers through an accidental travelogue of U.S. social history from the early 1960s through the present in this revisionist fable. Vietnam, desegregation, Watergate, and more are presented from the perspective of loveably slow-witted Forrest Gump as he finds himself embroiled in situations he can't quite comprehend.
For more about Forrest Gump and the Forrest Gump Blu-ray release, see Forrest Gump Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on November 4, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Tom Hanks, Gary Sinise, Mykelti Williamson, Sally Field, Haley Joel Osment, Kurt Russell
Director: Robert Zemeckis
» See full cast & crew
Forrest Gump Blu-ray Review
You know what you're going to get with this stellar release from Paramount.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, November 4, 2009
I don't know if we have a destiny or if we're all just floating around all accidental-like on a breeze, but I, I think maybe it's both.
Few films perfectly symbolize that old phrase "movie magic," and Forrest Gump not only symbolizes it, it defines it. Director Robert Zemeckis' (Beowulf) complexly choreographed and seamless special effects-laden tale of extraordinary simplicity charmed; spoke to; and spiritually, emotionally, and physically moved audiences both during its 1994 theatrical release and in the years later as the film nestled comfortably and deservedly into its rightful place as an American classic and one of the great films in the history of motion pictures. Indeed, Forrest Gump represents movie magic at its absolute best, the film telling the simple tale of a man who lives a wonderfully fruitful life thanks not to his intelligence or determination but instead through the guidance of his soul; foundation in core principles and values; and love for life, his mother, his girl, and his fellow man. A somewhat unique hero in the world of motion pictures, the film's title character in every frame perfectly defines what life should be: simple, honest, morally upright, emotionally fulfilling, and full of love not for self but for all, and particularly for those that see past the superficial and into the soul, that which truly defines a man.
Forrest Gump tells the fictional tale of one man's amazing life through the most turbulent years of the second half of the 20th century. Born in Greenbow, Alabama the son of a single mother (Sally Field, Mrs. Doubtfire), young Forrest Gump's (Michael Conner Humphreys) life seemed over before it had truly begun. Cursed with a terribly low IQ and spinal problems that reduced him to hobbling about town encased in leg braces, the boy was the object of ridicule and disdain. His only reprieve came from his loving mother and his newfound friend, Jenny (Hanna Hall). When Forrest suddenly and accidentally discovers the ability to run without the use of his leg braces, he finds himself at the beginning of a journey that sees him play college football at an All-American level, meet famous celebrities and politicians, coin slogans, master the sport of Ping Pong, fight in the jungles of Vietnam, and build a shrimping empire from less than $25,000. Through it all, however, Forrest (Tom Hanks, Big) wishes only to rekindle his relationship with a now-estranged Jenny (Robin Wright Penn, The Princess Bride).
What makes Forrest Gump work so well is that it's a piece of fiction that seems absolutely based on reality. The character's integration into history never feels forced but instead flows naturally from one event to the next; never does Forrest's life -- whether the plausible or the implausible aspects -- seem anything but genuine, and through all of the emotion, the highs, and the lows, it's the character's even keel and continuously gentle, heartwarming, and fundamentally sound approach to life that gives the entire story an air of possibility with only a hint of magic along the way. It's a classic tale, rags-to-riches sure, but it's more than that. Forrest Gump embodies a way of life, and that way of life continuously plays in stark contrast to the upheaval of the 1960s and 1970s, loves won and faded, friends made and lost, fortunes earned, and lives changed. No matter the ups or the downs, Forrest never wavers in his love for his mother, his heartfelt pursuit of Jenny, his promises to friends, and perhaps most importantly, his simpleminded yet effective approach to life. His journey -- represented by the film's bookend floating feather -- signifies not blind luck or absolute faith in predetermination but a sense that there's a middle ground, particularly for those that choose to go with the ebbs and flows of life, those ups and downs that come and go as simply as a feather floating on an ever-changing but consistently gentle breeze, and rely not on brain or brawn but rather heart and soul to stay the course and discover with an open mind and a strong heart whatever life has to offer along the way.
The film's themes of innocence and honesty that remain even through the many obstacles life can place in front of anyone and at any time are reinforced through every conceivable support structure that define the entirety of the Forrest Gump experience. Robert Zemeckis' steady and captivating direction that adds little overt visual flair but lets its story and performances remain the focus of the film; Alan Silvestri's (G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra) gentle, light-as-a-feather, almost whimsical, but purely magical score; the integral period music that defines most every one of Forrest's experiences throughout the film; and the captivating and genuine performances from each primary character; all contribute equally to make Forrest Gump a complete film without a single flaw in either is story or technical structure. The film's dramatic situations continuously hearken back to the themes of innocence and honesty, and Tom Hanks' Oscar-winning performance effortlessly captures that spirit in every scene. The character never changes even when everything around him does; Forrest may not be able to pass a college exam, but he (whether he realizes it or not) instead relies on a silent guide -- a gentle spirit and a fruitful heart -- to lead him to live a full life that he sees in absolute terms, only doing what is either asked of him or comes naturally in every moment. It's truly amazing to watch the film unfold and begin to understand the dichotomy that reflects the schism that man holds between the "ordinary" and the "extraordinary." When seen through the eyes of Forrest Gump, what the viewer may consider his extraordinary life instead becomes something more of a basic series of undertakings that only reflect the gentle heart and strong spirit that define the man's existence. Indeed, Forrest Gump isn't about a simple yet extraordinary man, but instead a man that merely does what and goes where his basic sense tells him, and following his heart leads him through a captivating journey of everything life has to offer but with an evenly-keeled outlook that allows him to experience all of it without the excess baggage that, by extension, lessens the experience.
As mentioned above, Forrest Gump's technical achievements rival the quality of the story it tells. Outside of the themes of innocence and honesty lies a vast construction of film, actors, locations, and special effects that work in seamless conjunction to bring the amazing story to life. Though released back in the earlier days of computer-aided special effects, Forrest Gump's visual effects -- whether the character's flawless integration into various archival news footage or the removal of Gary Sinise's legs -- hold up remarkably well now 15 years after its theatrical debut. Of course, there are no monsters or spaceships or transforming robots in the movie, but like the film itself, the simplicity not of the effects themselves but what it is they strive to achieve allows them to remain hallmarks of special effects in film. Forrest Gump's production design also excels. Much like a previous Zemeckis effort, Back to the Future, the film's venture into the past -- here through several decades rather than a single year (1955) -- is seamlessly realized, whether in the turbulent 1960s or the more evenly-keeled early 1980s. Whether a copy of "People" magazine that appears in an early "present day" 1980s scene or the many posters that adorn various locations throughout the film, Forrest Gump never fails to look the part. However, the film is perhaps best known from a technical perspective for its use of popular music throughout; Forrest Gump features a classic soundtrack of not only the hits of the 60s, 70s, and 80s, but a collection of songs that reflect the themes, tone, setting, and story of each segment in the film. Lastly, special mention must be made of Forrest Gump's Vietnam segment. Not only is it one of the moments that set up much of the remainder of the film, but the dialogue both in-country and at the barracks during basic training is exemplary, and the pivotal firefight itself is wonderfully choreographed, exciting, and at the same time frightening, effectively placing the viewer in the middle of battle, the end result a scene that rivals -- and in many ways surpasses -- anything seen in Platoon, Hamburger Hill, Full Metal Jacket, and the other first-class Vietnam films.
Forrest Gump Blu-ray, Video Quality
Forrest Gump floats onto Blu-ray with a spectacular 1080p, 2.35:1-framed transfer. Aside from the occasional speckle over the image, Forrest Gump delivers a natural and film-like high definition transfer that should more than satisfy both longtime fans of the film and videophiles alike. The transfer reveals a strong sense of depth in most every scene, exceptional clarity and sharpness, high levels of fine detail, strong color reproduction, and a moderate layer of natural grain that rounds out a wonderful visual experience. Perhaps the most impressive aspect is the high level of visible detail throughout; whether Presidential china as seen in one scene, bricks and building Façades in downtown Greenbow, the general wear-and-tear on Forrest's shrimping vessel, or even the glean of freshly-polished Army boots in one scene, there's nary a moment where viewers won't be pleased with the fine detail in most every nook and cranny seen in the film. Perhaps most visually stimulating in the film is the Vietnam sequence. The heavy green foliage looks marvelous and pops off the screen, and fine detail is most impressive as seen on both tree trunks and dirt roads but also in the wrinkles, tears, and other nuances as seen on the U.S. military uniforms in appropriately up-close shots. Close-ups of faces, too, reveal extraordinary texture and fine detail in pores and facial hair. Skin tones are perfectly natural throughout and black levels are dark and true. All in all, Forrest Gump delivers everything a film fan could want in a high definition transfer; it's a wonderful effort from Paramount.
Forrest Gump Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Just as good -- if not better -- than the video presentation is Forrest Gump's DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack. Generally, Forrest Gump is a dialogue-heavy film with little room for aggressive and loud sound effects, but in those few moments where the track comes alive, is excels and proves itself just as good as anything else out there. The track does enjoy a few good directional effects early on, for instance a bicycle clacking across the front half of the soundstage as several troublemakers chase a young Forrest. A rainstorm in chapter four is subtly but pleasantly engrossing, though the heavy rain as presented in the Vietnam sequence far surpasses what comes before it. Said Vietnam scenes deliver the highlight of the track. The first shot of a chopper flying overhead delivers thunderous bass as the rotors tear through the sky, but it is when the firefight begins that even seasoned Blu-ray Action movie listeners will have their jaws falling on the floor as what is now arguably the reference-quality action sequence plays out. Explosions deliver a tremendous wallop, bullets zips all around the soundstage, gunfire erupts from every corner, and incoming artillery rounds pierce the soundstage with startling clarity. It's as well done as the Omaha Beach scene in Saving Private Ryan, and if that scene sounds this good when it eventually comes to Blu-ray (as a Sapphire series release, perhaps?), listeners will be in for a sonic treat for the ages. Later in the film, a ferocious thunderstorm at sea in chapter 13 features the sensation of being in the midst of a hurricane as waves pound on the ship's hull, effectively turning the listening area into a drenched shrimp boat deck. Outside these segments, Forrest Gump features minimal surround sound usage, though it does deliver plenty of atmospheric effects nicely. Music -- whether the score or the many popular songs scattered about the film -- sound exceptionally crisp and clear throughout the entire range. Rounded out by strong dialogue reproduction, Forrest Gump makes for one of the best soundtracks yet on Blu-ray. As an addendum to this section of the review, it seems as if there is virtually no surround activity. Though the above-referenced "Vietnam" and "hurricane" scenes are loud, aggressive, and abundantly clear, and listening at normal volume and from the normal seated position creates the sense of a more immersive environment than there really is. With ear directly in front of the back speakers, it appears there is, in reality, no surround activity during these scenes. Said scenes remain loud, impressive, and engaging, and the track still enjoys pinpoint clarity here and throughout.
Forrest Gump Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
This "Box of Chocolates" Blu-ray release of Forrest Gump features a plethora of extra material spread over two Blu-ray discs, and it includes several bonuses found inside the packaging. Inside a box measuring approximately 11"x7.5"x1.25," buyers will find a "scratch-n-sniff" replica of assorted chocolates, a white feather, and a full-color, 14-page booklet containing quotes, trivia, and images from the film. Disc one of the set features two commentary tracks, the first with Director Robert Zemeckis, Producer Steve Starkey, and Production Designer Rick Carter. Discussions include the purpose of the feather that begins the movie, Tom Hanks' performance and his comfort with the character, Forrest's character traits, casting additional roles, the film's visual style, molding the humor and working with archival footage, and even the film's aspect ratio. This is a superb track all viewers will want to listen to. The second commentary track features Producer Wendy Finerman. She discusses the uniqueness of seeing the world through Forrest's eyes and the movie's ability to perfectly showcase it. She also covers shooting locations, her favorite moments in the film, what helped Forrest's character get through his various trials and why he was an extraordinary character, and more. This is something of a more philosophical and insightful track, and despite some stretches of silence, it, too, is well worth a listen.
Also included on disc one is Musical Signposts to History (1080p, 3:54) featuring Rock Journalist Ben Fong-Torres, Director Robert Zemeckis, and Music Supervisor Joel Sill discussing Forrest Gump's soundtrack and score and how the popular songs match up to the scenes they accompany. Also featured are Michelle Phillips from "The Mamas and the Papas," Roger McGuinn and David Crosby from "The Byrds," and Ray Manzarek from "The Doors." Once this introductory piece concludes, viewers will be prompted to choose a mode through which to view the film with the Musical Signposts feature. Modes include "Manual," "Auto," and "Selective." When activated, the film will stop and Ben Fong-Torres and others will discuss the music accompanying each particular scene.
Moving onto disc two, viewers will first find Greenbow Diary (1080p, 25:59), an excellent piece that chronicles the production of the film from the perspective of a bystander. Viewers will be transported to the set to witness the construction of various shots, and the piece also features interview clips with the cast and crew discussing the scenes being filmed. The Art of Screenplay Adaptation (1080p, 26:58) looks at the fascinating process of translating novel to screen and the lengthy process that was the creation of Forrest Gump, including the difficulty of the special effects, the films transition from Warner Brothers to Paramount, the many drafts of the screenplay, and more. The piece includes Forrest Gump author Winston Groom and others speaking on the process, from studios seeking to discover material not even on bookstore shelves to the process of adapting a screenplay from the novel, which may require changes to make the story work on-screen. This is a fantastic supplement that will enthrall anyone with interest in writing, filmmaking, or Forrest Gump.
Getting Past the Impossible: 'Forrest Gump' and the Visual Effects Revolution (1080p, 27:04) is another solid feature that examines the creation of some of the film's visual effects. It chronicles Industrial Light & Magic's contributions to the film, offers a fascinating history of optical effects, and Forrest Gump's groundbreaking visuals that advanced the field considerably, with emphasis on several particular shots, including Forrest's meeting with John Kennedy, the removal of Lt. Dan's legs, and the Washington, D.C. segments. Little Forrest (1080p, 14:48) looks at the casting and contributions of Actor Michael Conner Humphreys, including his voice that influenced Tom Hanks' performance. A now-adult Humphreys also recalls his experiences in working on the film. An Evening with 'Forrest Gump' (1080p, 55:08) is a discussion with Tom Hanks, Gary Sinise, Eric Roth, and Robert Zemeckis discussing the film at the University of Southern California.
Concluding the supplemental package is a collection of archival supplements. The Make-up of 'Forrest Gump' (480p, 8:03) looks at the contributions of Make Up Artist Dan Striepeke. Through the Ears of 'Forrest Gump:' Sound Design (480p) features Sound Designer Randy Thom and looks at the process of creating the sound effects for several scenes: Bike (2:29), Crowds (1:43), Vietnam (7:59), Rain (2:00), and Ping Pong (1:23). Next up is Building the World of 'Gump:' Production Design (480p, 7:18), a piece that looks at shooting locations and set design. Seeing is Believing: The Visual Effects of 'Forrest Gump' (480p) features Visual Effects Supervisor Ken Ralston discussing the process of constructing several different shots (some of which did not make it into the final film): Run Forrest Run (2:02), Martin Luther King, Jr. (3:05), George Wallace (2:22), Vietnam (7:35), Ping Pong with George Bush (1:26), Lyndon B. Johnson (2:24), Enhancing Reality (7:21), Dick Cavett and John Lennon (2:14), and Richard Nixon (1:54). Also included are a collection of screen tests (480p) for Michael Conner Humphreys & Hanna R. Hall, Robin Wright, and Haley Joel Osment. Rounding out this most impressive collection of extras are two trailers: "Theatrical" (1080p, 3:57) and "Remember" (1080p, 1:13).
Forrest Gump Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
If Forrest Gump's genuine emotion, heartfelt honesty, and innocent tone doesn't bring a tear to the eye, the fates of several of the characters will. Though completely fabricated, the life of Forrest Gump makes for a moving tale of the strength of simplicity and heart in a time of great upheaval both personally and in the world at large, and it does so by juxtaposing two contrasting elements -- both fiction and nonfiction and gentleness and turmoil -- and thereby creating a singular motion picture triumph. Paramount's "Sapphire Series" Blu-ray release is extraordinary. If Forrest Gump and Braveheart are indicative of what Paramount has planned for the Blu-ray releases of the best films in its impressive archive, the studio will move to the forefront of the Blu-ray format where the high definition presentation of classic titles are concerned. Delivering a wonderful film-like video presentation, a pristine lossless soundtrack, and plenty of fantastic extras spread across two discs, this "Box of Chocolates" edition of Forrest Gump easily makes for one of the finest Blu-ray releases yet and it earns my highest recommendation.
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