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Schindler’s List – 25th Anniversary Edition (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

2017 and 2018 have felt like the 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray format has been embracing and enjoying bringing us the back catalog of one Steven Spielberg. His latest films, The Post and Ready Player One, hitting the format right away of course, but we are getting the classics too, from all eras be it Close Encounters of the Third Kind or Jurassic Park. This year has also given us both films that have landed him his Best Director Academy Award wins. Capping off the year, we are being given the 4K Ultra-HD debut of the multiple Oscar winning (Including Best Picture) masterpiece about the Holocaust, Schindler’s List. The film was made available on the last new release Tuesday, December 18th, of the year and can be ordered by clicking the Amazon link below.

Film 

Businessman Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) arrives in Krakow in 1939, ready to make his fortune from World War II, which has just started. After joining the Nazi party primarily for political expediency, he staffs his factory with Jewish workers for similarly pragmatic reasons. When the SS begins exterminating Jews in the Krakow ghetto, Schindler arranges to have his workers protected to keep his factory in operation, but soon realizes that in so doing, he is also saving innocent lives.

Schindler’s List is a damn good movie, one of the best from its decade, of its period era, from its director and one of the best Neeson performances. The film is incredibly effective in that its both a captivating and tough watch. Some of the best filmmaking, storytelling, recreation and emotionally impacting material ever put to film is on display in the Spielberg Holocaust drama. While one of his best, I’m sure its also one of the least likely to be reached for when returning to one of his films. But every time you do, the film works and reminds you of just how good it is and plays a constant historical reminder of this dark time in human history.

Spielberg goes for the black and white look on the film for what seems like a couple different reasons, maybe some I’m pulling that weren’t the intention. Obviously, in reality, our experience in seeing the events of the Holocaust was black and white. Seeing a movie told that way can bring forth a stronger recollection and push onto those memories, making them feel more grisly and lifelike than had the film been shot in color. Another aspect of this, was one of Germany’s contributions to the world of film was what is referred to as “German Expressionism”, which had a heavy hand in influencing the popular film noir genre. In a way it feels like Spielberg is both turning it on hits head and using it to great effect in bringing forth such a familiar cinematic feeling to introduce one to these tight, tense dramatic moments and terrors on display in the film.

Much of the weight and effective tragedy on display in the film comes from such grounded and strong performances in parts big and small in the film. Spielberg really portrays the Nazis with such a cold fervor that almost feels like you’re watching accurate home video footage. They mostly have an ignorant confidence about them that is so nonchalant that its shocking but makes you never question their accuracy. Ralph Fiennes brings it all to a head with such a dastardly turn in one of history and cinema’s greatest monsters. I hate to praise the Nazi guy in the film, but his performance is a big part of what makes this film work and makes you feel the way you do.

Liam Neeson turns in one of the finest outings of his career, losing a respective battle at the Oscars that year (It going to Tom Hanks in Philadelphia). But, no matter, the performance is still great. Normally Neeson brings a grand feeling to his characters that are a little larger than life, but here he’s very neat and real. Ben Kingsley has a charming turn and much of Neeson’s successes are based on his chemistry and moments shared with Kingsley that help to drive their scenes in the film.

Schindler’s List is a Spielberg best as I’ve said a multitude of times. If you’ve never seen the film, you truly owe it to yourself to check it out at least one time in your life. The historical significance and education from it is tremendous, but in addition you see one of our truly greatest directors of all time at his apex behind one of his most passionate projects he ever put to celluloid. Every thing that a passionate film buff and appreciator loves about film happens right here in Schindler’s List. There are few films as both expertly made and greatly impacting on a deep level as this one.

Video 

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-100

Clarity/Detail: Schindler’s List is nothing short of magnificent in its debut on 4K Ultra-HD. The film has obviously been transferred and restored with the greatest care and importance. Its a very sharp image that unveils so much texture in its limited color display. It feels like with the lack thereof that many more details and such become more apparent and much crisper in the picture. This is the ultimate in black and white photography being transferred over into the new format, showing off its worth and beginning for more of its like to be treated with this kind of delicacy.

Depth:  Depth of field is top its game here as you easily sense the scale of every environment and feel the distance in the image. Movements are cinematic with no motion issues.

Black Levels: Blacks of course are the best thing about it in such a natural and gorgeous design here. Many shades, tints and such are ever-present in this palette which has such refined detail. No crushing occurs at all in the film.

Color Reproduction: The film does have brief scenes/moments of color which are fine here and keep natural and restrained with the exception of a certain moment really standing out (Rightfully so).

Flesh Tones: Skin tones reveal a lot when it comes to either clean cut faces or some of the most battered and worn in the concentration camps. Every bit of texture shines through in any reasonable distance. Skin colors keeps a notable constant and never wavers or jumps to being off from scene to scene throughout the film.

Noise/Artifacts: N/A

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos (English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD compatible), French 5.1 DTS, Spanish 5.1 DTS

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French

Dynamics: Schindler’s List may come equipped with an Atmos track, but isn’t bursting into your viewing space and rocking your room. Though, I’m sure no one is expecting that. What having an Atmos track does here is provide the space and availability at any given time to present a scene perfectly. Many a conversation may happen up from, but if one brief second is going to need something from around the room or just to accent a moment briefly, the mix can do that. It creates a free space while providing good layering and lifelike touches to the depth of the foley work in the film.

Height: The ceiling speaker is only put into play when necessary and as mentioned, helps more to accent a scene than take away and wow on one.

Low Frequency Extension: Vehicle engines, gunfire, door slams, crashing and much more bring a good, effective boom from the subwoofer.

Surround Sound Presentation: Every room and exterior in the film is impressive in how precise the mix gets it in terms of motion, volume, placement of sound and the travel. Every speaker is utilized and never overdone. The mix is complimentary to the film in both the biggest and lightest ways, making it very effective.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals have great clarity and crispness down to the fine diction of the characters.

Extras 

Schindler’s List – 25th Anniversary Edition is a 3-Disc set that contains the 2-Disc Blu-ray edition and a digital copy of the film. All supplemental features are found on Disc 2 of the Blu-ray edition.

Schindler’s List: 25 Years Later (HD, 39:56) – Director Steven Spielberg and Actors Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, Caroline Goodall, and Embeth Davidtz reflect on the film following the Tribeca Film Festival screening of the film with critic Janet Maslin.

Voices From The List (SD, 1:17:30)

USC Shoah Foundation Story with Steven Spielberg (HD, 4:55)

Let Their Testimonies Speak: Stronger Than Hate (HD, 3:50) – Steven Spielberg hosts a small featurette on the importance of love conquering all during  times of hatred.

About IWitness (HD, 4:03)

Summary 

Schindler’s List is definitely in the pantheon of Spielberg’s greatest achievements, even if it is one of the toughest ones to return to (Hey, its also 3.25 hours long to boot). The 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray upgrade on the film is impressive and the best a black and white film has looked on the format.  It has a really understated Atmos track that works perfectly for the film at hand. Toss in old and new extras and its the best release for the film and a nice 25th anniversary package. Film buffs and Spielberg collectors can confidently pick this one up knowing Universal did some of their best work in bringing the title to 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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