Forrest Gump

Forrest Gump (1994)
Paramount Home Video
Cast: Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, Gary Sinise, Mykelti Williamson, Sally Field
Extras: Commentary Tracks, Musical Signposts, Featurettes, Documentaries, Screen Tests, Diaries

It seems now, more than ever, the world needs simplicity. To be able to see through the clutter, the corruption, and the superfluous complexities of life – its events and their contrived meanings – would be a gift to be cherished. Forrest Gump is a character that has been granted such a gift – a man who lives by a simple credo of honesty, good nature, and belief in the goodness of others. His is an unsullied vision of the world in which he lives, a perspective for which he is to be envied. As part of their Sapphire Collection, Paramount Home Entertainment has now prepared a Blu-Ray version of Robert Zemeckis' passionate tale for the first time in high definition.

Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) generously bestows his story from a park bench, imparting his beliefs and experiences upon anyone who takes a seat next to him. He is a simple man – one might call him a simpleton considering his I.Q. of 75 and "slow" manner – who would appear to exist as nothing more than the local town idiot if not for the unshakable foundation of faith his mother (Sally Field) has in him, in his abilities, and in his God-given right to the same education and opportunities as everyone else. But as fate (or is it destiny?) would have it, Forrest's life would be one overflowing with opportunity and good fortune as evidenced through his becoming a college football hero, a decorated Vietnam veteran, a world Ping-Pong champion, and a millionaire businessman. Along the way, he has brushes with the likes of Elvis Presley, George Wallace, Abbie Hoffman, John Lennon, and three United States Presidents. Of course, the only acquaintance that deeply moves and motivates Forrest through his life is that of his childhood sweetheart, Jenny (Robin Wright).

Though simple and innocent at his core, Forrest serves as a "hub" in life around whom events and lives tend to circle. With his keen observations and untainted statements of the obvious, Forrest delivers simple answers and insight to the trials and tribulations of overcomplicated living. His girl, Jenny, determined to experience all the successes (and excesses) of this world, lives precariously on the edge, seeking fame as a folk singer, diving deep into the counter-culture of the 60s, drifting through the superficiality of the 70s, finally hitting rock bottom near the dawn of the 80s.

Perhaps more poignant is Forrest's impact on his Vietnam commander, Lieutenant Dan (Gary Sinise), who seeks a different destiny: dying a war hero like his forefathers. Yet, in the horror of battle, Forrest boldly saves Lt. Dan against his commander's wishes and remains devoted to him as he copes with life as a cripple and in perpetual conflict with society and with God. And while both Jenny and Lt. Dan feel cheated and betrayed in the lives they lead, both ultimately come back to Forrest, acknowledging his unfailing resolve and elementary wisdom that has somehow pulled them all through Hell and back.

I can't say enough about the overwhelmingly touching and heartwarming aspects of "Forrest Gump." While I'm not typically taken in by 'feel good' movies – seeing how many succumb to sappiness or speak to only a limited segment of society – this film is different. This is a smart film, well scripted, and magnificently delivered in entertaining, believable, and thoroughly refreshing style. And, from the practically unparalleled performances (Hanks and Sinise are simply brilliant) to the incredible production design and digital effects, it's little wonder the film scooped up six Academy Awards (including Best Picture) for its efforts.

Arriving in a 1080p high definition transfer, one could not ask for more. The level of detail on display is breathtaking from beginning to end. It adds such a new level of realism to the overall film and story that we begin to identify with Forrest and the everyday world he is living in even more. Restoring the film's original 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio, I was a little surprised however to find that the transfer itself still exhibits the same few flecks that were present in the previous DVD version. As a result, on a few – very rare – occasions, you will see a noticeable speckle appear on the screen, which I honestly did not expect with such a high profile title in high definition. Fortunately it is never overly obtrusive or distracting, and fortunately very rare, as I pointed out before. The colors are of the transfer are incredibly rich and lifelike with flesh tones looking very natural throughout. The film uses slightly different color palettes to represent the different periods of time the story is playing in, all of which are faithfully and vibrantly reproduced. Blacks are deep, providing wonderful shadows without becoming overly dark or obscure. Detail is excellent throughout the presentation though there are a few brief moments when edge enhancement is apparent. All in all, a very nice and visually satisfying presentation that is dramatically improved over previous versions by the incredibly high image detail.

A DTS 5.1 HD Master audio track accompanies the movie, leaving absolutely nothing to be desired. Reproducing the original master mix of the film with an uncompressed audio stream. Depending on the events on the screen, the audio track easily switches between brutally explosive – during the Vietnam War – to completely understated and subtly ambient during the bayou scenes by comparison. The music plays an integral part in the film, as it helps establish various time periods and moods, and once again the audio track makes sure these music cues are presented in the best possible quality, not to mention Alan Silvestri's moving orchestration that emanates beautifully from all directions.

Paramount really comes through in the area of extras. To start, you'll find two running commentaries, one featuring assembled comments from Director Robert Zemeckis, Producer Steve Starkey, and Production Designer Rick Carter. The information they provide is truly interesting and revealing. The second commentary, interesting though a bit sparse, comes from Producer Wendy Finerman. Both tracks have previously appeared on the DVD version of the film.

he second disc of the Blu-Ray set is packed with hours of documentaries, featurettes, screen tests, trailers, still galleries and production notes. Many of these features are presented in high definition – though not all – and are definitely worth checking out. The production featurettes in particular generously explain and demonstrate the key digital effects and makeup design. Overall, be prepared to spend quite a bit of time with this second disc as its nearly as compelling as the film.

Like a book you can't put down, "Forrest Gump" offers so much to see and experience. The cornerstone, of course, is the film itself, which draws your attention and compels you to continue watching, eager to see what might happen to Forrest next, which, in this context, is a boundless realm of possibility. It is a rejuvenating feast for the heart, mind, and soul that, although presented over the span of two-and-a-half hours, seems to move by quicker than you might wish. As for me, I watched it in a single sitting and, when it reached the end, I played it again . . . "for no particular reason a'tall."