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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Schindler's List

March 3rd, 2013

Schindler's List - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack

Schindler's List came out 20 years ago and immediately earned near universal acclaim and went on to become the big winner at the 1994 Oscars taking home seven awards out of the twelve it was nominated for. This week it makes its Blu-ray debut. Does it still stand up 20 years later? And is the Blu-ray worthy of the film?

The Movie

The film begins in 1939 after the invasion of Poland by the German army. Jews from across Poland were forced to move to the large cities and register. 10,000 Jews a day arrived in cities like Kraków where they were forced to live in ghettos. Meanwhile, Oskar Schindler is living the good life in Germany. He's an industrialist, a member of the Nazi party, and very adept at wining and dining with the elite members of the Nazi party and bribing his way into business.

The business Oskar has his eyes on is in Kraków. He wants to turn an old factory that used to make pots and pans into one that makes mess kits for the German army. He recruits Itzhak Stern to run the business and to recruit Jewish investors. Oskar decides to hire Jews, because they cost less then hiring Poles. He cares nothing for their plight, but Itzhak uses this factory as a chance to save as many Jews as possible from the concentration camps.

This continues for a while and Oskar becomes very successful. However, the dynamics change with the arrival of Amon Goeth, a Lieutenant in the SS. He has come to begin the liquidation of the Kraków Ghetto, with the goal to eliminate the Jewish presence in Kraków. Oskar witnesses some of these horrors, from a distance, but at first is only annoyed, because of the effect on his factory and his profits. In fact, he becomes annoyed at Itzhak for using his position to help those who would otherwise be killed. But slowly realizes the good he can do and starts to save as many lives as he can, even though it would be dangerous, likely fatal, should the Nazi government find out what he is doing.

In the history of the Academy Awards, only 15 films have earned more Oscars than Schindler's List did, and watching it 20 years later, it is easy to see why. In fact, while watching the movie, one thought kept going through my head. How did Liam Neeson not win? Tom Hanks won for Philadelphia that year, and looking back, I'm not sure I agree with that. I'm quite sure Liam Neeson was robbed that night. Schindler's List is near perfection, and I'm only saying near perfection, because there's probably something in the movie that's wrong that I didn't pick up on. The writing, the directing, the acting, the cinematography are all amazing. I guess if you are looking for something to complain about, one could say it is emotionally manipulative, but given the subject matter and how it based on real events, that's not a just complaint. If you don't get a little teary eyed in the end when the real life survivors pay their tribute to Oskar, I would be very surprised.

The Extras

There is some bad news. The Blu-ray is shovelware. The only main extra is Voices From the List, a feature-length documentary featuring interviews with real life survivors and their descendents. It is very powerful and worth watching, but as the only major extra, it is a little disappointing. There are two much shorter extras, one on the USC Shoah Foundation Story and the other About Iwitness. All extras are found on the second disc of the DVD presentation of the movie.

There is also some good news. Schindler's List is over three hours long and when you put that much video on a single Blu-ray disc, there's some concern that there will be compression issues. That is not the case here. The film went through a complete restoration and it looks fantastic. The level of detail is amazing, even in the shadows. The contrast is great, which is especially important for a black and white film. There few instances of color are great. There's no significant issues with digital manipulation or compression issues. The audio is almost as good. There's nothing wrong with the 5.1 audio track and it has great clarity and good separation. It is just that it isn't a very complicated track, for the most part.

Finally we get to the price. The Blu-ray costs $23 compared to just under $16 for the DVD. This isn't a bad price, even for shovelware, due to the length of the movie.

The Verdict

Schindler's List is a must have. It is as simple of that. If you haven't made the leap to high definition, then the DVD is worth picking up, while the Blu-ray Combo Pack is the better deal.

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Filed under: Video Review, Schindler's List, Tom Hanks, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley