Release Date(s)1994 (June 12, 2018)
- Film/Program Grade: A-
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: A-
As most of you know by now, director Robert Zemeckis’ Best Picture-winning Forrest Gump tells the story of an unlikely hero: a seemingly dim-witted fellow named Forrest Gump (played by Tom Hanks) who, while perhaps a little slow between the ears, is nonetheless a very wise man indeed. For while his physical and intellectual gifts might at first glance seem less than generous, he makes the most of them and so finds himself living a far fuller and richer life than most people.
Having seen Forrest Gump a few times now since its initial release in theaters, most recently on this 4K Ultra HD, I’d honestly forgotten just how charming and funny the film is. It was infamous for using then state-of-the-art visual effects to insert the title character into the most unlikely of events, including much real historical footage. Some of those effects still hold up quite well today, while others not so much. But the film features a number of terrific performances, including those of Robin Wright Penn (as Jenny), Gary Sinise (nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Lieutenant Dan), Mykelti Williamson (Bubba), and Sally Field (as Forrest’s mother). These, along with Hank’s own Oscar-winning turn, have helped the film to age quite well indeed – certainly better than I expected at the time. Honestly, in today’s cynical and mean-spirited climate the film is somehow more relevant than ever.
Forrest Gump was shot on photochemical film in 35 mm using Panavision cameras and anamorphic lenses. It was also finished on film, though it’s important to keep in mind that the visual effects were done digitally in low resolution (probably 1K) and were scanned back out to film in a process that degrades image quality by several generations. It appears that the original camera negative was scanned in 4K for this release and the visual effects were presumably scanned from the best available film elements. The image was then graded for high dynamic range in both HDR10 and Dolby Vision and is presented here on Ultra HD at the original 2.39:1 theatrical aspect ratio. The result is surprisingly nice looking, if a bit complicated. The thing to keep in mind is that Forrest Gump has always had a slightly ‘digital’ appearance on Blu-ray and DVD, given the nature of its production. But the good news is that this is the least digital looking it’s ever been. There’s impressive detail gained in the native 4K scanning, though it does appear that (not unlike Universal’s effort with the original Jurassic Park in 4K – see our review here) Paramount has de-grained some of the live action footage a bit to better match the low resolution of the visual effects shots. Here’s the the thing though… they’ve actually managed to strike a good balance with this. There’s still nice fine detail in the image, though faces look just a little more smooth than they would otherwise, and the blend with the visual effects shots – while not perfect – is the best I’ve ever seen it. What’s more, the high dynamic range deepens the shadows significantly, while giving highlights a more realistic brilliance. And the wider gamut enhances the film’s palette significantly, with bolder and more nuanced colors. I really have to give the studio credit here. Normally, I’d object to the use of noise reduction, but this is a rare case where I think it actually serves the film well. By its very nature, this film is never going to be reference quality compared to the best other titles on this format. But this is by far the best, least digital, and most even and consistent I’ve ever seen Forrest Gump looking before.
Primary audio on the 4K disc is offered in a new English Dolby Atmos mix (Dolby TrueHD compatible) that offers confident and natural staging, with a big wide sound field, clear and full sounding dialogue, and lovely atmospheric fill. The mix only occasionally calls for serious dynamics, but when it does – such as in the Vietnam combat sequences and during the hurricane on Forrest’s shrimping boat – the mix sounds rich and muscular, with a firm low end foundation, and terrific precision in object placement. The firefight in the jungle, in particular, really impresses as gunfire pops in front, the bullets whiz past on both sides to strike behind you, and Hueys chopper in overhead. The height channels are constantly active for immersion and also the occasional set piece (including the air strike in the jungle), creating a smooth sound environment above and all around. Most importantly, the Alan Silvestri score and the period rock and folk music has tremendous fidelity; it almost sounds as if you’re listening to tracks on SACD. Additional audio options include the film’s previous English 5.1 Dolby Digital mix, along with English Audio Description, 5.1 Dolby Digital mixes in German, Spanish, Latin Spanish, French, and Italian, and 2.0 Dolby Digital in Japanese and Brazilian Portuguese. Optional subtitles are available in English, English for the Hearing Impaired, Danish, German, Spanish, Latin Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese, Dutch, Norwegian, Brazilian Portuguese, Finnish, and Swedish.
The 4K disc itself includes only a couple of audio-based extras (produced for the original DVD release):
- Audio commentary with Robert Zemeckis, Steve Starkey, and Rick Carter
- Audio commentary with Wendy Finerman
The package also includes the film in 1080p HD on Blu-ray (the same 2-disc Sapphire Series edition released previously) which includes the two commentaries and adds the following extras (in both HD and SD, as some were originally created for DVD):
- Musical Signposts to History (HD – a 3:54 intro, plus 31:23 of additional clips, one for each song in the film)
- Greenbow Diary (HD – 25:59)
- The Art of Screenplay Adaptation (HD – 26:58)
- Getting Past Impossible: Forrest Gump and the Visual Effects Revolution (HD – 27:04)
- Little Forrest (HD – 14:48)
- An Evening with Forrest Gump (HD – 55:08)
- The Makeup of Forrest Gump (SD – 8:03)
- Through the Ears of Forrest Gump: Sound Design (SD – 5 clips – 15:34 in all)
- Building the World of Gump: Production Design (SD – 7:18)
- Seeing Is Believing: The Visual Effects of Forrest Gump (SD – 9 clips – 30:23 in all)
- Screen Tests (SD – 7 clips – 9:12 in all)
- Theatrical Trailer (HD – 3:57)
- Remember Trailer (HD – 1:13)
- Easter egg: Groom on Gump (HD – :57)
Musical Signposts to History and the commentaries are on Disc One, while all the rest are on Disc Two. Missing from the original DVD is the 30-minute Through the Eyes of Forrest Gump documentary and a photo gallery, so you may wish to keep that disc if you have it. You also get a Digital Copy code on a paper insert in the packaging.
Forrest Gump is a classic feel-good story and a genuine breath of fresh air, featuring one of Tom Hanks’ best performances. Paramount’s new 4K Ultra HD release isn’t perfect from an image standpoint, but still presents the film looking and sounding significantly better than it ever has before. If you’re a fan, this disc is definitely worth a look.
- Bill Hunt