Plot: What’s it about?
It’s been fifteen years since I first saw this movie. I had read reviews of it and it being a hot Summer day, I went with my family to see this movie about a man named Forrest. I had seen previews, but the general jist of what I thought the story to be about was that he had braces on his feet and he wasn’t that smart. I was prepared for a sad movie…A mere two and half hours later, I walked out of the theater having seen one of the greatest movies in my entire life. Forrest Gump is a movie about a man who is stupid, yet he never does anything stupid at all. This was Tom Hanks’ follow-up to his Academy Award winning role in “Philadelphia”, and it’s no surprise that he won back to back Oscars for his role as Forrest Gump. So what is so special about Forrest Gump? Aside from the fact that he seemed to have a brush with most every major political event of the last half century, it was an approach to making a movie that we had never seen before. You could go and say that someone met JFK, but this movie actually shows the character shaking his hand and interacting with him. Unreal. Or real? While Forrest Gump has received it’s share of acclaim, there are those out there who don’t like it. That’s fine. With a movie as popular and as commercially successful as this, it’s bound to garner acclaim as well as criticism. Many feel that Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction” should have received the Best Picture nod instead of this. But once the votes were cast, it was a man named Gump who stood triumphant.
As the computer-generated feather falls across the skyline of Savannah, Georgia, we can barely make out a figure of a man sitting on a park bench. He is dressed in a suit, dirty old Nike’s and carries a briefcase. This is Forrest Gump. Once you get past his accent and listen to what he says, it makes the story a lot more enjoyable. Forrest is telling his life story on a park bench, to almost anyone who will listen. But, as it turns out, Forrest has led quite the life so far. Forrest’s mother, played by Sally Field (who ironically plays Tom Hanks’ love interest in “Punchline”) is trying to get Forrest into school. But the “Progressive” system of Alabama doesn’t let people with an IQ lower than that of 80 into the system (Forrest has an IQ of approximately 75), but after a little coercing by Ms. Gump, Forrest is enrolled. It’s about this time that he meets the one person who influences him the most, Jenny. Jenny has had the cards stacked against her for a long time. Her alcoholic dad beats her and her siblings leading Jenny to pray to find some escape from her tortured life. We then flash forward a ways when Jenny and Forrest are in high school. It’s the same story, but when Hanks takes over, the movie really doesn’t go downhill. Jenny’s advice to Forrest has and always will be “RUN, FORREST RUN”. The movie follows Forrest through his journeys. He graduates from high school, and as he’s running away from the local hicks, gets recruited to play football at the University of Alabama (under Bear Bryant no less), manages to make national headlines when he is involved in the integration of the University and that’s just while he’s in college.
The movie takes on a different tone when Forrest joins the Army. Being a buck private, Forrest fits in the Army “like one of those square pegs, or somethin’…”. And it’s not long after that he meets his best friend, Benjamin Bufurd Blue (aka “Bubba”) played by Mykelti Wiliamson. Bubba comes from a long line of shrimp boat captains and his only dream is to own and operate a shrimp boat business after he gets out of the Army. But Vietnam changes all of that. Throughout Forrest’s journeys in the army, he meets another friend by the name of Lieutenant Dan (Gary Sinise), who is another influence on Forrest’s life. Though Forrest has received the Congressional Medal of Honor, been in China to represent the United States in Ping Pong and spoke at the reflecting pool in Washington to some 50,000 people, his life is still just starting…As we marvel at the life of Forrest Gump, we can’t help but wince when we see Jenny. Jenny has moved from town to town, been kicked out of her college for posing for Playboy and is heavily involved in the “Sex, Drugs Rock N’ Roll” scene of the 1970’s. It’s only after she comes home to Alabama and to Forrest that they start a life together.
The life of Forrest Gump, just like the movie, is almost too unbelievable to explain. It’s humorous to see how many key events Forrest was part of (though it’s all fiction), and how the movie seems to make it work. It’s a testament to Zemeckis’ great direction as well as another great performance by Tom Hanks and a great supporting cast. Without a doubt, Forrest Gump is one of the best movies that I’ve ever seen. It’s one of those rare treats that Hollywood can’t seem to crank out much anymore, but this little gem should find a good place in your DVD library. And always remember…”Life is like a box of chocolates…you never know what you’re gonna get.”
Video: How does it look?
Paramount has announced their “Sapphire Series” of films and as of this writing, it contains “Gladiator”, “Braveheart” and “Forrest Gump” all Best Picture winners. I mention this because with the company this film is in, it would be in Paramount’s best interest to make sure this looks as good as we expect it to. It does. The 2.35:1 AVC HD transfer has breathed new life into “Forrest Gump” and not that it looked bad on standard DVD, but with the innovations since it first arrived on disc in 2001, I’d have been let down if it looked anything other than near perfect. “Forrest Gump” covers just about everything in regards to how a picture can look. The CGI with Gump inserted in scenes digitally, the jungle battle scenes and even Gump running across America. Everything looks pristine. Detail has been improved considerably, but not to the point where it looks fake or artificial. Quite simply, “Forrest Gump” has never looked better and the picture quality is a reflection of how much time it’s taken to bring this to Blu-ray.
Audio: How does it sound?
“Forrest Gump” sports a DTS HD Master Audio track that, well, rocks. As anyone who’s seen the film knows, music plays a big part in the film (more on that later) and the 40 some odd songs blend in seamlessly to the film adding life and even depth to the plot. The Vietnam sequence sounds as amazing as I expected it, right about the time it stops raining and Gump’s platoon gets ambushed. The speakers are alive with action for about the next ten minutes. Amazing. Dialogue is clear and crisp and though not all of the film can sound like the war scenes, “Forrest Gump” has the depth to make it stand out as a top notch disc.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Fans of “Forrest Gump” will undoubtedly know that this title came out in 2001 as a two-disc special edition. The same two commentaries are intact on the first disc. The first is by director Robert Zemeckis along with Steve Starkey and Production Designer Rick Carter. The track is by far the better of the two, and the three (independetly) have tons of information to offer into the picture, especially Carter, who is featured on several segments on disc two. The second track might as well not exist. Wendy Friedman is the sole commentator here and I do sympathize with her in the regard that it does take a lot of effort to talk for two and a half hours, and I feel she should have been mixed in with the “guys” on the first track. However, a second audio commentary is probably more of a selling point for this disc (not like it needs it) and it’s full of some useful little tidbits (and some very looooong pauses in between). A more interactive feature “Musical Signposts in History” cues the 45 songs in the movie up to some facts. An introduction by Ben Fong – Torres let’s us know what we’re in for (and if memory serves, this guy had a part in “Almost Famous” as well). It’s interesting and a good way to enjoy some of these classic songs.
Moving onto disc 2 we find some featurettes that encompass the film down to its core. Truthfully, these deal with the more technical aspects of the film, the use of digital effects and how it revolutionized this technique in other films and some interviews with the author, Winston Groom and his reflections on the book and movie. Any fan of the movie will no doubt have this on their shelf. I do.