By employing Jews in his crockery factory manufacturing goods for the German army, Schindler ensures their survival against terrifying odds. At the same time, he must remain solvent with the help of a Jewish accountant (Ben Kingsley) and negotiate business with a vicious, obstinate Nazi commandant (Ralph Fiennes) who enjoys shooting Jews as target practice from the balcony of his villa overlooking a prison camp. Schindler's List gains much of its power not by trying to explain Schindler's motivations, but by dramatizing the delicate diplomacy and determination with which he carried out his generous deeds.
As a drinker and womanizer who thought nothing of associating with Nazis, Schindler was hardly a model of decency; the film is largely about his transformation in response to the horror around him. Spielberg doesn't flinch from that horror, and the result is a film that combines remarkable humanity with abhorrent inhumanity--a film that functions as a powerful history lesson and a testament to the resilience of the human spirit in the context of a living nightmare. --Jeff Shannon
The picture here is impressive, although there are noticeable flaws. The 1.85:1 anamorphic picture showcases excellent detail and rich black levels; at times the picture looked so good I thought that the movie was remastered by Lowery Digital Services. But then minor flaws show up, such as excessive grain and minor print flaws (such as in the sequence where Schindler Jews are calling out their names, I spotted a vertical line). Flaws aside, the picture is still beautiful and Janusz Kaminski's photography is put to good use here.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 Surround. All Dolby and DTS tracks give a sense of place to the film, and while the tracks aren't bass-heavy, they fit the movie's tone perfectly. It demonstrates excellent stereo separation and bass response, all the while not calling attention to itself. The two-sided disc cuts down on cost, and the menus allow one to access each part of the DVD with considerable ease. (The movie is also given French and Spanish spoken languages and subtitles, while the extras have optional subtitles in English, French, and Spanish.)
Now, the disadvantages. I know people were expecting an extras-packed version of this movie, but we only have two real extras included; the "Voices From the List" Featurette and "Behind the Shoah Visual Foundation" Featurette. Both are good extras detailing the various stories recounted by actual Schindler Jews, and while these are substantial enough, I had the feeling more could've been added. If Spielberg were to do commentaries, I would appreciate one done for this film, and the addition of the theatrical trailer would help too. Inclusion of those two extras would've added much more to the DVD.
Still, quibble about the extras aside, the disc release of this film gives newcomers a chance to be introduced to one of Spielberg's greatest cinematic achievements ever made, with great picture and sound. It may not always be easy viewing, but the impact it leaves is indelible and unforgettable. For fans of Spielberg's work and this movie, this disc is a must-have, despite the slim extras. (If you're intent on having more, the gift set is a viable option. Along with the DVD, it also includes a booklet, the movie's soundtrack CD, certificate of authenticity, a photo still book and a Plexiglas keep case.)
When I read the film's decription, I thought it'd be a collection of scenes about the Holocaust. And I thought, big deal. But the movie has some very vivid, poignant moments. There are enough characters, enough motivations, enough idiosyncrasies to make the screenplay rich enough to keep us always involved. Yet, the director does not shy from the humanity of the bad guys and the shortcomings of the good ones.
Ben Kingsley makes for a fabulous fidgety character, ever so worried but in a palpable outwardly manner. Liam Neeson as the pivot is very convincing. But the cake I feel goes to Ralph Fiennes who mastered the European accent of English to such perfection that I almost scorned him as a true soldier of the war. His casual demeanor while shooting a couple of workers in the camps from his balcony was a sight to behold.
BUT the most stunning thing about this movie, as it unfolds, is the pang of conscience in a simple man that made all the difference in the lives of so many. The gruesome scenes of the lives lost in the dastardly "war" is etched in my memory, and the number of people Schindler saved was impressive, but the thing I remember having being touched MOST by is how such an imperfect man found himself doing something so perfect.
All in all, despite the undeservedly featureless DVD that Universal has slapped this movie on, it must be a prominent part of every movie collection!