Release Date(s)2014 (May 5, 2020)
Studio(s)N3D Land Films/3D Entertainment Distribution (Shout! Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: B-
In the early hours of Tuesday, June 6th, 1944, Allied forces staging in the UK launched the largest scale military invasion in human history on the beaches of Normandy, France, breaching the Nazi’s vaunted Atlantic Wall fortifications to begin a multi-year campaign to retake Europe and free it from domination by Adolf Hitler and his German war machine. Over 24,000 airborne paratroopers were delivered by aircraft to positions behind enemy lines, supported by a force of 156,000 ground troops landed by a naval convoy of nearly 7,000 vessels. By the time the day was done, the Battle of Normandy had only just begun, but the Allies had gained a firm foothold in France, at the cost of more than 4,400 lives (it’s believed the Germans lost another 9,000 soldiers that day). The invasion marked a turning point in world history. And D-Day: Normandy 1944 recounts the events of that day in detail.
Produced in 3-D for IMAX exhibition and directed by documentary filmmaker Pascal Vuong, D-Day: Normandy 1944 is a French production mounted to honor the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in 2014. One of the challenges faced by any such production is the fact that nearly all of motion picture film footage and still photography taken on the actual day was lost when a junior officer accidentally dropped a bag containing the undeveloped reels into the English Channel. So Vuong and his team compensated for this by shooting modern 5K digital footage (using Red Epic and Sony F65 cameras), combined with still photography, period artwork, animated maps, and extensive 2-D and 3-D animation. Narrated by veteran NBC newsman Tom Brokaw, the resulting 43-minute documentary provides a blow-by-blow account of the invasion, from planning to completion. It’s a bit dry, but it certainly achieves its goal of giving you the details and a sense of the day.
Shout! Factory presents the film on 4K Ultra HD in the 1.78:1 (cropped from the 1.43:1 IMAX frame), with HDR10 and HDR10+ high dynamic range and audio in English and French 5.1 DTS-HD MA format (optional English subtitles are also available). The video quality is excellent, exactly what you’d expect from a film produced for large format presentation. The HDR grade is restrained; colors are bold, contrast is natural, and overall image detail is excellent, though some of the CG animation looks a little dated—more like what you’d expect to see in a videogame than photo-real. The audio quality is quite good too, with atmospheric surround staging and a bit of panning here and there. Clarity is impressive and there’s nice bass, though the mix doesn’t really dazzle. Music for the film is provided by the London Symphony Orchestra.
The package includes the film on both 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray (note that the 3-D version is not included). Both discs include the following extras (all in HD and 1.78:1 except where noted):
- Interview with director Pascal Vuong (6:40)
- Interview with narrator Tom Brokaw (2:24)
- Interview with historical advisor Peter Herrly (3:51)
- Behind-the-Scenes: Normandy (4:05)
- Behind-the-Scenes: Sand Animation (2:29)
- Behind-the-Scenes: Music (5:46)
- D-Day 1944 Promo (3:37)
- D-Day 1944 Trailer (1:36)
- Normandy Today (SD – 1.33:1 – 23:13)
- The D-Day Museum (SD – 1.33:1 – 4:37)
It’s mostly EPK style content, worth one viewing but probably not a second. Of particular note is the Normandy Today footage (shot on SD video back in the analog era) that’s just a compilation of atmosphere shots taken all around Normandy—amid villages, on the beaches, and around the various landmarks, etc. There’s also an SD promo for the D-Day Museum in New Orleans.
Those looking for a deeper dive on the day’s events might be better served by watching Ken Burns’ 2007 documentary series The War. And for a vivid dramatic account, Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan (1998) and HBO’s Band of Brothers miniseries (2001) are more compelling and engaging. There’s also not really all that much value here for fans of 4K Ultra HD. Still, students of history and of World War II in particular will find much to appreciate in D-Day: Normandy 1944. So for them at least, the film is recommended.
- Bill Hunt