Release Date(s)1990 (July 29, 2008)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: B-
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: D+
As the first of author Tom Clancy’s military/political novels to be adapted in to a film, The Hunt for Red October should feel a helluva lot more dated than it does. It also stars Alec Baldwin as CIA analyst Jack Ryan... a role with which Harrison Ford has since become synonymous. And yet, it’s aged surprisingly well. It remains not only a great film, but also a highly effective naval thriller.
The plot is fairly straightforward: The Soviet Union has developed a new kind of submarine propulsion – a super-quiet ‘caterpillar’ drive, that could shift the international balance of power. The honor of taking the first boomer equipped with the drive, the Red October, has fallen to veteran Captain Marko Ramius (Sean Connery). But Ramius has an agenda of his own – he plans to defect, and deliver the Red October to the West. Realizing this, the Russians send their entire naval fleet to stop him, alarming the U.S. and NATO forces. Tensions are high, and war appears imminent... but Jack Ryan (Baldwin) alone suspects Ramius’ real intentions. So Ryan is sent out on an edge-of-his-seat mission to intercept Ramius first, and help him achieve his goals.
In terms of A/V quality, The Hunt for Red October features a very respectable high-def transfer on Blu-ray. Given that this is a catalog title, and given the age of the film, it looks surprisingly good. It’s a little soft, and fine detail isn’t quite as sharp as on newer titles, but color and contrast are very good overall. There’s also less compression artifacting than is visible on a couple of Paramount’s other Tom Clancy titles on Blu-ray (specifically Patriot Games and The Sum of All Fears). Audio-wise, this disc fares even better. It’s been my experience over the years that Paramount usually delivers a superior surround sound experience with their titles, and this disc is no exception. The Dolby TrueHD mix here is smooth, natural and delightfully immersive – just what you’d want from a submarine film. There’s good use of the rear channels and excellent bass.
In terms of extras, you don’t get much, but you do get everything that was included on the previous DVD special edition, specifically audio commentary with director John McTiernan, the Beneath the Surface featurette and the film’s trailer. As was the case on the DVD, the featurette is standard-definition only, but the trailer is presented in HD. And it’s worth noting that none of this material was offered on the previous HD-DVD release.
The Hunt for Red October on Blu-ray will certainly win no awards, but fans of the film should be fairly happy with it. I wouldn’t pay full retail price for it, but if you can pick it up on sale, this disc is a nice upgrade to your existing DVD.
- Bill Hunt