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Paramount Studios presents
The Hunt for Red October: SE (1990)

"When I was twelve, I helped my daddy build a bomb shelter in our basement because some fool parked a dozen warheads 90 miles off the coast of Florida. Well, this thing could park a coupla hundred warheads off Washington and New York and no one would know anything about it till it was all over."
- Skip Tyler (Jeffrey Jones)

Review By: Kevin Clemons  
Published: May 28, 2003

Stars: Sean Connery, Alec Baldwin
Other Stars: Scott Glenn, James Earl Jones, Sam Neill
Director: John McTiernan

MPAA Rating: PG for language
Run Time: 02h:14m:45s
Release Date: May 06, 2003
UPC: 097360564044
Genre: action

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- B+BB B-

DVD Review

The Hunt for Red October is an anomaly in the Jack Ryan series in that it is not so much a straight forward action film as it is an intricate character study that in turn stands as the most thrilling of the quartet. Released in the spring of 1990 when Clancy was at the height of his popularity, the film launched a franchise that includes two Jack Ryan stories as well as three films with a much larger scope. The problem is that nothing can compare to the sheer thrill found in this one.

Captain Marko Ramius (Connery) is known as a legend in the Russian Navy and his latest assignment has given him control of the newest in the fleet of Russian submarines. The Red October (named after the infamous October uprising) is a sub with a revolutionary propulsion system that makes it virtually silent as it moves through the water. When Ramius takes the Red October to sea, his intentions are to head to America and just what his plans are once he gets there is the subject of many conversations. One of those involves CIA analyst Jack Ryan (Baldwin), a writer who has studied Ramius for years and written books on him and other Soviet sub captains as well. When the Red October disappears after it is put to sea, the Russians want it destroyed after believing that Ramius is planning to bring them to the brink of war. The US believes the same, but Ryan, as well as the crew of the USS Dallas, has evidence to the contrary, and it is only a matter of time before the entire Russian sub fleet and several American vessels catches up with Ramius.

The original novel of the same name is a labyrinth of analysis and description that initially seems impossible to adapt for film. Clancy has a style that delves deep into character description as well as their surroundings that, for me, feels dry and uninteresting. Credit screenwriters Larry Ferguson and Donald Stewart with introducing such a tremendous number of characters and situations perfectly in a very fast two hours, something that took Clancy six hundred pages to do. The Hunt for Red October does sidestep a few key issues from the source material, but what is left is enough to craft a stunningly tight thriller.

While the script is key to making this a successful motion picture adaptation, the direction by John McTiernan and the cinematography by Jan De Bont help to retain the authenticity and imposing feeling of Clancy's novel. McTiernan does lose steam in the final act when the picture ventures away from the intricate character study that came before and turns into more of an action thriller complete with gun fights and explosions. Still, McTiernan and de Bont handle these scenes amazingly well, with scenes of Ryan and Ramius in the cavernous depths of the Red October standing out as being truly wondrous in terms of cinematography and set design.

The Hunt for Red October relies on numerous parts to come full circle, as several characters have but one line, yet are important nonetheless. At the head of the film is Connery as Ramius, a role he plays well with great subtlety that helps the viewer to better understand his motivations. Baldwin is terrific as Ryan, the CIA desk jockey who is thrust into an international incident without warning. The role could have easily been reduced to that of an action hero who grandstands during the final act, but Baldwin wisely plays the role as an outsider thrust into an unlikely situation.

I have seen The Hunt for Red October on numerous occasions and while it does not rank as the best entry into the submarine genre (Das Boot takes the prize), it is certainly in the top five. It is a thrilling film that makes its viewers think rather than react to numerous explosions and over-the-top set pieces. It is a rare piece of filmmaking, the thinking person's action picture.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Presented in a newly-remastered anamorphic 2.35:1, The Hunt for Red October receives new life when compared to the original release in the early days of DVD. Upon first viewing the transfer, it is noticeable that the problems that plagued the previous release are gone. Edge enhancement was a big factor in the poor quality of the initial release and it is pleasing to say that problems with edge enhancement are virtually absent here. Overall, colors are a tad more vibrant the second time around, but they fail to pop off of the screen as can be seen in other transfers. The picture is a bit soft at times, but it is never a big problem. Sharpness and detail are much improved, giving the transfer a very film-like look.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Frenchyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Also new for this special edition DVD is a DTS audio track as well as the same Dolby Digital 5.1 mix found on the previous release. I viewed the film with the DTS mix, as the Dolby Digital track is one that I have heard many times. Dialogue is anchored nicely to the center channel with great depth and clarity while the .1 LFE track does a nice job of reinforcing some of the more tense moments in the film. The largest improvement to be found in the DTS track is the added presence of the surround speakers. From the musical score to ambient sounds the rear speakers come to life with the DTS track with improved quality. The track is not quite on the level of other submarine films (U-571 for instance), but it is still close to reference quality.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 14 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Documentaries
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director John McTiernan
Packaging: unmarked keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extras Review: Many waited patiently for the special edition DVD releases of the Tom Clancy films, and while the cover proclaims them to be "special collector's editions," the number of extra features is rather slim in comparison to other releases.

Leading things off is a commentary track by director John McTiernan that is slow and dry for the most part, but there are a few moments of interest for fans of the film. McTiernan discusses the technical aspect of making his film as well as the chore of adapting the novel for the big screen. The strangest moment comes when McTiernan apologizes if the film is too confusing for the viewers. I may not be that bright, but why on earth would a director apologize about any part of a film that is considered a modern classic?

The crown jewel of the disc is a thirty-minute documentary titled Beneath the Surface, a look into the making of The Hunt for Red October. The documentary earns points simply for explaining the origin of the adaptation as well as the casting (Kevin Costner as Jack Ryan?) as well as the in-depth process of bringing the film to the screen. Featuring new interviews as well as file footage this documentary goes beyond traditional fluff pieces and offers insight into the making of the film.

Rounding out the disc is the original theatrical trailer in nonanamorphic widescreen.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

A vast improvement over the original release, the new DVD special edition for The Hunt for Red October may be slim on special features, but the inclusion of a new anamorphic print as well as an excellent DTS track make this an easy recommendation.


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