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Reviewed May 11th, 2003 by Dan Jones


The Hunt for Red October marked the first Tom Clancy novel-to-screen adaptation revolving around his Jack Ryan character, which has been followed up by Clear and Present Danger, Patriot Games, and, if you suspend your disbelief, last summer’s The Sum of All Fears. Not surprisingly, it is also the best of the series.

The Hunt for Red October takes place during the Cold War era. The Soviets have built a far-advanced nuclear submarine, The Red October, that runs completely silent, which could potentially allow it to reach very near to the U.S. coastline. From there, the submarine would be capable of unleashing a pre-emptive nuclear attack on the United States, potentially devastating the nation before there is any chance to retaliate.

Thankfully, the Red October is under control of Captain Marko Ramius (played brilliantly by Sean Connery), a highly respected Russian submarine officer, who has a completely different agenda then his commanders above him. Ramius desires to defect and deliver his boat into the hands of the United States, which, as the film proves, is easier said then done. This is due to a couple of reasons, specifically that he is being trailed by the Soviet navy, and the U.S. is unclear of his intentions of defecting; does he really want to defect or does he want to wipe the U.S. off the face of the globe? This is where Jack Ryan, played by Alec Baldwin, enters the mix; confident that Ramius is set to defect, not attack. Now he must convince the C.I.A. that he is correct about Ramius, and help him in his passage.

The Hunt for Red October is an excellent thriller; the cast is superb with standout performances from Connery, Baldwin, Neil, and Jones. The story is believable and well laid out; definitely one of the better book to film translations in recent memory. Unlike films like “Das Boot” which focus more on the horror of fighting in a submarine, Red October focuses more on the people and the government bodies behind the scenes.

The video presentation here, in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, can be described as very film like. Detail is fairly good, but slightly subdued to an overall soft appearance of the film. Colors are represented well without bleeding. The source seems to be in a good shape and neither compression artifacts nor edge enhancement problems were noticed. Overall, this transfer does not jump off the screen, but it does a solid job.

For audio, we are given 5.1 mixes in both Dolby Digital and DTS. Both tracks are very good, with active and well-used surround effects, as well as subtle environmental effects. Dialogue is clear and crisp throughout, and the score is well mixed. The low-end is quite good, if not as pounding as some other submarine movies you might remember. Little difference could be heard between the DTS and Dolby Digital tracks, though the DTS track gets the nod due to slightly better imaging. Both will surely please.

A little underwhelming is the amount of extras that can be found on this Special Edition. Starting it off we have a solid audio commentary by the film’s director, John McTiernan. McTiernan covers the film’s technical aspects in excellent detail, perfect for any fan of filming techniques or any budding filmmaker. He also touches on the difficulties in bringing Clancy’s novel to film, as well as the cast and their characters. Definitely worth a listen.

“Beneath the Surface - New Cast & Crew Interviews” comes in at just under thirty minutes, providing us with a number of interviews as well as some interesting behind the scenes looks at the films creation and special effects production. Even if this feature is a bit on the short side, it does provide a good deal of content.

Rounding it out we have the film’s theatrical trailer, presented in non-anamorphic widescreen.

The Hunt for Red October is an excellent bit of filmmaking. The story is gripping through its 134-minute runtime; the acting is excellent, and the cinematography is well thought out and believable. While this DVD presentation is lacking in extras, we get a solid transfer and very good Dolby and DTS mixes The film’s success in the box office lead to the creation of the subsequent films in the series, but if you’re looking for the best, look no further then Red October.

Highly recommended.


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