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Reviews » 4K UHD Reviews » Jack Ryan: Five-Film Collection (4K UHD)
Jack Ryan: Five-Film Collection (4K UHD)
Paramount // PG-13 // August 21, 2018 // Region 0
List Price: $69.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by William Harrison | posted October 3, 2018 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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P R I N T
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THE FILMS:

This five-film collection offers each Jack Ryan film in stunning 4K resolution, and is another quality release from Paramount, which is quickly absolving itself of its DVD and Blu-ray sins. The quality of the films varies, with The Hunt for Red October leading the pack and the recent Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit pulling up the rear, but this is an overall effective franchise. Based on the exploits of author Tom Clancy's fictional CIA analyst, the series offers espionage thrills, globe-trotting action and a plethora of leading men, including Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck and Chris Pine. This franchise is unique in that each film brings something different to the table, but all are tonally consistent. I do not think there is a single bad film here, and these offer excellent replay value, especially the elder three movies. These remastered 4K presentations alone make this reasonably priced set a must own for fans.

John McTiernan's 1990 film The Hunt for Red October is my favorite of the lot, as it offers excellent Cold War maneuvering and tension and strong performances by Alec Baldwin and Sean Connery, who play Jack Ryan and Captain 1st Rank Marko Aleksandrovich Ramius, commanding officer of the Red October, respectively. Ramius is in command of the Soviet Union's newest and most impressive submarine, the Red October, as it heads for American waters to conduct drills. Unbeknownst to Soviet officials, Ramius has hand-selected a crew of top officers and plans to defect. With the U.S. military already on edge thanks to the Red October's new stealth drive, which makes sonar detection impossible, Ramius' actions threaten to trigger a nuclear strike. Baldwin plays a young Ryan familiar with Ramius' career who attempts to convince military command that Ramius is not a threat to the U.S.

This is probably the most faithful Ryan film to its source, and McTiernan, before all his tax woes and prison sentence, was a master of intrigue. The Hunt for Red October is successful because it relies on intimate drama and subtle tension to involve viewers. The film may not be full of action sequences and explosions, but the suspense and excitement is abundant. The narrative, about two vastly different but not completely dissimilar military men, is fascinating, and Connery and Baldwin excel in these roles. I like this green but persistent Ryan, and Connery's morally ambiguous Ramius is a complex, expertly written character. With an excellent supporting cast that includes Sam Neill and James Earl Jones, The Hunt of Red October is a top-notch political drama. (The Hunt for Red October: ****1/2 out of *****)

Harrison Ford took over for Alec Baldwin in 1992's Patriot Games, directed by Phillip Noyce. Here, Ryan stops a terrorist attack on Lord William Holmes (James Fox), Minister of State for Northern Ireland, in London. The attack is coordinated by Sean Miller (Sean Bean), who is involved with a splinter cell of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, and Ryan kills the man's brother in the chaos. Miller later escapes custody while en route to prison on the Isle of Wight and comes to America to avenge his brother and kill Ryan. Clancy's name does not appear on the movie poster for Patriot Games, as the author was not happy with how far the project strayed from its source. In a later DVD commentary for The Sum of All Fears the author, apparently mellowed, called the film "brilliant" and based on "the book that they ignored."

Clancy's criticisms aside, Patriot Games is an exciting movie, and the only R-rated film in the franchise. Ford is a much different Ryan than Baldwin; no longer the young recruit, this experienced Ryan is nonetheless unfamiliar with the kind of senseless violence Miller employs. There are some intense sequences, like a satellite-view takedown of a terrorist training camp and a violent showdown at Ryan's family home, and Patriot Games is generally successful, even if it spends too much time with Ryan and family. Bean's Miller is barely developed, and I wish Noyce and company had spent a bit more time discovering what makes him tick. (Patriot Games: ***1/2 out of *****)

Ford returned to the Ryan role two years later in Clear and Present Danger, which is also directed by Noyce. Significantly less cerebral than Patriot Games, this third franchise film is perhaps more entertaining thanks to its abundance of action and strong supporting performances by Jones, as Vice Admiral Jim Greer, and Willem Dafoe, who plays black ops leader John Clark. After a friend of the president (Donald Moffat) is murdered at sea, an investigation reveals that the man was skimming money from the drug cartel. Ryan is appointed Deputy Director for Intelligence at the CIA after his boss and mentor Greer is diagnosed with cancer, and is given carte blanche authority to retaliate against the cartel, particularly Ernesto Escobedo (Miguel Sandoval), whose $650 million is seized after his assets are frozen.

Clear and Present Danger offers plenty of gunfights, explosions and chases, and presents an interesting tale of military, government and intelligence head-butting. There are duplicitous actors, of course, and Ryan ends up condemning the entire system from top down. The drug-war narrative is perhaps as effective today as in 1994, and the film presents the controversial idea of government sectors working with the cartel to avoid bloodshed. Dafoe and Ford give spirited performances, and my biggest criticism of the film is that it runs a half-hour too long at 141 minutes. The film could have further explored the political corruption involved, which is its most interesting plot thread, but that would have expanded the runtime even further. (Clear and Present Danger: **** out of *****)

People like to shit on The Sum of All Fears, but it is significant to me in that it was the first Jack Ryan film I saw in theaters back in 2002. This Phil Alden Robinson-directed film sees Affleck take over the leading role, which is the primary cause of the bellyaching. Affleck is not bad here; he is just different than Ford and Baldwin. The Sum of All Fears reverts to a younger Ryan, who is tasked with tracking down a missing nuclear weapon pulled from an Israeli jet shot down over Syria three decades earlier. Arms trafficker Olson (Colm Feore) ends up with the warhead, and sells it to a far-right group led by neo-Nazi Richard Dressler (Alan Bates), who desires to stoke a nuclear confrontation between the U.S. and Russia that will devastate the world. Ryan proves his worth by correctly analyzing Russian President Alexander Nemerov's (Ciaran Hinds) response to the nuclear tension, and Ryan attempts to convince military brass to avoid conflict in a plot thread that recalls The Hunt for Red October.

I enjoy The Sum of All Fears because it is not afraid to raise the stakes. Spoilers ahead!. The nuclear bomb comes to America and is detonated in Baltimore during a Ravens NFL game. The president (James Cromwell) and CIA Director William Cabot (Morgan Freeman) barely flee the explosion, and Ryan then must fight from the rubble to prove to the world that Russia is not responsible for the explosion before the U.S. enters a nuclear war. The film deviates from Clancy's source in its inclusion of Nazi bad guys, which is cinematic but unnecessary, and the film was produced during the less complex but no less devastating 9/11 terrorist attacks. Affleck is not bad here, but he lacks the charisma of Ford and Baldwin. Freeman fares better. In sum, this is an exciting, quickly paced thriller that suffers most from underdeveloped antagonists and logical gaps. (The Sum of All Fears: ***1/2 out of *****)

The most recent Ryan flick, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, was released in 2014 and brings Ryan into the digital age, offering a plot that hinges on global financial terrorists manipulating Wall Street in an attempt to sink the American, and subsequently the world's, economy. Shortly after 9/11, this film's Ryan (Pine) joins the Marines. He displays valor and courage, but is gravely injured in a helicopter crash, forcing an extensive rehabilitation process facilitated by physical therapist Cathy Muller (Keira Knightly), whom Ryan later dates. Recruited by CIA agent Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner), Ryan ultimately embeds in Wall Street to determine what nefarious actor is playing the market to further terrorist interests. Ryan's work leads him to Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh, who also directs), a Russian business tycoon, and Ryan travels to Moscow under the guise of doing a financial audit of Cherevin's accounts.

Shadow Recruit feels like a modern Ryan film but offers throwbacks to previous efforts. The early financial-terrorism material is more interesting than the boots-on-the-ground climax back in America, in which a sleeper agent (Alec Utgoff) attempts to bomb Wall Street institutions. Pine is a fine actor, but I did not necessarily buy his performance here. Knightley's character is irritating, and Costner is underused. Shadow Recruit spends too much time on the Ryan/Muller relationship melodrama when it should have focused on world building with Pine and Costner. There is nothing particularly bad about Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit but the story is slightly undercooked, and Pine lacks the charisma of previous leading men. (Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit: *** out of *****)

THE 4K ULTRA HD DISCS:

PICTURE:

Paramount became notorious for porting mediocre transfers from its DVD releases to Blu-ray, and many enthusiasts justly complained about dated presentations rife with edge enhancement and digital manipulation. The studio seems to have finally taken the criticism to heart, and continues to release excellent 4K Ultra HD discs with remastered presentations. This Jack Ryan Collection offers impressive 4K transfers that are leaps and bounds above the dated Blu-ray releases, with the exception of the already excellent Shadow Recruit disc.

Each film is presented in its theatrical aspect ratio with a HEVC/H.265/2160p transfer with Dolby Vision and HDR10, and the results are stunning. The bottom line: Each film looks like a film; and I suspect these transfers are an accurate reproduction of the theatrical presentations. Each transfer is pulled from a native 4K source, with the exception of Shadow Recruit, which was finished at 2K. Each movie has different visual styles and quirks, but all display the same positive attributes: Fine-object details and texture are abundant throughout the collection. Grain is present where appropriate, and it is filmic and natural. Colors are bold and perfectly saturated, and the HDR pass enhances their effectiveness without causing an unnatural push. Blacks are inky throughout, and the transfers offer exceptional shadow detail, particularly in the submarine interiors of Red October.

Each image looks great in motion, with minimal blur. Aliasing is largely absent, and, most impressively, all five films are free of edge halos and digital tinkering. Wide shots are crisp, clean and deep; close-ups reveal intimate facial features and fabric textures; and skin tones and contrast remain natural. There are some brief softer shots in the Ford films, but these are no fault of the transfers. The Sum of All Fears excels in nighttime scenes, and Shadow Recruit is incredibly sharp and clean. Paramount finally gives these five films the treatment they deserve, and these transfers are the best home-video presentations available.

SOUND:

The first four films receive a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio Mix, and Shadow Recruit receives a 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio Mix. Each is vibrant and immersive, offering dynamic sound panning with LFE support. Range and fidelity are impressive across the board, and quieter character moments are as impressive as action sequences. Dialogue is crisp and clear, whether delivered directionally or from the center channel. These tracks have plenty of opportunity to immerse viewers in the material. I felt the claustrophobic confines of the Red October throughout the film; Clear and Present Danger rocked my home theater with giant explosions and gun battles; and Shadow Recruit offered spectacularly immersive car chases and fights. Distortion and feedback are nonexistent, and there is little to complain about in any of these lossless mixes. Each disc offers a host of lossy dubs and subtitle options, too.

PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:

This ten-disc set includes a 4K disc and Blu-ray disc for each film, plus HD digital copies of each movie. The discs are packed in a multi-hinged black 4K case that is wrapped in a slipcover. All extras are ported from previous releases and appear on the Blu-rays for each film. For The Hunt for Red October you get a Commentary by Director McTiernan; Beneath the Surface (29:00/SD), a making-of featurette; and the film's Theatrical Trailer (2:00/HD). For Patriot Games you'll find Patriot Games: Up Close (24:00/SD), a decent making-of, and the Theatrical Trailer (2:00/HD).

Clear and Present Danger offers Behind the Danger (27:00/SD), another decent making-of, and the Theatrical Trailer (2:00/HD). For The Sum of All Fears the Blu-ray disc includes a two-part documentary that includes segments Making Of (30:00/SD) and Visual Effects (28:00/SD). Shadow Recruit's disc is the most stacked, and includes a Commentary by Director Kenneth Branagh and Producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura; Jack Ryan: The Smartest Guy in the Room (13:37/HD); Sir Kenneth Branagh: The Tsar of Shadow Recruit (9:39/HD); Jack Ryan: A Thinking Man of Action (5:19/HD); Old Enemies Return (21:13/HD); and Deleted and Extended Scenes (5:03 total/HD).

FINAL THOUGHTS:

This Jack Ryan Five-Film Collection will appeal to fans thanks to its excellent remastered 4K presentations, and the set offers five remarkably consistent films with strong performances from Harrison Ford, Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin, among others. Paramount is fast undoing their past misdeeds with natural, filmic presentations of their most popular films on 4K Ultra HD, and these Jack Ryan flicks are no exception. This set comes Highly Recommended.

William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.

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