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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The Hunt for Red October (4K Ultra HD Steelbook) (Blu-ray)
The Hunt for Red October (4K Ultra HD Steelbook) (Blu-ray)
Paramount // PG // February 25, 2020 // Region A
List Price: $27.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by William Harrison | posted March 2, 2020 | E-mail the Author
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THE FILM:

A number of Tom Clancy novels have been adapted for the screen, the best of which is this 1990 adaptation of Clancy's debut novel "The Hunt for Red October." I reviewed this film and four others as part of Paramount's 4K Ultra HD Jack Ryan: Five-Film Collection back in October 2018, and noted that Paramount certainly seems to be absolving itself of its DVD and Blu-ray sins. The franchise is based on the exploits of Clancy's fictional CIA analyst, and the series offers espionage thrills, globe-trotting action and a plethora of leading men, including Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck and Chris Pine. Paramount has now issued a standalone 4K Ultra HD release of The Hunt for Red October in collectible Steelbook packaging, which will likely appeal only to collectors or those that refuse to own the other franchise films.

John McTiernan's The Hunt for Red October is my favorite of the franchise, 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 are 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 4K ULTRA HD:

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. The Hunt for Red October is presented in its theatrical aspect ratio with a HEVC/H.265/2160p transfer with Dolby Vision and HDR10, and the results are impressive. Fine-object detail and texture are abundant throughout. 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, black crush is minimal, and the image offers good shadow detail, particularly in the submarine interiors. The transfer looks great in motion, with minimal blur. Aliasing is largely absent, and, most impressively, the transfer is 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.

SOUND:

The film receives a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio Mix that 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. The soundtrack has plenty of opportunity to immerse viewers in the material, and I felt the claustrophobic confines of the Red October throughout the film. Distortion and feedback are nonexistent. A host of dub mixes and subtitle options are included, too.

PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:

This set includes the exact same 4K Ultra HD disc as in the Jack Ryan 5-Film Collection, as well as a Blu-ray and digital copy code. Extras are fairly standard: 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). The main draw here is the Steelbook packaging, pictured below. While I like a good Steelbook as much as the next man, the design of this one really does not do it for me. Further, I can't imagine spending $25 on this when the 5-film 4K Ultra HD Collection is available for roughly $55 and includes four other good films.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

My favorite film in the Jack Ryan franchise, The Hunt for Red October is a crackling thriller and excellent movie. Paramount issues it as a standalone 4K Ultra HD release in Steelbook packaging here. Steelbook fanatics may flock to this version, but I would recommend spending roughly twice as much to own the entire 5-film collection. This release is lightly Recommended if you do not care to own the other series films or absolutely love Steelbooks.

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

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