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DVD Review: The Hunt for Red October (Blu-Ray)
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HFROThe Hunt for Red October
Blu-Ray Edition
Directed by: John McTiernan
Starring: Alec Baldwin, Sean Connery, Sam Neill
Paramount Home Entertainment
Release date: July 29, 2008

The Hunt for Red October is hands-down the best film in the Jack Ryan series for a number of reasons, but first and foremost is the lack of a major villain. Instead the conflict is provided by the cryptic world of international politics and tense foreign relations that are all too real. Obviously there are villainous characters, but their roles are minor and are often interjected to give the plot a single push when needed.
A young Alec Baldwin plays a Jack Ryan who believes in others more than he believes in himself, but whose dedication to doing the right thing is unwavering.

Sean Connery play the mysterious submarine Captain Marko Ramius, whose internal conflict creates an international crisis. Ramius is perhaps the most interesting character in any of the Ryan films. His own dreams surpass any nationalism that may be ingrained into him through years of military service. Despite the fact that we see him commit treason, desertion, murder and conspiracy, viewers will find it near impossible not to sympathize with Ramius’ cause.

But if you own this film on DVD already, is it worth buying again at a premium price for the Hi-Def version?

Being the oldest film in the series, there is a noticeable bump in picture quality. The colors are strong and the details crisp throughout. However, this film inexplicable lacks a decent audio setup. Unless you have an expensive surround sound system that gives you the ability to adjust individual channels manipulate output settings to a significant degree, you may find yourself frustrated with the sound quality. Throughout the film, particularly during tense underwater sequences, the dialogue is frequently drowning (no pun intended) in ambient sounds. This, coupled with weak volume overall, may have you cranking the sound up on your TV just comfortably understand dialogue and turning it back down when the action scenes come. This is most likely due to a focus on producing a superb sounding 5.1 setup, since these discs are currently only really marketed towards people with fancy home theaters systems. However, if you are like me and only rely on the speakers on your TV for sound, you may find the 5.1 channels do no blend down to 2 very well.

I’ve experienced similar issues in the past with other movies, but rarely, and always on DVD copies. This is the first time I have encountered such with a high-definition version, and needless to say the finished product is quite disappointing as a result. If the picture quality of a movie is sub-par but the audio is fine, most people will have no problem watching, but if the qualities are reversed, a film becomes almost unwatchable. I think we’re more prone to get annoyed with sound issues than visual ones so it’s very disappointing to see the best Jack Ryan film in the series have such a major issue. However, if you own a nice surround system, this is likely all moot.
As with the other films in this disc set, the special features are lacking on Hunt for Red October, though there is at least a directory’s commentary track, something lack from both Harrison Ford films. Like the others, the disc also includes the theatrical trailer and a feature on the film’s production which includes commentary from some of the major players. However, I would have liked to seen this integrated into the film itself making use of the picture-in-picture ability of Blu-Ray 1.1 (isn’t that one that reason we were told upgrading is worth it?) It’s also worth noting these are the same features found on the Special Edition DVD version.

This is quite possibly the best submarine movie ever made so while it’s disappointing to see some of the specs and bonus features fall short, the movie itself is still well worth the price. I wish more attention had been given to providing some high-quality bonus features for the high-def release.

Final Score:
Movie: A+
Picture Quality: A
Sound Quality: B (not made for people without surround sound systems)
Extras: C+

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