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A new, technologically-superior Soviet nuclear sub, the Red October, is heading for the U.S. coast under the command of Captain Marko Ramius (Connery). The American government thinks Ramius is planning to attack. A lone CIA analyst (Baldwin ) has a different idea: he thinks Ramius is planning to defect, but he has only a few hours to find him and prove it-because the entire Russian naval and air commands are trying to find him, too. The hunt is on!

John McTiernan
Sean Connery, Alec Baldwin, Scott Glenn, Sam Neill, James Earl Jones
Writing Credits:
Larry Ferguson, Donald Stewart, based on the novel by Tom Clancy

Invisible. Silent. Stolen.
Rated PG.

Academy Awards:
Won for Best Sound Effects Editing.
Nominated for Best Film Editing; Best Sound.

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 135 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 7/29/2008

• Audio Commentary with Director John McTiernan
• “Beneath the Surface” Documentary
• Theatrical Trailer


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


The Hunt for Red October [Blu-Ray] (1990)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 1, 2014)

1990’s The Hunt For Red October probably remains the most popular of the films based on Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan character. Set in 1984, we meet Ryan (Alec Baldwin), a bookish analyst for the CIA. He meets with his boss, Admiral Greer (James Earl Jones), after he checks out some surveillance pictures of a new Soviet sub. He sees some suspicious doors and wants to find out what’s up with this new model.

In the meantime, we learn of the sub in question, the Red October, and its commander, Captain Marko Ramius (Sean Connery). As Ramius takes the crew on their maiden voyage, we discover he has an ulterior motive. Ramius kills the Soviet political officer Putin (Peter Firth) but makes it look like an accident. This puts Ramius in total control of the sub – and its nuclear missiles - as they head toward the US.

Occurring simultaneously, we encounter the crew of the US sub Dallas. Seaman Jones (Courtney B. Vance) detects a mysterious blip and tracks it with the endorsement of his superior, Captain Mancuso (Scott Glenn). Matters become more intriguing when the blip disappears and Jones needs to figure out what’s up with this strange new craft.

The story takes a turn for the dramatic when a Soviet official gets a letter from Ramius. We don’t learn the contents of this missive, but the Soviet ambassador to Washington (Joss Ackland) tells the president’s National Security Advisor Jeffrey Pelt (Richard Jordan) that Ramius wants to fire the sub’s nuclear missiles upon the US.

Earlier, Pelt gave Ryan the lead in the investigation, since Jack knows the most about Ramius. Ryan firmly believes that Ramius intends to defect, but his higher-ups remain suspicious. The rest of the film follows the race between US and Soviet forces to intercept and deal with the Red October and also to figure out what’s up with its commander.

In an odd way, the structuring of October resembles that of the previous year's Batman. The nominal antagonists of the films - Jack Nicholson's Joker and Sean Connery's Ramius - receive top billing and dominate the pictures, while their purported heroes almost seem like guest stars.

Actually, the situation isn't as clear-cut with October if just because Ramius isn't really a villain, at least not in the classic sense. I still felt surprised at what a small role Baldwin's Jack Ryan seems to play in the movie. While he comes to the forefront at the climax, he almost appears like an afterthought much of the rest of the time.

I think that appearance is due mainly to the large roster of characters and the convoluted plotting more than anything else. Plus, when Connery's around, everyone else takes a back seat. That doesn’t imply he becomes a "film hog”. Instead, I mean that he provides such a dominating presence that just having him around will almost automatically diminish the status of others.

Baldwin holds his own at times, but he just doesn't have a whole lot to do until the end of the picture. Prior to the conclusion, he ends up seeming almost superfluous. The character takes on a much stronger presence in the two follow-up films, 1992’s Patriot Games and 1994’s Clear and Present Danger. By then, however, Harrison Ford played the role. (According to the filmmakers, Baldwin passed on Games because he wanted to work in a stage production instead.)

Whatever the various nuances or inequities of the actors, October functions as a pretty entertaining and suspenseful little thriller. Strangely, although it moves slowly and barely seems to progress at times, it holds my interest easily and I rather enjoy the experience. There's not a whole lot of slam-bang action until the climax, but the tone remains tense and vibrant. Director John McTiernan doesn't match the intensity and fervor of his previous effort – 1988’s Die Hard - but he does well for himself in this stylistically different piece.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture C+ / Audio A- / Bonus B-

The Hunt for Red October appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The image was usually more than watchable but less than optimal.

Sharpness generally seemed good, though ups and downs occurred. At best, the movie exhibited pretty solid clarity and accuracy. However, edge haloes could make things a bit mushy at times, and some digital noise reduction sapped delineation as well. No issues with shimmer or jaggies materialized, and print flaws remained mild; I noticed a few specks – mainly during the opening – but nothing severe.

1990 film stocks often weren’t kind to colors, and the hues of October could exhibit the dullness I expected. This meant the tones appeared less than attractive much of the time but they remained true to the source. Blacks were reasonably dark, while shadows seemed acceptable; they lacked much vivacity but seemed clear enough. This was a decent image that could’ve looked better without the noise reduction and edge haloes.

The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundfield showed a consistently positive sense of environment. The forward channels mildly dominated the piece, and they presented excellent delineation and separation. The front speakers remained in use through the majority of the movie, and they created a setting that was lively and realistic. Elements blended smoothly, and pieces moved cleanly across the channels.

The surrounds appeared more active than I expected for a film of this era. They presented lots of excellent material for both quiet and loud sequences. In one early shot, whale sounds emanated convincingly from the right rear speaker, and the channels neatly communicated the sense of being underwater during the many sub shots.

The action scenes brought the surrounds to life as well, and other segments – like one in a shipyard – used all five channels with great effectiveness. Overall, the soundfield worked well to create an immersive environment.

Audio was also good. Speech seemed reasonably natural and concise, without notable problems. Music appeared vivid and dynamic and showed nice depth and punch.

Effects seemed positive. They displayed no signs of distortion and they powered through the various scenes with great clarity and richness. Bass response was tight and distinctive throughout the movie, and the track gave my subwoofer more of a workout than I anticipated. Given the age of the material and the high caliber of all other elements, I felt October deserved an “A-“; this was a strong auditory effort.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the Special Edition DVD from 2003? Audio was clearer and fuller, while visuals seemed more distinctive and cleaner. Though the Blu-ray had its problems, it upgraded the DVD.

The Blu-ray includes the same extras from the 2003 DVD. These start with an audio commentary from director John McTiernan, who providedsa running, screen-specific piece. McTiernan never seemed terribly at home with the format, and those concerns continue during his dull discussion of October.

McTiernan covers a mix of topics. He hoes into changes from the book, casting, issues related to factual matters, different forms of research, storytelling concerns, and some technical matters related to effects, locations, and other areas. That quick synopsis might make the commentary sound more informative than it actually is. Frankly, McTiernan’s useful remarks occurr infrequently.

Actually, any form of information crops up only occasionally, as much of the track passes without discussion. The facts appear in dribs and drabs, and McTiernan often doesn’t explore them well. For example, at one point he mentions his original plan to cast an actor who physically resembled Joss Ackland to play against him in the part eventually garnered by Richard Jordan.

Why didn’t this happen? I don’t know, for McTiernan lets the subject drop without additional explanation. The director offers periodic bits of decent information, but overall, this commentary seems fairly boring and slow-paced.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we find a documentary called Beneath the Surface. This 28-minute and 57-second program features the standard mix of movie clips, production materials, and interviews. We get circa 2003 material with producer Mace Neufeld, director John McTiernan, actors Alec Baldwin, James Earl Jones, and Scott Glenn, screenwriter Larry Ferguson, director of photography Jan de Bont, ILM visual effects supervisor Scott Squires, ILM model shop manager Keith London, ILM chief model maker Kim Smith, ILM first assistant cameramen Bob Hill and Vance Piper, ILM directors of photography Marty Rosenberg, Patrick Sweeney, and Carl Miller, and ILM technical director Doug Smythe. In addition, Sean Connery appears via pieces shot in 1990.

The participants start at the beginning and discuss the acquisition of the rights to Clancy’s novel and various adaptation issues. They then go into casting, research for the roles, and many technical topics related to the subs and other special effects concerns.

“Surface” conveys the information well but lacked much flair. It includes a reasonable amount of material and certainly gives us more insight into the production than does McTiernan’s commentary, but it comes across as a little plodding at times. Still, at least it presents useful material, so October fans will want to give it a look.

Though I didn’t think much of The Hunt For Red October when I first saw it in 1990, I must admit it’s slowly grown on me over the years. It crams in a lot of technical issues and conveys them concisely, and it builds to a rousing and involving climax. The Blu-ray gives us excellent audio along with erratic visuals and supplements. Though it has some flaws, this nonetheless becomes the strongest home video rendition of the film.

To rate this film, visit the original review of THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER

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