Based on the 1984 novel of the same name by Tom Clancy, The Hunt for Red October is a masterful espionage thriller in the guise of a combat film. Starring a superb Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin, the production about a dangerous high-tech submarine going off course generates suspense and thrills with plenty of smarts as a skillful game of chess. As part of the ten-disc Jack Ryan film series collection from Paramount, the now-classic thriller dives into the deep depths of 4K Ultra HD with a great-looking Dolby Vision presentation and an excellent Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. Porting over the same set of supplements as the Blu-ray, the overall package is Recommended for Jack Ryan fans and UHD enthusiasts.
You can read our coverage of the Jack Ryan: 5-Film Collection HERE.
As far as combat films centered around submarines go, The Hunt for Red October easily ranks as one of the best and masterly crafted, earning its position over the last couple decades alongside Wolfgang Petersen's Das Boot and Robert Wise's Run Silent, Run Deep. What makes these films such standouts is more attention placed on suspense than action — the terror and dread experienced by soldiers placing their lives and trust in the decision-making skills of their captain blindly navigating undersea. Based on the 1984 novel of the same name by Tom Clancy, Red October adds an espionage thriller element into the mix, a game of wits and deductive guesses grounded on limited information further intensifying the apprehension of battling an unseen enemy in the dark depths of the ocean. Hot off the massive box-office success of Die Hard, director John McTiernan smoothly sails these rough and treacherous seas with extraordinary skill and craftsmanship, carefully balancing two paralleling stories with equal importance and gravity until their courses finally collide in a satisfying finish.
Of course, the award-nominated film is also remembered for introducing moviegoers to Jack Ryan, the shrewd and highly-intelligent CIA analyst featured in five motion pictures and now starring in his own TV series on Amazon. At the time, Alec Baldwin was still an up-and-coming actor, and this production gained him recognition as a leading man, playing Ryan with a likable charm and humbleness that portrays him as an unlikely hero — an attribute that becomes the character's signature personality. The suspense arises when his skills are challenged by Soviet captain Marko Ramius (a superb and memorable Sean Connery) commanding a new start-of-the-art nuclear missile submarine on its maiden voyage but disobeying his government's orders. Creating a crisis that could potentially explode into a third world war, the plot is a calculated game of chess where Ryan works diligently to estimate Ramius' next move and then convince others of his well-reasoned conclusions. Nearly thirty years later, the film remains a magnificently smart and masterful thriller.
For a more in-depth take on the movie, you can read our review of the Blu-ray SDR HERE.
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
Paramount Home Entertainment brings The Hunt for Red October to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray as part of the ten-disc combo box set dubbed Jack Ryan: 5-Film Collection. As of this writing, there are no plans for a standalone package. The pack also includes a flyer with a Digital Copy code, which can be redeemed via ParamountMovies.com, allowing owners to watch a 1080p HD copy with Dolby Digital Audio. However, VUDU users can unlock 4K streaming rights with Dolby Vision and Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 audio. Five dual-layered UHD66 discs are accompanied by another five Region-Free BD50 discs spread across three center spindles and on the opposing panels of a thicker-than-normal black, eco-vortex case with glossy slipcover. At startup, viewers are taken directly to a static screen with the usual selection along the bottom and music playing in the background.
The hunt to prevent WWIII intensifies on Ultra HD with an excellent HEVC H.265 encode that offers an excellent improvement over the Blu-ray. Shot on traditional 35mm film, the 2160p video appears faithful to Jan de Bont's heavily-stylized cinematography, which can, at times, pose some challenges for proper assessment of the picture quality. A majority of the movie was intentionally shot with diffusers to create a particular look and effect, especially during scenes taking place inside the submarines, making the overall picture noticeably softer than expected. Nevertheless, the source is in excellent condition and highly detailed with distinct, sharp lines in the clothing and revealing, lifelike facial complexions. Aside from a fair amount of blurry moments, the furniture and various aspects of the subs remain plainly visible.
Contrast is noticeably low-key and muted due to the artistic decisions mentioned above, creating a very somber, grayish tone to the plot. On the whole, levels are well-balanced and consistent with crisp, sharp whites. Although many light fixtures come with a blooming effect as part of the deliberate photography, the 4K transfer displays outstanding specular highlights, exposing the finer aspects in the brightest areas while the light glistens off the officers' metals and jacket buttons. Brightness levels are also affected somewhat, making the overall picture slightly darker than expected and showing average-looking delineation. Nevertheless, blacks are rich and oily with strong penetrating shadows, providing the 2.35 image with an appreciable three-dimensional quality.
Although the overall palette largely feels limited and lightly restrained, the Dolby Vision presentation nonetheless displays improved primaries with better saturation and variation. The reds in the lights and buttons of consoles show more range and distinct differences, from vivid cherry to dark, deep crimson. Blues are also a tad more striking and dramatic, as electrical sparks radiate with an intense surge, the many monitors inside the Red October glow a steely cobalt and the deeper water sequences are immersed in a thickly grimy teal hue. Secondary hues may not be as impressive, but the emergency lights of the subs bathe the entire frame a golden yellow shade that feels realistic.
In the end, the movie has never looked better, washed over in a thin layer of natural grain, giving the presentation a lovely and attractive film-like appeal. (Video Rating: 74/100)
The espionage thriller dives into the deep depths of Ultra HD with the same Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack enjoyed on the Blu-ray, which delivers an excellent presentation that awesomely complements the visuals.
Originally recorded for the 70mm six-track magnetic format, which could translate to three mono channels across the screen and split surrounds, the design feels as though it may have been revamped for modern audio systems. Various nautical noises and subtle atmospherics employ the surrounds for a good chunk of the runtime with discrete placement and outstanding directionality, generating a very satisfying soundfield. A wide and welcoming soundstage comes with convincing background activity, and a distinct, dynamic mid-range maintains superb clarity throughout. Vocals are well-prioritized, and the low-end provides a sturdy presence. The lossless mix also does splendidly well when applying the receivers' Dolby Surround or DTS: Neural:X up-mixing functionality, effortlessly spreading many of the atmospherics and Basil Poledouris' original score all around the listening area. (Audio Rating: 82/100)
For a more in-depth take on the audio quality, you can read our review of the standard Blu-ray HERE.
All the same supplements are ported over from previous home video releases, which can be read in more detail in our review of the standard Blu-ray HERE.
Based on the 1984 novel of the same name by Tom Clancy, The Hunt for Red October is a masterful espionage thriller in the guise of a combat film about a dangerous high-tech submarine going off course. Starring Sean Connery, Alec Baldwin, Sam Neill, James Earl Jones and Scott Glenn, the movie still delivers the suspense and thrills with plenty of smarts as a skillful game of chess. The now-classic film dives into the deep depths of 4K Ultra HD with a great-looking Dolby Vision presentation and the same excellent Dolby TrueHD soundtrack that lends itself nicely to the receiver's up-mixing functionality. Porting over the same set of supplements as the Blu-ray, the overall package is recommended for Jack Ryan fans and UHD enthusiasts.