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THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER ($30) is a totally gripping political thriller from author Tom Clancy that has survived the transition from the printed page to the silver screen with highly entertaining results. Despite being directed by John McTiernan, who made his reputation with the action packed DIE HARD, THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER is structured and very deliberate film that continuously builds tension as its characters move across the chess board of international politics.

Set before the collapse of Soviet Union, THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER tells the story of a technologically advanced Russian nuclear submarine prototype capable of approaching the United States completely undetected. The only purpose for such a submarine is to give the Soviets a first strike advantage in delivering a nuclear payload. This prototype submarine, named Red October is under the command of the Russian fleet's most respected captain- Marko Ramius (Sean Connery). Against the orders of the Soviet high command, Ramius and his hand picked crew cut off communications and set the Red October on a course for or America coastline. The second the U.S. military becomes aware of the Ramius situation, they hit the panic button- sure that the renegade captain is planning a sneak attack.

While the thought of a sneak attack seems to be the general consensus, there is one voice of decent. It seems that CIA analyst Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin) thinks that Ramius is planning to defect and turn the Red October over to the U.S. government. With only a matter of hours to prove his theory, Jack Ryan must reach Ramius before the Russian and American navies blow him and the Red October out of the water. The top notch cast of THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER also features Scott Glenn, Sam Neill, James Earl Jones, Joss Ackland, Richard Jordan, Peter Firth, Tim Curry, Courtney B. Vance, Stellan Skarsgård, Jeffrey Jones and Daniel Davis.

Paramount Home Video has made THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER available on DVD a fine looking Letterboxed presentation that lacks the 16:9 component for wide screen televisions. Since the DVD doesn't contain the enhancement, I would image the disc was mastered from the transfer Paramount utilized for the THX-certified Laserdisc reissue. THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER is framed close to its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and the Letterboxed transfer is nearly perfect. Color reproduction on the DVD is very nice; saturation is strong most of the time and there are no instances of chroma noise. The image itself is sharp and well defined, however there are moments were film grain becomes noticeable. Since much of the film takes place in the dark confines of submarines, shadow detail is especially good on the DVD. Compression artifacts are minimized by the use of dual layer technology and first rate authoring. Layer switching occurs with only a mild pause and good placement prevent it from becoming too distracting.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is very impressive for a film not originally produced for the discrete format. The front soundstage is very wide and open sounding, while the surround channels are utilized to create the atmosphere inside the naval vessels. Dialogue reproduces with a clean and naturally timbre, plus the soundtrack boasts rock solid bass. Additionally, the stirring Russian flavored musical score by Basil Poledouris is very well mixed into the track. At times, the music takes prominence, but it never overpowers the other sound elements. English and French Dolby Surround soundtracks are also encoded into the DVD, as are English and Spanish subtitles.

The interactive menus are of the plain vanilla variety, offering access to a theatrical trailer as well as the standard scene and language selection features.




DVD reviews are Copyright © 1999 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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