The Jack Ryan CollectionParamount Pictures (Blu-ray)
”The Sum of All Fears” - America's Cold War fears are rekindled after the President of Russia dies and is succeeded by a man with a cryptic past. But East-West tensions erupt when the CIA suspects that renegade Russian scientists are developing more nuclear weapons. Mobilized into action by CIA Director William Cabot , Jack Ryan follows a danger-ridden trail to a shocking conclusion: terrorists plan to provoke a war between the U.S. and Russia - by detonating a nuclear bomb at a championship football game!
"Clear And Present Danger" - This is the third film based on Tom Clancy's high-tech espionage potboilers starring CIA deputy director Jack Ryan. Harrison Ford, returning to the Ryan role after his first go-round is assigned to a delicate anti-drug investigation after a close friend of the President is murdered by a Colombian drug cartel. When Ryan discovers that the President's wealthy friend was in league with the cartel, the President's devious national security adviser and an ambitious CIA deputy director send a secret paramilitary force into Colombia to wipe out the drug lords. The force is captured and then abandoned by the President's lackeys. It falls to Ryan to enter Colombia and rescue them, aided only by a renegade operative named Clark .
“The Hunt for Red October” - A new technologically-superior Soviet nuclear sub, the Red October, is heading for the U.S. coast under the command of Captain Marko Ramius. The American government thinks Ramius is planning to attack. A lone CIA analyst 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.
“Patriot Games” - His days as an intelligence agent behind him, former CIA analyst Jack Ryan has traveled to London to vacation with his wife and child. Meeting his family outside of Buckingham Palace, Ryan is caught in the middle of a terrorist attack on Lord Holmes, a member of the Royal Family. Ryan helps to thwart Holmes' assailants and becomes a local hero. But Ryan's courageous act marks him as a target in the sights of the terrorist whose brother he killed. Now Ryan must return to action for the most vital assignment of his life: to save his family.
Unlike the HD DVD set, Paramount has decided to release these films individually. I’ve decided to cover them as a set though. Funny how that works. These films have always been favorites of mine despite the wide disparity between most of them. The Hunt for Red October was a mild influence on my decision to go into Submarines and become a sonar technician and remains my favorite to this day. The choice to try and re-jump start the series with The Sum of All Fears was a controversial one and while it didn’t succeed as a whole, I still enjoyed it for what it was. By any account these are all strong films and I’m glad we’re getting them on Blu-ray.
The video presentation across these releases is as varied as the films themselves. The best of the bunch by far is Red October, which has a very natural film-like appearance. It has the most realistic looking appearance of the bunch despite the inconsistencies in the image due to the shooting environment. This film has always had a few soft spots and hiccups in focus from time to time but this Blu-ray looks really good given the footage with only some minor banding popping up from time to time during the underwater sequences. Clear and Present Danger is a muddled effort with clipped whites and a rather bland look overall. Dimensionality is intact but fine detail is robbed from the characters. Colors look natural for the most part but the image has a hard look at times that looks over processed. Patriot Games is even worse in some regards. The image looks very dimensional and standard detail is intact but the same noise reduction traits such as imaging trailing and that “floating” sense are there. Detail is exaggerated throughout most of the film and ringing is readily apparent throughout most the film. If I didn’t know better it looks like fake detail has also been added in a lot of close-ups. Most of the actor’s faces had an unnatural grain pattern to them. The newest film, The Sum of All Fears has a lot of hard edges too with obvious ringing and a processed look. Detail is pretty good and dimension and depth are strong, but fine detail in faces and small objects is nearly gone. Contrast levels are strong and brighter sequences look pretty good but you can’t help but notice the edginess and obvious noise reduction signature to the image. Seeing how good Red October looked it is a shame that the follow-ups in the series couldn’t be presented with the same kind of touch.
The audio is presented in Dolby TrueHD across the board and all of them are strong presentations in this regard. The quality of the sound design changes from film to film but the quality of the dynamics and spatial presence is consistently good. I was really impressed with how good both Patriot Games and The Hunt for Red October sounded. Both did a superb job with the balance of score, mood and sound design. Clear and Present Danger and The Sum of All Fears are probably the most aggressive of the bunch and emphasize the surround channels and the lower end a bit more. Overall though they were all great mixes and a nice improvement over the DVD editions.
When these were initially released on HD DVD Paramount didn’t include any extras. Rather than port over those editions Paramount has included some extras for the Blu-ray editions. All of the films feature their original trailers in HD. The three early films include making-of features that look at the production of the films. Red October and The Sum of All Fears both include a feature commentary and the latter film also includes some special effects features.
It is unfortunate that we see such a large difference in the quality of the HD presentations across these titles. Considering the popularity of these films I can see a lot of fans complaining about the obvious post processing that went into the images. While I will definitely recommend The Hunt For Red October I would shy away from a solid recommendation on the others. While they are a noticeable step up from their DVD counterparts, the image quality could have been better.