The Hunt for Red October was one of my favorite movies of the early 1990s, one of the few films I kept on VHS even as DVD started taking over local video stores’ shelves. I’ve been a big fan of Sean Connery since his James Bond days, which helped, but the real draw was its hot-button political intrigue and underwater setting, neither of which had really come into its own at that time. When The Hunt for Red October dove onto Blu-ray Disc, I decided to toss the old, duty VHS copy aside and move up to the world of HD submarines. The real draw, though, came when I realized that D-BOX Technologies had created D-BOX Motion Code for The Hunt for Red October, which promised a whole new way to experience my old favorite on Blu-ray Disc.
The opening scene sets the stage for the rest of The Hunt for Red October, with the D-BOX Motion Code rumbling the chair as you ride on a submerged submarine. As the camera pans back, the rumble fades slightly and you feel a gentle rocking. Oddly, it isn’t a rocking with the sea, but a seemingly random movement, because it doesn’t correspond to the camera or the sub’s movements. When the waves crash on the side of the sub, the D-BOX code provides some great thumps and rumble effects, but again, the camera movements seem random and unrefined compared to the other D-BOX movies we’ve reviewed recently.
[UPDATE]: D-BOX contacted DailyGame to inform us that The Hunt for Red October has had Motion Code on its DVD counterpart for quite a while. Considering the technology’s advancement, not to mention the motion engineers’, the movement differences between new releases and older films is to be expected. “You can see the evolution in the Motion Code design when comparing with newer releases,” said D-BOX. “Since we don’t go back and completely redo them all, this is something you will see if you review those movies.” This explanation makes total sense, so keep it in mind during the course of this review.
It doesn’t take long to encounter the next D-BOX rumble, as you feel it while Alex Baldwin drives his Range Rover to the airport. I know vehicular rumble is a staple of D-BOX Motion Code, and it’s almost universally done very well, but with The Hunt for Red October, I can’t help but think the engineers should really have saved the Motion Code “sparkle” for the sub rides instead of the land-locked scenes in the Range Rover and government Ford — especially since the motions don’t even correspond to camera or vehicular movements.
If the truck-based movements seem cheap, though, the sub-based Motion Code is downright deluxe. When you get your first shot of the USS Dallas and Red October underwater, you’re in for a serious D-BOX ride. The propeller wash is ridiculous from both subs, and it really feels (I would imagine) like you’re sitting there wearing toddler arm floaties while the subs pass by. Where the nuanced movements really hit home, though, is the banging you feel that corresponds to the drumbeat-like sound of the Red October’s engine. When the caterpillar engines engage and the doors open, you feel like you’re sitting right on top of the sub. The slight side-to-side movements when the subs turn are subtle enough that they’re also believable as slow “underwater” movements, yet they’re still impactful enough to enjoy the ride.
The Hunt for Red October also includes a handful of score-associated thumps as well, with the in-seat vibrations timed with bass and percussion. There are also impact thumps, such as when Connery kills the political officer. But I’ve got to say, the one short scene I thought would be perfect for D-BOX…well, it is. This is the scene in which Alec Baldwin’s character is bumped around in the turbulence on his way to the U.S. aircraft carrier. Quite honestly, this scene alone is worth the price of admission, as it makes you feel like you’re really in The Hunt for Red October like no other D-BOX scene in the film. As the plane bumps around, the D-BOX Motion Code reproduces with ease the most intense turbulence you’ve ever experienced. Imagine a coin-operated massage bed, on steroids, and with a purpose. There’s another aircraft scene about 10 minutes later, when the Soviet sonar-dropping aircraft locates the Red October, but the first scene with Baldwin is by far the better of the two, and definitely the most action-packed in the film.
When Baldwin drops onto the USS Dallas, there’s another batch of fantastic D-BOX movement, this time corresponding to the wind and waves. As Baldwin swings around in the air, the D-BOX chair moves accordingly, providing a great re-creation of the stormy environment in which the scene takes place. There’s also some thumping to correspond with the helicopter’s blades spinning.
In terms of nuanced movements, though, the D-BOX highlight is the sequence in which the Red October goes through the Red Route One trench. With all the submarine movements, the twists and turns in the trenches and the blend of internal and external camera angles, there’s some good swaying motion throughout this sequence that really drives home what underwater movement feels like. Of course, it also drives home just how “cheap” the Ford and Range Rover scenes feel earlier in the movie, but you’ve got to give D-BOX credit for at least taking the time to code those scenes, even if they’re not as refined.
Not surprisingly, most of the D-BOX Motion Code comes during the last 25 minutes of the movie, when you see more external shots as the subs do battle and as gunfire rattles through the Red October (you feel each bullet impact). This obviously makes for some good action, but it absolutely makes the climax more intense.
Is it enough to warrant watching The Hunt for Red October over and over and over again? Arguably not; I ended up parting with my Blu-ray copy shortly after taking notes for this review. Some movies, no matter how classic they seem, lose a step or two over the years, and The Hunt for Red October is one such movie. However, if you’ve been hankering for another viewing, the Blu-ray version and D-BOX setup are definitely the way to go.
- Score: 8.1
— Jonas Allen